How to clean and care for sterling silver and sterling vermeil
Whether you accessorize your wardrobe exclusively with silver jewelry or you only have a few special pieces, you’ve probably found yourself wondering at some point what the best way is to take care of and clean your silver jewelry.
The dedicated jewelers at Pennyweights have put together a list to answer all of your questions about caring for silver jewelry. From daily wearing tips to cleaning instructions, you’ll find it all right here!
Understanding Why Your Sterling Silver Tarnishes
Sterling silver is an alloyed metal, normally made of 92.5% pure silver and other metals. Sterling silver is a popular metal because of its affordability and malleability, but it also tarnishes quickly because of its composition.
If you’re looking at a piece of jewelry that is darkened or appears dirty, then your silver has tarnished; but, there’s no need to neglect this piece or get rid of it!
Tarnish is simply the result of a chemical reaction with oxygen or sulfur particles in the air. With a few easy-to-follow tips, you can take care of your sterling silver jewelry and make it last for years to come!
Preventing Tarnish with These Daily Wearing Tips
Knowing what’s harmful to your sterling silver jewelry is the best way to combat tarnish. For your daily wearing, we’ve put together this list of tips:
- Wear it often: Believe it or not, your skin’s natural oils will help keep silver jewelry shiny. One of the easiest ways to prevent tarnish is to simply wear your silver often as opposed to letting it sit in a jewelry box unworn.
- Remove during household chores: Substances with additional sulfur like household cleaners, chlorinated water, perspiration, and rubber will accelerate corrosion and tarnish. It’s a good idea to remove sterling silver completely before cleaning.
- Keep out of direct sunlight: Before you hit the beach or pool, be sure to remove your silver jewelry. Sunlight can cause silver to tarnish as well.
- Put your jewelry on last: For generations, women have been putting their jewelry on last and that’s for good reason! Lotions, makeups, hair spray and perfumes will accelerate tarnishing.
How to Clean Your Sterling Silver Jewelry
There are countless at-home methods for cleaning your silver jewelry. You’ve probably found yourself faced with endless options, wondering which are the best. Well, here’s the silver cleaning methods that our jewelers suggest for your at-home cleanings:
- Soap and water: This is our most recommended method because of the gentleness of soap and water. This should really be your first line of defense before trying anything else.
- Baking soda and water: If you come across suggestions to use toothpaste, we highly recommend you ignore that tip and use baking soda and water instead. When toothpastes were simple non-whitening, non-gel based pastes, they could be used on your jewelry. However, they include many more ingredients now that may damage your silver. Instead make a paste from baking soda and water, apply a small amount onto a cloth or tooth brush and scrub gently.
- White vinegar and baking soda: This gentle cleaning method is great for removing heavy tarnish. Soak your sterling silver in ½ cup of white vinegar and 2 tbsp of baking soda (combine these in the sink and prepare yourself for the fizzing and foam) for two to three hours. Rinse jewelry and pat dry.
- Finish with a polish: After you’ve given your jewelry a good cleaning, you can finish the process by using a polishing cloth that’s specifically for sterling silver.
You can repeat this process as often as needed. Remember, the key to keeping your sterling silver clean is to keep up with regular cleanings to remove tarnish as it builds. Your job becomes much more difficult if you let a piece accumulate a lot of tarnish and then try to remove it all at once.
There are many other methods that you’ll come across, but we highly suggest these three because of how gentle they are on your silver jewelry.
How to Properly Store Your Silver Jewelry
- Use an air-tight container: any container can be used to store your silver, as long as its air-tight. Zip-lock bag are great, but you can also find specialty jewelry bags for a more attractive option.
- Keep in a cool, dark place: as mentioned earlier, sunlight, heat and moisture accelerate tarnishing. Be sure to keep your silver in a cool, dark place.
- Store pieces individually: storing your pieces separately prevents any chance of jewelry scratching or tangling with each other.
- Consider anti-tarnish strips: you can throw in some anti-tarnish strips with your jewelry to help prevent tarnishing.
- Do not store in paper, cardboard, or cotton-filled boxes: these boxes may contain traces of sulfur which will contribute to tarnishing.
Products that Help Prevent Tarnish
There are a few other things you may try when looking for ways to prevent your sterling silver jewelry from tarnishing.
- Store jewelry with chalk: If you throw a few pieces of chalk in with your sterling silver, the chalk will absorb the moisture and help prevent tarnishing.
- Use silica packs: When you buy new clothing or shoes, sometimes you’ll find silica packs in with them. Hold onto these and toss them in your jewelry box. They’re great for absorbing moisture!
- Anti-tarnish cloths: Lining your jewelry box with anti-tarnish cloths is a great idea. These cloths absorb sulfur and moisture from the air and are usually chemically treated to prevent tarnish.
Our Final Say
All in all, keeping your sterling silver clean comes down to maintaining a balance of regular at-home care and professional cleaning appointments. We suggest an annual cleaning by professionals for all jewelry.
Remember that it’s easier to prevent tarnish than it is to remove it after it occurs. If you see tarnish beginning to form, be sure to clean it immediately. Following these steps will help keep your sterling silver looking like new for years to come!