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Sterling Silver Jewelry: The A-Z On Cleaning & Maintenance

close up of womans hand with sterling silver ring

Sterling silver is a blend of metals, it is usually composed of fine silver and other alloys (usually copper). It often comes with a stamp of 925 which means it has a 92.5% make up of silver and 7.5% of copper or another metal. Sterling silver pieces are loved for their affordability and flexibility but the presence of other metals can mean that they tarnish a little easier. Keeping them clean with a silver cleaner or homemade cleaning solution can bring up that lightning flash and luster once more.

There’s a lot to love about sterling silver. While fine silver can be delicate, sterling silver crosses boundaries. It can be classic and dressy or pretty and playful, it can be heavy and solid or light as a wisp of smoke. Pure silver is soft and malleable so the higher the silver count is, the more care and cleaning it may take..

How to Care for your Sterling Silver Jewelry

silver jewelry

As mentioned, sterling silver can tarnish a little more often, not because of the quality but because of the presence of copper. When copper meets oxygen, salt, and moisture it can react and lead to discoloration. That doesn’t mean your favorite piece is changed forever, a little TLC can quickly bring it back to life. 

Looking after your jewelry helps it to stay beautiful and means that it will last longer. As the tarnish is a chemical reaction, if left it may lead to quicker levels of corrosion. By keeping your jewelry well-loved and cleansed, you can keep it close to your heart for years to come.

Keep your Silver Jewelry Away From.... 

The more you wear your sterling silver jewelry, the less likely it is to fall to time and tarnish. This is because the oils in our skin can work as a cleansing agent and will keep your silver pieces looking as shiny and bright as the moonlight. Whether wearing or not, there are some things you will want to keep your silver away from if you can…

Household chemicals - Even something as simple as doing the dishes can expose your silver pieces to chemicals. Chemicals can be hard-wearing on your silver, so slip off rings and bracelets when doing chores around the home. 

Moist areas - Humidity can react with the copper in sterling silver and cause it to tarnish, make sure that you take off your silver if you are hitting up moist environments.

Chlorinated water (no showers!) - To be on the safe side, take your silver jewelry off when showering, swimming, or going anywhere near chlorinated water.

Rubber - Rubber bands can contain sulphur which can have a negative impact on your silver. To keep your sterling silver safe, keep it clear of rubber. 

Direct sunlight - Sunlight can cause silver to tarnish so make sure to tuck it under your shirt when out in the brightest light or take it off when sunbathing.

Substances - Sulfur is one of the main reasons why silver tarnishes and corrodes. If you want to keep your silver lasting longer than whenever you are handling eggs, mustard, onions, mayonnaise, latex or wool you should remove your jewelry. 

Cosmetics - Silver may also have a reaction if left around certain cosmetics. To be on the safe side, you should keep your silver clear of lotions, hair products, perfume, and other elements.

Outdoor activity - Sweat, chlorine, dirt, and debris, all of this can add up to silver becoming tarnished. To be on the safe side you should also remove your jewelry whenever you are swimming, working out at the gym, participating in contact sports, and even gardening.

Things That Prevent Tarnishing & Increase Longevity 

tiny rituals clear quartz silver ring

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Keeping your silver away from things that can cause it to tarnish is the first step to ensuring your jewelry stays sparkling but you also want to ensure you are storing it in a safe place when not wearing it. While jewelry boxes and drawers are commonplace for keeping your valuables stashed, these added steps are sure to increase the lifespan of your silver and will keep them shining bright.

Do not store in paper, cardboard, or cotton-filled boxes - While we may stash our jewelry in gift boxes crafted from cardboard and filled with fluffy cotton, we actually aren’t doing our silver any favors. Paper, card, and cotton can all contain traces of sulphur which as we know is the enemy. 

Keep in a cool, dark place - Keeping your silver out of the sun means stashing it away in a cool dark place. Lock it in your drawer or keep it stashed out of sight.

Store jewelry with chalk - Keeping your silver jewelry stored with chalk can be an amazing way of keeping moisture out. Chalk will soak up any moisture meaning your silver can stay dry.

Consider anti-tarnish strips - Anti-tarnish strips can line your jewelry box or wherever you keep your silver and can prevent your silver from falling prey to the tarnished touch.

Anti-tarnish cloths - These do exactly what they say on the tin and will soak up excess moisture and come soaked in a special treatment to prevent signs of tarnishing. 

Use an air-tight container - Keep unwanted elements away from your silver by stashing it in an airtight container. This can help reduce the levels of oxygen and outside influences from potentially creating a reaction.

Silica packs - Silica packs often come stashed in with any new packaging containing shoes or clothes and are made for soaking up moisture. Whenever you see one, put it aside, and place it in your jewelry box or silver home. 

Store pieces individually - Storing each piece separately is a small but highly significant way in which you can keep your jewelry safe. This will stop your pieces from tangling up or scratching each other and keeps everyone and everything in pristine condition. 

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry 

tarnished silver teapot

There are tons of silver cleaners out there but there are also lots of homemade cleaning methods you can use too. From baking soda to lemon juice and even olive oil, your kitchen cupboards could already be stashed with the things you need to clean up your silver. 

It’s important to remember that silver cleaners may not be suitable for all kinds of jewelry. This is especially true for silver pieces that constrain pearls or precious gemstones as the cleaner may damage the stones. 

For truly delicate pieces you may feel safer taking them to your local jeweler for a professional clean but otherwise, there’s no reason why you can’t try these tips. 

1) Dish Soap & water 

A super simple remedy for cleaning up your silver. Pick a gentle dishwashing soap and use tepid or warm water to gently cleanse your silver pieces. This is one of the easiest solutions out there so it may be worth being your first port of call when sorting your silver.

2) Baking soda & water 

If your silver pieces need a more in-depth clean then you can turn to the favored home remedy of baking soda and water. Make a simple paste with a pinch of water and baking soda and use a toothbrush or a cloth to gently scrub at your silver. Make sure that you get in all the cracks and crevices. Use a clean cloth to polish afterwards for a blinding sparkle.

3) Toothpaste 

While baking soda and water is a safer choice for scrubbing your silver, some types of toothpaste can also be a good hardy cleanser for your rugged pieces. If you do choose to use toothpaste then steer clear of any gel type of pastes and avoid anything with additional whitening features or ingredients. You really want a very simple list of ingredients here. Add a little on a toothbrush and gently scrub your silver. Use a little warm water to remove any toothpaste residue and finish with a clean cloth wipe to bring up that shine.

4) Lemon juice 

Bright and zesty, lemon juice can be used for a thousand cleaning remedies. While you may feel inclined to steer clear of lemon juice thanks to its astringent properties it will actually work quite well. You can also make a blend of lemon juice with olive oil to soften the mixture. Add some lemon juice to hot water and rub on with a cleaning cloth. Use a polisher cloth afterwards for extra shine. 

5) Olive oil 

When mixed with lemon juice (as above) olive oil can be an amazing cleansing remedy for silver. If you want to skip out on the lemon juice you can also just use olive oil. A few drops of olive oil onto a soft cloth and you not only smooth and polish it but you also provide an anti-tarnish layer to provide higher levels of protection. 

6) Cornstarch 

A quick mix of cornstarch and water and a damp cloth can make your silver shine like new. Use a tiny amount of each to create a paste and rub it on. Use a damp cloth to remove and polish for a starbright gleam.

7) Aluminum foil & baking soda 

A tried and tested trick for dislodging any tarnish that is clinging to your precious silver is to use aluminium foil and baking soda. Lay your silver in a bowl or vessel and pour over enough boiling water that it is fully submerged. Add a tablespoon of baking soda and a sheet of aluminium foil and use a utensil to move all the items around together. The meeting of silver, aluminium foil, and the blend of hot water and baking soda should dislodge any tarnish and leave your silver items glistening. 

8) Laundry detergent

Another home trick of the trade is to use laundry detergent to clean your silver of its tarnish. By using the aluminium foil method mentioned above but adding a tablespoon of liquid detergent instead of baking soda, you can achieve glowing and gorgeous results. You can also simplify this process if you don’t have aluminium foil by simply mixing the detergent with hot water and letting the items soak for a minute or two. Make sure you rinse and fully dry all silver pieces afterwards.

9) Ketchup 

The acidic element found in ketchup and other tomato-based pastes can work wonders for your sweet silver pieces. Fill a bowl with ketchup and dunk your silver in. You should only leave it for the maximum amount of 2 minutes. If you have tarnishes in harder to reach areas, you can scrub with a toothbrush. Remove the ketchup with paper towels and rinse thoroughly to remove every trace. Finish with a soft cloth polish. 

10) White Vinegar 

Soak your silver in a solution of white vinegar and baking soda to bring back that luminous shine. Just half a cup of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of baking soda is just the ticket. Let your silver soak for several hours and then rinse with cold water to remove any residue. Dry thoroughly with a clean cloth to prevent water from sitting and tarnishing your piece. 

The Benefits of Sterling Silver

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Sterling silver is a beautiful precious metal and one of the best for shaping stunning jewelry. Silver not only shines like a thousand stars when cared for and kept clean but it also brings a ton of healing benefits with it too. Here are a few benefits you can get from wearing silver.

Silver is believed to have powerful antimicrobial properties meaning it can keep our bodies strong and ready to fight infection. Sterling silver is also known for being hypoallergenic meaning that it can be worn by those with sensitive skin. It is also a metal that helps balance big emotions and keeps the mind from going into overdrive. Silver is also believed to increase energy levels too. As it cuts through pain and inflammation, it can bring more vitality to the body and help you to feel more energized and equipped to face the world. For those wanting a metal that speaks to their spirit, silver can also promote peace, love, and psychic abilities too.

Conclusion 

It can be truly disappointing to feel like you have lost a piece of jewelry to the dreaded tarnish. But with a few preventative measures, you can reduce the risk. Even if you have silver that is tarnished, you can still bring it back from the brink. These easy home remedies don’t take much time or effort and can work wonders when it comes to keeping your silver in tip-top condition. Keeping your silver clean and free from tarnish will help it to shine bright and will ensure that you stay connected to your favorite jewelry for years to come.

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