It’s hard not to be crazy about sterling silver jewellery. Between its luster, its brilliance, and its versatility, it’s easy to see why silver is one of the most popular materials for jewellery worldwide. However, silver is also relatively fragile and may develop tarnish, stains or scratches if not maintained and cleaned properly.
Therefore, we have put together this informative article to ensure that you got all the necessary know-how to keep your silver jewellery nice and shiny.
** Note that this post does not cover Ejj’s jewellery exclusively, and therefore that the article is useful for anyone with any kind of silver jewellery. Moreover, do note that Ejj Jewellery uses 1 micron plating — this is far superior to the industry standard practice — which counters tarnish substantially. **
But First, a Slight Intro to Silver
Knowing a few industry terms will help you understand the physical attributes of your silver jewellery and how to properly care for it. The purity of the metal, for instance, determines how malleable the silver is and how quickly it will tarnish: .950 sterling silver will bend more easily and tarnish more quickly than .925 sterling silver because of its increased purity, so extra caution should be used to take care of .950 silver jewellery.
Pure silver, as it’s found in nature, is too soft and tender to make into jewellery and other objects. Therefore, to use silver it has to be mixed with copper, which makes it harder and more useable. The more copper, the harder the silver. Simply put, when jewellery is stamped with 925S it means it consists of 925 parts silver per thousand and 75 parts copper per thousand.
Unfortunately, many of us find ourselves neglecting all the beautiful silver pieces in our jewellery boxes for one simple, annoying reason: tarnish. When oxygen or sulfur come in contact with silver, they chemically bond to its surface and cause the silver to appear dirty or discolored. Who wants that? No one!
Fortunately, caring for silver and reducing tarnish is as simple as doing the dishes. All you need is to arm yourself with a few facts about the metal and a few tips and tricks for care and cleaning. With this ultimate guide, you’ll leave ready to start wearing your fabulous silver.
Do remember that some silversmiths intentionally allow parts of the jewellery to darken and oxidize, typically small details, to make them stand out more. This detailing can be lost, though, with excessive cleaning and polishing. So be sure to identify any purposefully oxidized silver pieces you have and set them aside for separate cleaning. Note however, that Ejj does not sell any purposefully oxidized silver.
Wear: One of the easiest ways to avoid tarnish on your jewellery is simply to wear them often. This is because the oils in your skin will “clean” the silver and keep it look shiny.
Avoid exposure: Contact with household chemicals, perspiration, rubber, chlorinated water, or any substances which contain sulfur, will cause corrosion and tarnish. Among others, it’s a good idea to remove silver jewellery when doing household chores. Moreover, direct sunlight for long periods of time also causes silver to tarnish, so be sure to take off your silver jewellery before you go swimming and sunbathing. Lotions, cosmetics, hair spray and hair products, and perfumes are also “enemies” of silver and will accelerate tarnishing — so be sure to get that done before you put on your magnificent silver pieces!
Storage: One of the best way to preserve your silver is to store it correctly. First of all, make sure each piece is completely dry before storing it. As exposure to air tarnishes silver jewellery, storing silver in airtight plastic bags with anti-tarnish strips is a great preventative measure.
Just make sure you don’t store multiple jewellery pieces in the same bag: silver is a soft metal, so the individual pieces can scratch each other. Link or chain bracelets should be kept unclasped or unhooked to prevent scratching as well. If you can’t use plastic bags, try to make sure that the storage area has low humidity. You can also place a piece of chalk, a packet of activated charcoal, or a container of silica gel in the storage area to minimize tarnish.
If you don’t have the bags, you can also try wrapping each piece of silverware in acid-free tissue paper or anti-tarnish paper. You can also wrap pieces in flannel. Store the silver in a compartment separate from the rest of your jewellery. Never store silver jewellery where it can contact rubber, stainless steel, or paint.
Polishing: Simply polishing your silver works well when the tarnishing is not too severe. It’s also the best method for cleaning oxidized silver, as you can stay away from the intentionally tarnished areas.
Just keep in mind that silver is relatively soft and may become scratched easily. You can use a special silver cloth to polish your items, but a lint-free flannel, microfiber, or other soft nonabrasive cloth will do as well. Do not use paper towels or tissues to polish your jewellery as they contain fibers that can scratch the silver.
When polishing, use long back-and-forth motions that mirror the grain of the silver. Do not rub in circles, as this will magnify any tiny scratches. Also, change to a different section of your cloth frequently to avoid placing tarnish back on the silver. You may use a Q-tip to get into small, detailed areas.
Be careful with silver-plated items, as excessive polishing can remove the plating (depending on the thickness). Ejj uses 1 micron plating which is considered thick and accommodates warm and humid climates effectively. Also, should you want to learn more about plating, then check out this informative article.
Clean frequently: First and foremost, clean your silver jewellery often. Especially promptly after use. Prompt cleaning is especially important when the silver jewellery has been exposed to certain foods or products containing sulfur, or which are acidic or salty.
Soap and water: Warm water and a mild, ammonia- and phosphate-free dishwashing soap should be your first line of defense if the polishing cloth fails to remove tarnish. This also holds true for rhodium and gold plated silver. You should also avoid using rubber gloves when washing silver as rubber corrodes silver jewellery. Do NOT use a tootbrush to reach difficult spots as it could leave scratches on the surface, instead, use a Q-tip for those hard-to-reach spots.
Use a special polishing cloth or simply a soft, lint-free cloth to gently rub the silver clean straight after washing. Make sure it gets completely dry. As you dry the jewellery, gently buff the shine back with a soft cotton cloth.
Generally refrain from too much of household experimentation (unless you are willing to bear the risk), such as baking soda and water; olive oil and lemon juice; non-whitening, non-gel toothpaste; white vinegar and baking soda; baking soda, salt aluminum foil and boiling water;
Salt bath: This works as a gentle cleanser that removes tarnish without abrading the silver. Put hot water into a bowl, then add a tablespoon of salt and few strips of aluminum foil. The combination of salt and aluminum will react with the tarnish on the silver’s surface and create a brights, shiny surface in place of the tarnish.
Tarnish happens when the surface of silver combines with sulfur and turns into silver sulfide, which is black. When silver sulfide reacts with aluminum in a salt solution, the chemical reaction between the substances turns the silver sulfide back to silver. The reaction happens faster when the solution is warm.
Allow it to sit for 5 minutes, and when you see that the silver shine has been restored, you may remove the silver from the solution. If your jewellery is deeply tarnished, then you might need to repeat the process several times. Then run the jewellery under some cool running water to rinse off the salt, thereafter gently dry the silver using a soft cloth or microfiber towel.
Professional care: If your pieces are heavily tarnished and you don’t have the time to clean them, take them to a professional silver cleaner. Moreover, very old, fragile, or valuable pieces should also be cleaned by a professional.
Commercial Silver Cleaners
While commercial silver cleaners will give a temporary shine, it can harm your silver by removing the anti-tarnish coating which results in that your silver pieces will have to be cleaned more frequently once you have broken down the surface.
Ejj Jewellery recommend that you don’t use silver dips for removing oxidation from your silver jewellery as it will leave microscopic pits causing it to darken faster. Instead, focus on preventative care by storing and maintaining your jewellery properly.
Well-cared-for silver jewellery can give you many years of pleasure and enjoyment and even become family heirlooms. And, of course, silver is valuable. So don’t wait until tarnish has become so bad that you forget about your silver treasures or even get rid of them. Give your jewellery a fresh start today!
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Other Great Resources on the World Wide Web:
How to Take Care of Cubic Zirconia Jewelry | Jewellery Notes
Jewellery Cleaning | Wikipedia
How to Clean Gold | Cleanipedia