In its purest form, silver is too soft to be used for making rings and other jewelry. To combat this, jewelers add copper to silver to make it sturdier and improve its durability. Unfortunately, copper is reactive and known to discolor when exposed to certain compounds. In time, any sterling silver ring will darken -- tarnish -- as a result.

Get Your Shine On

When the copper in silver reacts to the moisture in the air, your ring first develops a slight golden hue and then turns a dark color. In addition to airborne moisture, copper also reacts to acidic foods such as onions and chemicals like bleach, ammonia and chlorine. Exposure to these items cause silver to tarnish more quickly than it otherwise would. The acid in your sweat can also tarnish a sterling silver ring while it is on your finger. To clean away mild tarnish, submerse the ring in warm water that contains a mild dish washing detergent. Rub the ring gently with your fingers and then rinse it thoroughly. If the ring contains gemstones that would be harmed by submersing it in soapy water, use the solution to dampen a cotton swab and rub the ring with the swab. Store sterling silver jewelry you won’t be wearing for a while in a clean, airtight plastic bag. Heavily tarnished jewelry can be cleaned at home using a product specifically designed to clean sterling silver. Because silver is easily scratched, don't use any abrasive cleaners on your ring.