Sterling silver jewelry is an incredibly common addition to people’s wardrobes. However, despite how frequently it can be found, knowledge of how to properly care for sterling silver isn’t as well known.
Here’s what you need to know about keeping your sterling silver items clean and well-maintained.
What Is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is a type of silver alloy that contains other metals, such as copper or nickel. While the actual silver content of sterling silver varies by country, it’s usually standard that it contains 92.5% silver, with the rest being other kinds of metals.
The reason why sterling silver is so popular is that pure silver is very soft and malleable, making it a bad choice for frequently handheld items such as jewelry. The addition of stronger metals to a silver base means that an item will be able to withstand everyday wear and tear without being bent or broken.
Why Does Silver Tarnish?
One downside to using sterling silver rather than pure silver is the rate and extent to which tarnishing will occur.
Silver is a difficult element to oxidize, but the inclusion of other metals in sterling silver means that it oxidizes at a much faster rate.
If left unmaintained, items composed of sterling silver will eventually lose their luster and start to corrode.
Tarnish is the biggest long-term issue facing sterling silver items. When wearing sterling silver necklaces or other similar jewelry, it’s important to be mindful of air and water.
Exposure to air can oxidize sterling silver over time, but the biggest issue is water. If you’re planning on showering or swimming, taking off your jewelry is an absolute must. Even if you’re in an environment that’s very humid such as a sauna, keeping your silver items away is highly recommended.
As water with salt oxidizes silver faster than anything else, excessive sweat can corrode your jewelry very quickly. That being said, the oils of your skin can act as a natural antioxidant, so frequently wearing your jewelry (at least if you’re not sweating) can actually enhance its visual appeal.
Also keep in mind that chemicals found in products like lotion can tarnish silver significantly when wet.
How to Clean Sterling Silver
Removing either dirt or tarnish from silver is a relatively simple process.
For a basic clean, use a microfiber cloth to rub the jewelry down in long, up and down strokes. It’s important to not use a harsher form of cloth as it can cause grooves to form and circular motions should be avoided as it won’t actually get anything clean.
If you need to remove a significant level of tarnish, then either a soap and water or vinegar and baking soda solution should do the trick. Be sure to part the jewelry dry immediately after cleaning.
When you’re finished cleaning, be sure to use either a polishing solution or a polishing cloth to ensure a pristine look.
How to Properly Store Silver Jewelry
Sterling silver jewelry should be stored in airtight containers that are far away from light. The container it’s held in should be located in a dry, cool place to prevent any activity that might cause tarnishing.
Materials such as chalk or silica can be included within a jewelry container to reduce the level of moisture.
It’s also recommended that you store pieces of jewelry individually as they can end up scratching each other if stored together.
Maintaining Silver Items
Sterling silver jewelry can be absolutely beautiful and it’s worth maintaining. So long as you practice proper care, your jewelry will last in pristine condition for a very long time.