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silver zinc alloy is an alloy metal, which means it’s made from a combination of other metals. Silver is the most common ingredient in the mixture, but other elements can also be included. For example, people make stainless steel from a combination of steel and chromium, and sterling silver is typically made with a mixture of silver and copper.

Zinc isn’t used in its pure form, but jewelry makers blend it with other metals to come up with casting alloys such as brass, bronze, nickel silver, soft solder, and German silver. These alloys are sometimes known by the acronym ZAMAK. Zinc alloys don’t tarnish as readily as silver or stainless steel, but they do oxidize and turn brown, black, bluish, or greenish. This is caused by reaction with nonmetallic compounds in the alloy’s surrounding. The most commonly cited culprits are oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide.

To reduce this oxidation, jewelry makers use a solution of silver salt and citric acid to scrub the surface of the jewelry. They also put the pieces into an oxygen-free environment, such as a sealed box or plastic bag. This prevents the formation of new oxidation, and it prolongs the lifespan of the jewelry. But even with these precautions, it is still possible that the jewelry will tarnishe over time. This tarnishing is due to the same process that causes corrosion in other metals, including nickel. It’s the result of oxidation that produces nonmetallic compounds that react with the alloy surrounding, especially air.

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