If you’re wondering, “Does silver leaf tarnish?” chances are you’re looking to gild a project with silver leaf and want to keep it looking the way it did when you first laid your metal leaf. That’s completely understandable! In this article, we’ll detail whether or not silver leaf tarnishes, as well as what you can do to stop silver leaf from tarnishing.

Does Silver Leaf Tarnish

Table of Contents

Will Silver Leaf Tarnish?

Yes, silver leaf will tarnish over time. When using genuine silver leaf it’s important to note that both time and certain substances can lead to aging of the leaf. This remains true for both pure silver and other silver leaf types. Because silver leaf tarnishes easily, it is recommended that the silver leaf is properly sealed to best protect your project.

Will Imitation Silver Leaf Tarnish?

Imitation silver leaf, like genuine silver, will tarnish over time. The silver leaf may tarnish due to exposure to certain chemicals or substances, or it may be a result of aging. If you wish to achieve the same look as imitation or genuine silver leaf but don’t want to worry about tarnishing, you may wish to look into purchasing platinum leaves (since platinum doesn’t tarnish).

The only issue is that platinum leaf, though tarnish-resistant, is very costly. Thus, it may be more cost-effective to purchase silver leaf and simply seal the surface with a good varnish or topcoat.

Does Silver Leaf Tarnish Black

Silver sulfide appears as a black tarnish, but other types of silver tarnishing exist. Among these types include yellow tarnishing, rust-colored tarnishing, and even blue-hued tarnish. Different types of tarnish colors show up on different metals, but these are the ones most commonly found on silver.

Also, bear in mind that tarnishing silver takes on a dull appearance, and also, that silver is sometimes purposefully tarnished for certain types of antiquing most commonly found on picture frames, old furniture pieces, mirror frames, and more.

What Silver Leaf Doesn’t Tarnish?

There isn’t any particular type of silver leaf that doesn’t tarnish. Unlike pure gold leaf, silver leaf will require a varnish or top coat of sorts to protect it and preserve its natural finish. The only exception to this is if you choose to use palladium or platinum leaf; as mentioned before, this expensive replacement for silver won’t require any varnishing or topcoat methods. However, if you wish to stick with silver leaf, you’ll have to use sealant after gilding to provide the proper amount of protection to your finished piece.

How to Stop Silver Leaf from Tarnishing?

In order to stop silver leaf from tarnishing, you’ll want to ensure that you apply a thicker coat of sealant or varnish over the silver leaf once applied. At least two coats are recommended, though some types of water-based sealing methods may require more. You’ll need a brush to take on this process and will need to inform yourself on all of the different sealant types out there for your finished piece. 

For example, some types of sealant offer a matte, satin, or glossy finish, and others are permanent, removeable or solvent based. You’ll need to determine which of each is the best choice for your project to know which one to use.

Types of Sealant to Stop Silver Leaf From Tarnishing

As mentioned, there are a variety of sealant types that can stop silver leaf from tarnishing. These include the following:

  • Water-based sealant types (these don’t tend to be as durable as solvent-based, but most are non-toxic)
  • Solvent-based sealant types (use these with caution, as they require a well-ventilated space, and may emit toxic fumes)
  • Shellac
  • Varnish
  • Lacquer
  • Clear coat wax (spray or otherwise)

How Long Does Silver Leaf Tarnish

In case you’re wondering, it can take anywhere from 2 months to several years for silver to tarnish in its natural state. This is true when it comes to silver jewelry and silver leaf alike. This is why it is so important that at least a thin layer of shellac or top coat is applied to the surface of silver leaf to protect its composition and protect any gilded projects.

Does Silver Leaf Tarnish? Yes, It Most Certainly Does …

Remember that whether you are using genuine silver leaf or imitation silver leaf, both types tarnish with time. Because of this, it is imperative that you brush a thin layer of sealant on your project to produce a final finish that’ll last.

When picking what type of sealant you’ll use, remember that different types will serve different purposes and may yield dissimilar results. Many even look different once dry. Choose between permanent, removeable, solvent-based, and water-based sealant types, and be sure to note the difference between each to ensure you’re picking the best sealant for your needs.

We hope this helps!


Is silver leaf real silver?

It can be. If a silver leaf is marked as genuine silver, then it should be pure. Still, it is important that you purchase from a reputable manufacturer to ensure that your silver leaf is indeed genuine. Some brands may stuff their silver full of aluminum and then go and sell it as pure. Thus, it is especially important to know that genuine edible silver is actually pure silver, as excess consumption of aluminum may prove harmful to your health.

Can you spray paint over silver leaf?

Yes, you can. However, we suggest that you apply a top coat of some sort over it so that the spray paint stays put rather than chipping or becoming otherwise compromised as time goes on.

What is the fastest way to remove tarnish from silver?

Vinegar can often remove tarnish from silver, as can cornstarch and water. To make a cornstarch and water paste, combine one tablespoon of cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of water. Mix together until completely incorporated. Take an old cloth, and rub it along the surface of a tarnished frame, piece of jewelry, or other piece. Experiment with vinegar and cornstarch to see which of the two work best for your needs.

Get 10% OFF on your first order

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% discount on your first order. Check your inbox for the discount code and use it at checkout!

*Terms and conditions apply

You have Successfully Subscribed!