Care & Cleaning Of Sterling Silver Jewelry
Sterling silver naturally tarnishes, but tarnish is easy to remove. Try these sterling silver care tips for a cleaner look!
My mother has always adorned herself in quality jewelry, with arms being heard from yards away due to the ‘jingle-jangle.’ I also know how she cares for her jewelry, making sure it is polished before being worn, because she would not be caught dead wearing tarnished silver. She often pushes me to do the same. It’s true: clean, untarnished silver looks much better than dark and dirtied silver.
Sterling Silver consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Sterling silver naturally tarnishes, like other metals, because of a chemical reaction that silver has with oxygen & sulfur compounds as well as moisture in the air. Luckily, this reaction can be slowed and tarnish can be removed!
preventative care tips
Put your jewelry on after you spray perfumes or hairsprays and after you apply makeup. These things further accelerate the tarnishing of silver.
Keep your jewelry in a jewelry box to protect it from the outside air and moisture. You can also throw a silica gel packet (like those little packets you get in the pocket when you buy a new jacket) in the jewelry box to absorb any excess moisture.
It is best not to swim in chlorinated water, or in sulfur-rich hot springs while wearing silver jewelry, as this can tarnish and corrode your silver much quicker.
01. Polishing Cloths
Polishing cloths are a gentle, yet effective way to remove tarnish from your sterling silver jewelry. Polishing cloths typically consist of two separate materials for a dual approach to removing tarnish. For example, my Connoisseurs Sterling Silver Polishing Cloth has both white and pink cloths attached. Begin with the white cloth, rubbing your jewelry with the cloth to remove most of the tarnish on the silver. Follow up with the pink cloth, to buff the piece for shine.
02. Connoisseurs Jewelry Cleaning Solution
There are a variety of Connoisseur solutions that can be specific to the type of jewelry you are looking to clean (gold, delicate, silver, precious stones), however I prefer their general cleaning solution. I use this for pieces that I want absolutely no tarnish or patina (intentional darkening – see note below). By dipping your jewelry in the solution, and using the small brush (included) to get in any crevices, your silver will be shining fresh afterwards.
03. Warm Water, Soap & a Toothbrush
(warning: plug the drain before wetting jewelry so you don’t loose anything!)
With a little warm water, gently wet your piece. Put a dot of dish soap on the silver and scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush. This is a great way to clean in the crevices. After the jewelry is dried, you can follow up with a quick run through the polishing cloth, if you choose.
a note on patina:
According to the Society of American Silversmiths, patina can mean one of three things: 1.) Small scratches that silver acquires over time 2.) Darkening that occurs naturally over time in crevices of a piece 3.) An applied chemical to darken the shadows of a piece to give a more 3D-look.
The third definition is a practice that I use when finishing silver jewelry (see image). I apply a patina finish to most pieces I create in order to darken shadows and to make other aspects of a piece stand out more.
When it comes to cleaning jewelry with an intentional patina finish, the best to clean and polish with a polishing cloth. This way, you can be intentional to only clean the areas that require a high-shine finish, while avoiding the removal of patina.
a note on renaissance wax:
This type of wax is typically used by museums and in antique restoration to polish and conserve metal materials, but it can also be used on handmade jewelry. I only put this on jewelry by request and avoid applying it where the skin touches, but essentially it coats and protects the metal from outside elements, preventing tarnish. If you’re purchasing a piece from me, let me know if you’d like this applied to your jewelry at the time of purchase.
Finally, if you have a piece of jewelry that is particularly filthy, or needs a real deep cleaning, just contact me and I can use the tools I have in my studio to get it looking clean & shiny again!
Do you have any preferred methods of preventing tarnish or cleaning jewelry? Let me know in the comments below!