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Leather tarnishing silver

Hello group, I have been having a bad experience with leather that we
are purchasing tarnishing our sterling silver. We have been doing
in-house test by putting the leather on a silver sheet and covering
with 2 plexi-glass plates, putting in a oven set at 130 degrees and
adding water for humidity. After sitting in the over for a week and
comparing it to a gray scale and it looks fine. We will glue our end
caps to the leather and after a months time the leather is
tarnishing all our silver. Our vendors will claim that the leather
is tarnish free. Has anybody had this experience in the past and
this there a way to clean this leather or someone we can purchase
leather from so it will not tarnish our jewelry?

Thank you,
Chris Ruiz

Most commercially prepared leather is either chrome “tanned” or
tannin tanned. If the cut edges show a greenish tint, then it’s a
chrome tanned leather. Leather is a complex substance that is
treated with a lot of different materials to make it handle specific
ways, change the color, or preserve it. Any of these steps could
contain compounds that will promote silver tarnish (especially
sulfur compounds, egg yolk, for example, is a traditional component
of a number of leather dressings). It could simply be that the
chemicals in the glue are releasing the problem substances.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR

It would appear your third variable is the glue, even if silver
compatible, it maybe in conjunction with the leather other by
products are created. also, you didn’t mention what tonnage the
leather is, the two basic are either organic vegetable (oak) or
smoked, the second being chrome tanned (or other metallic salts).
actually every tannery has several unique formulas for their
leathers, so leather from two companies maybe called the same but
with different additives that could be reactive catalysts.

Your best bet would try a different leather source, then retry your
test with a variety of adhesives.

Warning: “Craft Store” leathers may have the same packaging, but
multiple tanners, plus each color is a different “brew” of

Sorry I’m unavoidably vague, but I’ve been out of leather craft
quite a while!

Have fun, Ed

Hi Chris, There are many other environmental factors that could be
contributing to the tarnishing of your silver as well as the leather.
To determine how much of a factor the leather is, I would modify
your test. There are two problems with your test as you describe it.
Sandwiching the leather and silver between sheets of Plexiglas will
exclude oxygen from the surface of the silver. You also have no
control against which to compare your test results. I would place a
few end caps with the leather attached in your oven as you did before
and see what happens. Then I would place a few end caps with no
leather attached in your oven and see what happens with all other
factors being the same. These two tests must be conducted
separately. This will give you a better indication of how much the
leather is contributing to the tarnish. I would also ask what kind
of environment these items are in for the month after attaching them
to the leather? Are there other silver items with no leather
attached in the same environment that are not tarnishing over this
same time period? If the leather is the primary contributing factor,
then you may want to try an anti-ox silver alloy. I haven’t worked
with leather so I can’t tell you what other leather options you may

Best Regards,


I have been making my Bella Bola necklaces with leather for nearly a
year, and the leather does not tarnish the silver end caps, which I
make from silver tubing, nor the Silver Ribbons, which are made from
low dome wire. I have my leather bollas handmade for me from very
high grade calfskin.

I can’t envision what you are making or doing with the silver and
leather that is causing tarnish. Do you have a photo?

Hi Chris,

Are you sure its not the glue you’re using to fix the ends - or some
volatile component of it evaporating?

Best Wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

Chris, I was using Elk skin and also Lamb skin to make small jewelry
pouches for a few of my products. I found that both of these VERY
QUICKLY tarnished my silver pieces, and it became a problem enough
that I gave up the idea of these pouches altogether. And I really
liked the idea, so that’s saying something! I believe it’s the acids
or tanning chems evaporating from the leather that are causing the

Andrew Horn
Alythea Arts

I cannot speak to the chemistry of how silver reacts with leather.
However, a couple of years back, I had a conversation with an
executive of the Cross Pen Company (located in Lincoln, RI, USA)
about this subject.

At that time she told me that it had been extremely difficult, in
fact involving a worldwide search, to get leather for pen cases that
would not tarnish their sterling silver pens.

Jim Benson

Drew, I made jewelry pouches out of “pacific cloth”. I found it at a
local fabric store. It is used to line drawers for silverware to
retard tarnish. Annette