Sterling silver is a classic precious metal used for jewelry. Pure silver is too soft to be used in jewelry. The addition of an alloy material is used to strengthen the silver. Sterling silver is made up of 92.5 percent silver and combined with other alloys, typically copper. This is why jewelry made with sterling silver will have a .925 hallmark stamped into it. Sterling silver will tarnish over time due to sulphur in the air. Some love this look and never polish their jewelry.
If you would like to keep your silver jewelry tarnish free, it will require periodic cleaning using one of the following methods.
- Use a small amount of commercial silver cleaner and a soft cloth. Gently rub the silver before rinsing the piece of jewelry in warm water and carefully dry. Do not use any brushes or any material that may scratch the surface of your silver.
- Use a professional polishing cloth. Sold by jewelers, this type of cloth is impregnated with a chemical that will remove tarnish. Note: if using this type of cloth on plated silver, be very gentle or you risk damaging the plating.
- Line a small dish with aluminum foil. Add boiling water and a tablespoon of baking soda. Let silver items soak in the solution with contact to the aluminum foil and a chemical process will remove the tarnish within a minute. Rinse off and carefully dry.
Note of Caution: Some sterling silver jewelry is finished with a chemical process called oxidation. This process causes parts of the jewelry to be darkened. Take care when cleaning these pieces or you may lose this effect.
Before Work: Don’t wear your jewelry when doing tasks that may physically damage your jewelry or may expose your jewelry to chemicals or cleaning solutions. Of even greater concern are work situations where there is a possibility of a ring getting caught or crushed, causing injury.
Before Play: Don’t wear your jewelry during contact sports.
Swimming: Don’t wear your jewelry in swimming pools or hot tubs. The chlorinated water can discolor your jewelry. Also remove jewelry before swimming in the ocean the salt water can react adversely with your jewelry. Though discoloration can be polished, it is easy, especially for rings to slip off and be lost.
Makeup: Makeup, hairspray, lotions and other products may react with your jewelry. It is best to put on your jewelry after applying these products to limit the exposure to your jewelry. This is also true of sunscreens and bug sprays.
Cold Temperatures: Cold temperatures can cause your fingers to shrink and can allow your rings to slip off and be lost.
Storage: If you are going to store your jewelry for an extended period of time. Small plastic zip lock bags are perfect to keep your jewelry sealed from the air that causes tarnish. Additionally you may also purchase anti-tarnish paper to place in the bag if you would like extra protection.