Does Stainless Steel Jewelry Tarnish or Rust

Does Stainless Steel Jewelry Tarnish or Rust? FAQS you should know before buying

Stainless steel is a dazzling matter, well known for its silky and shiny appearance, durability, corrosion resistance, and low maintenance requirements. Its longevity and resilience make it a popular choice for extensive applications from the production of jewelry and cutlery items to the manufacturing of the automotive and aerospace industry.

But are you wondering if your stainless steel jewelry, applications, and cutlery will tarnish? The best answer is YES. Although it is highly resistant to corrosion and rust, it is not completely immune to tarnishing.


Despite its name, not even stainless steel jewelry can escape from the deteriorating effects of tarnish and rust. Many people incorrectly assume that once you purchase stainless steel pieces, they will stay rust resistant for years and years to come.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case; without chromium oxide, stainless steel becomes prone to corrosion when exposed to external elements. While it may be impossible to prevent the formation of tarnish or rust spots from ever forming on your jewelry, you can still extend the amount of time in between having to polish your beloved pieces.

When selecting a grade of steel for a jewelry piece, make sure you know the external environment which it will face – think sunlight exposure or extreme temperatures – a little research can help you pick the right grade so that breakdown is delayed as long as possible.

Furthermore, store your items in dry conditions and away from direct sunlight whenever possible; these simple steps can ensure maximum longevity of that glitzy shine.

Which Grade of Stainless Steel Is Better For Jewelry?

If you’re a jewelry lover, the question of whether your jewelry is made of stainless steel rust or not is a paramount one. To be certain about the answer, it’s essential to understand the different types of stainless steel out there.

316L Stainless Steel:

SAE 316L grade stainless steel is the ideal choice for jewelry, especially for those with sensitive skin or piercings. Compared to 304/A2 stainless steel, it offers better overall corrosion resistance against chlorides and has a higher chromium content (ranging from 16-18%).

This is further strengthened by its nickel (10-12%) and molybdenum (2-3%) composition which provides an additional layer of protection. Small amounts of silicon, phosphorus and sulfur also add to its durability, making it the top choice for jewelry that’s hypoallergenic and safe to wear.

304 or 301L Stainless Steel:

If you’re looking for an industrial-grade stainless steel that has the highest nickel level content, then 301L is perfect for you. While this alloy is acceptable when used externally, it’s not recommended that it be worn in the form of body piercing jewelry.

In fact, its sister 304L grade should be avoided entirely when creating or shopping for body jewelry due to the fact that both alloys can corrode if not taken care of properly. So if you need something rugged and hardy for use outside the body, then 301L stainless steel is a top pick!

How To Choose The Right Stainless Steel Jewelry For You?

When choosing the right stainless steel jewelry for you, there are three important factors to keep in mind: grade, polish quality and plating process.

Check the grade of Stainless steel

First and foremost is the grade of stainless steel you choose; if you’re looking for a more hypoallergenic option, then 316L is your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something tough and resilient, then 301L is your go-to choice.

Check the polish quality

The second factor to consider is the quality of polish. The higher the grade of polish, the more resistant your jewelry will be to external elements. When shopping for stainless steel jewelry, opt for pieces that have a high-polish finish as this helps protect them from scratches and reduces the chances of rust developing over time.

Choose the right plating process

Finally, the last factor to consider is the plating process. Gold and silver plating can provide an extra layer of protection against corrosion, but you should make sure that the jewelry has been properly sealed so that it stays in mint condition over time.

Also keep in mind that gold and silver plating tends to diminish with time, so if you want something that will stay looking great for years to come then it’s best to opt for stainless steel with a high-polish finish.

Why does stainless steel get tarnished?

Stainless steel is resistant to tarnishing but it can still occur over time under certain conditions. Some of the common reasons are;

Exposure to harsh chemicals

Your stainless jewelry and cutlery items can easily be tarnished if exposed to harsh and sharp chemicals.

Lack of cleaning

Improper cleaning and low maintenance can cause stainless steel items to get tarnished effortlessly.

Exposure to air and high temperature

Stainless steel items if exposed to air, and high temperature or if revealed to direct sunlight can get tarnished so easily.

Improper storage

Storing stainless steel in a high moisture environment results in its tarnishing. 

Scratches and abrasions

Improper care of stainless steel can result in scratches and abrasions. These scratches and abrasions cause stainless steel to tarnish.

Is Stainless Steel Jewelry Safe To Use?

Yes, stainless steel jewelry is safe and non-toxic to use. It contains no lead, nickel or other harmful materials and will not cause any irritation when worn against the skin.

However, it’s important to note that if you have any allergies or sensitivities to metals like nickel, then it’s best to opt for 316L grade stainless steel as it contains the lowest amount of nickel (10-12%) compared to other alloys. Additionally, you should make sure that your jewelry has been properly polished and sealed to prevent tarnishing or corrosion over time.

Overall, stainless steel is a great choice for jewelry due to its durability, affordability and wide range of grades which allow you to choose the perfect one for your needs.

Is Stainless Steel Jewelry Toxic?

No, stainless steel jewelry is not toxic. As long as it is properly sealed and polished, it is safe to wear and won’t cause any irritation when worn against the skin. It also contains no nickel or other harmful materials that could be potentially dangerous.

That being said, those with allergies or sensitivities to metals like nickel should opt for 316L grade stainless steel as it contains the least amount of nickel (10-12%).

How Long Does Stainless Steel Jewelry Last?

The longevity of your stainless steel jewelry depends on multiple factors such as the grade, polish quality, and plating process. Generally speaking, a properly sealed and polished piece of stainless steel jewelry should last for years with proper care — just make sure to clean it regularly and store it in a dry place away from direct sunlight.

Additionally, gold or silver plating will diminish with time, so if you want something that will stay looking great for years to come then choose stainless steel with a high-polish finish.

Does gold-plated or rose Gold-plated stainless steel jewelry tarnish?

Gold-plated jewelry is an elegant addition to any look and can make any outfit feel luxurious. Although its gold exterior makes it appear similar to solid gold pieces, its finish is much more fragile. The gold electroplating process gives a metal piece a thin layer of gold coating, which eventually wears off with use or over time.

Heavy gold plating gives the best results as it consists of 2.5 microns of gold compared to another technique called flashing/ washing, which only uses .175 microns or less. Due to this relatively thin layer of protective coating, gold-plated jewelry usually tarnishes with wear and tear over time.

Does Stainless Steel Jewelry Turn Green?

Stainless steel has become a popular choice of jewelry material due to its affordability and durability. However, many people have complained about green marks appearing on their skin after wearing stainless steel jewels.

Contrary to popular belief, this discoloration is not a skin allergy, such as the redness, swelling, and itching associated with typical skin allergies. Rather, it is an indication that your skin’s natural acids are reacting with the metal alloys present in the jewelry.

The reaction between these two elements leads to a salt compound forming on the skin which gives off a green hue. In addition, heat and moisture levels can further accelerate this reaction.

To prevent green marks from appearing on the skin, one can choose to apply a layer of transparent nail polish onto their jewelry or take appropriate steps to limit contact between the metal and skin such as taking regular breaks from wearing jewelry.

Is Stainless Steel Jewelry Waterproof?

Most stainless steel jewelry is water-resistant rather than waterproof. This means that it can withstand small amounts of moisture but should not be submerged in water for long periods of time.