You've fallen in love with a piece of oxidized silver jewelry, but there is one lingering question before you buy. "I really love the blackened color," you think, "but just how long will it last?"
It's a common question, and a good one!
The color of oxidized silver is superficial; Just the top layer of metal has turned the blackened color. Over time, even with the best of care, the oxidized finish will polish off and the true color of the silver will shine through.
The look of your blackened silver piece will gradually change over time so it’s best to brace yourself for that evolution when you buy it, or prepare to have it touched up from time to time. Re-blackening is a quick process and often offered as a free service from the store or the artist that sold you the jewelry.
Oxidized finishes have the longest life on pieces that come into minimal contact with their surroundings, such as earrings and necklaces. Rings and bracelets tend not to hold their color quite as long since they rub on things we touch more frequently. Blackened finishes applied to the recesses of a design hold their color best and develop a great contrast to the raised parts of the piece which polish up over time.
But just how fast will that color wear? And when should you take it off to preserve it's blackened look? To answer that question I put my jewelry to the test.
I wore the following set of jewelry for 30 days in a row.
I kept the jewelry on during all of my daily activities, but followed my usual recommendations for when to remove it by taking the pieces each night to sleep, to shower, and to work out and the gym.
Here are the results, ranked from least to most wear:
When you remove your necklaces before you shower or sweat, they hold up quite nicely. 30 days was not enough to remove blackening from the chain, although I know from other necklaces I own that this will likely need touching up down the line.
The key to little wear on earrings really hinges on whether you remove them to shower and sleep. If I had showered with these on, they would have shown much more wear. As it is, the oils from my hands rubbing on the pointed facets a few times each day did cause them to polish up a slight bit. You should expect a lot more wear if they are rubbing on your pillowcase every night.
This bracelet held up very well. Had the shank of it been blackened instead of bright silver I suspect we would have seen more wear.
A side note: 2 days in to wearing this bracelet I decided the clasp should be heftier. So there is a slight visual difference in the before/after versions of this piece. The blackening was not altered.
I wrestled with how to approach wearing my rings since every day I'm picking up tools and hammers. But removing them to work would mean they were off for 8 hours or more. So, for sake of this experiment, I kept them on. (But if you're using tools, I still recommend that you take them off!) As a result, the changes to my rings were pretty aggressive.
This design has a "better with age" thing happening as the peaks polish up. The most wear could be seen on the band. Since it's style resembles an old relic or antique, I think this evolution suits the character of the piece just right.
This ring hands down showed the most wear in the bunch. And is a good indicator of how rings with a smooth surface will change over time, even though I wear my jewelry harder than most. The parts of the ring that rub against with my neighboring finger and the underside of the band which touches everything my palms do showed the most wear.
Since this ring is tough to maintain I would recommend it as a piece that is occasionally worn to preserve the color, to commit to having it touched up regularly by myself or your jeweler, or going with the flow as it develops a character unique to your wearing story.