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Does 316L Stainless Steel Jewelry Tarnich?

I have to answer this question with absolutely “No”, and here I will explain the details below:

Element of 316L stainless which made this material no tarnish at all:

316L stainless steel is a high corrosion-resistant metal alloy widely used for making jewelry. Its main alloying elements are chromium, nickel, and molybdenum. The chromium content is specifically essential, making up at least 16% of 316L steel. When exposed to oxygen, the chromium reacts and forms a passive layer of chromium oxide on the steel’s surface. This invisible barrier prevents corrosion and tarnishing.

The molybdenum further enhances corrosion resistance, while the nickel improves durability and workability. Thanks to its optimized chemical composition, 316L steel maintains its original grayish-silver color over time. Unlike metals like sterling silver, it does not require surface treatments like lacquering to prevent tarnishing, which readily oxidizes when exposed to air.

The “L” denotes low carbon content, maximizing 316 stainless steel’s corrosion resistance. With proper care like avoiding harsh chemicals, 316L steel jewelry retains its shiny appearance for years of wear. Its tarnish-free durability makes 316L an excellent choice for producing high-quality stainless steel jewelry and accessories.

Whether PVD Coating Stainless Steel Jewelry tarnish?

The short answer is no – PVD coatings do not change the underlying corrosion resistance of stainless steel. The PVD layer is very thin, ranging from 0.5-5 microns coating on surface to change the cosmetic color of the jewelry. Stainless steel is valued in jewelry for its tarnish-resistant qualities. The chromium in the steel reacts with oxygen to form a protective layer that prevents corrosion. PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coating is commonly applied to stainless steel jewelry to add color through materials like gold, rose gold, rainbow, black etc. (contact us for PVD coating plate choice for your jewelry).

However, scratches or damage to the PVD layer could potentially allow air access to the stainless steel below. Proper care is required to prevent scratches. Overall, PVD adds beautiful colors without negating the tarnish-free nature of stainless steel. However, it does not technically improve the steel’s ability to resist tarnishing.

How long does PVD Coating last for SS Jewelry?

The lifespan of PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coatings on stainless steel jewelry can vary quite a bit depending on the quality of the plating and how well the pieces are cared for. Here are some general guidelines on how long PVD coatings typically last:

  • With proper everyday care, high-quality PVD coatings applied by experienced jewelers can last 5-10 years or longer without exhibiting signs of wear. Gentle cleaning and avoiding scratches preserve the coating.
  • Average-quality PVD finishes often begin showing some wear and fading after 3-5 years of frequent use. The coating holds up reasonably well but starts to degrade over time.
  • Lower quality and uneven PVD coatings may only last 6 months to 2 years before scratches, peeling and fading become visible. The thinner application is less durable.
  • Exposing PVD-coated stainless steel jewelry to chlorine, salt water, or abrasive cleaners will cause the coating to fail much quicker – within months in some cases.

At DG Jewelry, high-end PVD coatings on jewelry are applied, so average quality finishes are realistically durable for around 3-5 years with proper care.

What elements that Can affect the Cosmetic of Stainless Steel Jewelry:

  1. Chlorine: Prolonged exposure to chlorine, often found in swimming pools and cleaning products, can lead to discoloration and corrosion of stainless steel.
  2. Saltwater: Saltwater contains corrosive elements that can impact the appearance of stainless steel jewelry, particularly if not rinsed and dried properly after exposure.
  3. Harsh Chemicals: Avoid contact with chemicals like bleach, ammonia, or acidic substances, as they can tarnish or erode the surface of the jewelry.
  4. Physical Abrasion: Scratches and dents can occur when stainless steel jewelry comes into contact with hard surfaces or abrasive materials.
  5. Sulfur and Perspiration: Sulfur compounds present in perspiration can affect the luster of stainless steel, especially if the jewelry isn’t cleaned regularly.

Tips for Maintaining Stainless Steel Jewelry:

  1. Regular Cleaning: Gently clean your jewelry with mild soap and warm water. Use a soft cloth or a jewelry cleaning brush to remove dirt and residues.
  2. Drying and Polishing: After cleaning, ensure the jewelry is thoroughly dried to prevent water spots. You can also polish it with a microfiber cloth to restore its shine.
  3. Storage: Store jewelry separately to prevent scratches. Consider using jewelry pouches or boxes with individual compartments.
  4. Avoid Contact: Remove your jewelry before swimming, showering, or engaging in activities that may expose it to harsh elements or chemicals.
  5. Polishing Cloth: Periodically use a jewelry polishing cloth to maintain the jewelry’s luster.
  6. Professional Cleaning: For intricate or heavily tarnished pieces, consult a professional jeweler for a thorough cleaning.
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