Care Tips for Sterling Silver Jewelry

You've just picked up a sparkly new sterling silver jewelry piece. Great choice! Sterling silver is the most popular type of silver jewelry due to its superior color and durability. To make sterling, a small amount of base metal is added to pure silver, which helps prevent warping and denting over time. Such a combination of metals is called an alloy. Sterling silver jewelry is often stamped "925" so that you know it is made up of 92.5% silver. Anything less cannot be called sterling.

Due to the properties of an alloy, sterling silver jewelry will tarnish slowly but surely. Tarnish appears on all alloys because the copper inside reacts to moisture and sulfur in the air. If you notice that over time you've become less excited to wear a piece of jewelry, inspect the piece for tarnish. It may have dulled its sparkle after months of use and exposure to the elements. If you have sensitive skin, you may even find that a tarnished pair of earrings starts to cause irritation. The good news is removing tarnish is quick and easy, so you can soon go back to wearing that well loved piece of jewelry like it was brand new.

How To Prevent Tarnish On Sterling Silver Jewelry

A little extra care will slow the tarnishing process. Tarnish loves oxygen. Keep your jewelry in an airtight container for best results. Store it away from light and cleaning products. Next time you buy something with a silica gel packet, you can save the packet and put it in your jewelry box to reduce humidity.

Remember that tarnish is caused by moisture and sulfur in the air, so for that reason I recommend removing your jewelry before going in water. Chlorine will also cause tarnish. If your jewelry does go for a swim, simply let it dry and then use your polishing cloth.

Avoid spraying fragrances near your jewelry. Remove your jewelry before going to the gym because the salt from sweat can also react with silver to cause tarnish.

How to Remove Tarnish From Silver the Easy Way

Tarnish can be removed by gently rubbing a polishing cloth over the metal. You can buy polishing cloths for just a few bucks on Amazon, and many jewelry stores carry them as well. A tried and true brand is called Sunshine Cloth, but you can't go wrong with whatever you choose. Before I ship a jewelry order, I always spend a few minutes running a Pro Polish Pad over your jewelry to give it that unholy shine right out of the mailbox. These will remove tarnish you didn't even know was there. They must be magic!

Polishing your silver every six months will ensure that it always looks sparkly and new. I find it easiest to do this in batches in front of the TV. You will find that the first few passes with the polishing cloth won't remove much tarnish. It will take a few passes for the tarnish to loosen before it really starts to rub away. Rotate your polishing cloth so you're not spreading the tarnish around with a dirty cloth. A darkened cloth will still work, but you should replace it when it starts to pill. Do not wash your cloth because it will wash away the polishing treatment.

The Heavy Duty Way to Remove Tarnish

Finally, if you have a lot of tarnish to remove, you might want to try a baking soda bath for your silver pieces. This method of removing tarnish takes a little more preparation but can be very effective. Note that these instructions are particular to silver, and you would not want to try this with gold jewelry. Most gemstones, including pearls, will be safe in the baking soda bath. I do not use adhesive in any of my pieces, so there is no concern for gems coming loose from the heat. Amber, coral, opal and turquoise are the exceptions that should not be subjected to this method.

To make a baking soda bath, first crumple a piece of aluminum foil and use it to line a bowl. A glass container is recommended, but anything other than a metal pan will do. Place your jewelry on top of the foil in the bowl. Add a generous amount of baking soda, making sure it touches each part of the jewelry. Pour boiling water into the bowl until the jewelry is covered. Let it sit for ten minutes. Finally, remove the jewelry and rinse it under hot water. Silver doesn't like sudden temperature changes, so make sure the rinse is very hot. I like to do this in a second bowl so I don't risk dropping it down the sink. Pat it completely dry and then let it sit overnight.

Sterling silver is well loved for a reason, and it is easy to care for at the level of your choosing. Some jewelry lovers go to high effort to keep their sterling in perfect condition. Others prefer to get the most possible utility out of their pieces, which sometimes means bending the rules. There is no wrong way to love your sterling silver jewelry. Use these tips to make the most out of your jewelry, your way. Enjoy!