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How To Care for Sterling Silver Jewelry

Aug 20, 2008
Since ancient times, silver has been used to make jewelry and decorative items. However, since the 18th century, more silver has been mined and used than in all prior centuries combined. Silver alone is a soft metal and therefore too soft to be used for jewelry and other items. To make it more durable, it is mixed with other metals, known as alloy, to create sterling silver. To be considered sterling silver, a product must contain at least 92.5 percent pure silver


Difficulty: Moderate


Step One

To keep sterling silver in pristine condition and to ensure longevity, think of caring for your sterling silver as preventative maintenance. Sterling silver contains copper, which adds hardness to silver. It also creates a tendency for silver jewelry to tarnish. Tarnish is a darkening that occurs when sterling silver reacts with every day substances. Therefore, avoid exposing sterling silver to harsh chemicals such as chlorine, cosmetics, hair spray, and perfume.

Step Two

When cleaning sterling silver, choose a phosphate-free detergent. Also, choose a low abrasive cleaner, designed for cleaning silver which can aid in removing tarnish. Jewelry experts advise against using toothpaste to clean sterling silver as it can be too abrasive and leave dulling scratches. Body oils help prevent tarnishing so sterling silver jewelry that is worn often won't have to be cleaned as often.

Step Three

For a quick cleaning, wash your jewelry periodically with mild dish soap and warm water to prevent tarnishing. Make sure to rinse sterling silver jewelry well and dry completely with a soft cloth before storing. Or try the following homemade remedy for silver pieces without gemstones:

* Line the bottom of a glass or stoneware bowl with a piece of aluminum foil. Place the tarnished silver on the aluminum foil.
* Add 2 Tbsp baking soda and 2 cups warm water. The solution should be sufficient to cover the items. Soak for a few minutes.
* Pour out the items into a colander or strainer. Rinse, dry thoroughly and shine with a polishing cloth.

Step Four

Much beloved sterling silver pieces that are worn continually will probably develop a patina that adds to the jewelry's beauty. This patina may also include some darkened areas. Some prefer this look for their jewelry. Others may prefer a brighter look for their sterling silver. If so, use polish to restore your sterling silver jewelry to its original shiny look. An occasional polishing will also protect sterling silver from tarnishing.

Step Five

Store sterling silver jewelry in tarnish prevention cloths or bags. These items are made with treated cloth that slows down the tarnishing process. It is also important to separate jewelry when being stored so it does not rub against harder jewelry that could scratch it. If you are not going to wear the piece for a long time, use small zip lock bags to keep it sealed and dry. Do not store the silver jewelry directly in contact with wood surfaces as wood usually contains acids that can damage the finish of the jewelry. Never wrap your jewelry in newspaper or aluminum foil.

Tips and Warnings

If you want to maintain the life of your jewelry do not wear while swimming, bathing, doing dishes or cleaning. Do not expose your bracelet or other jewelry to bleach, chlorine or extended time in water, as this can weaken the strength of your bracelet or jewelry.

Sterling silver jewelry that has tarnished will turn brown and eventually black. This type of tarnishing is difficult to remove and requires professional cleaning.

A good rule for all jewelry: Jewelry should be the last thing put on when getting dressed in the morning and the first thing taken off when preparing for bed.
About the Author
Lewis Jewelers is proud to carry the full line of Pandora Jewelry. Pandora bracelets, Pandora charms and Pandora beads are only a part of the collection. For more information, Lewis Jewelers, 2000 West Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48103, 877-88-LEWIS or visit the website.
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