Caring for Your Sterling Silver Jewelry


Have you ever said to yourself, “Wow! I just bought some beautiful, shiny sterling silver jewelry. Now, how do I keep it that way?” Well, maybe you didn’t say it exactly that way, but I am sure the thought crossed your mind.

It’s simple, really. Keep it dry. Silver by itself tarnishes fairly slowly (some jewelers are referring to the tarnish as patina to give it a more positive spin). It is the addition of copper to the alloy that causes the tarnishing. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Copper oxidizes quite easily when exposed to moisture. If it were a ferrous metal (containing iron), we would call it “rust”.

There are a couple of ways to slow the tarnishing of your sterling silver. You can not eliminate it all together unless you have the piece plated with rhodium (a very non-reactive metal in the platinum group). And, indeed, some manufacturers of sterling silver jewelry are now offering rhodium plated styles. There are also a couple of new alloys of silver that tarnish much more slowly. One is Argentium Sterling Silver®, which has had some of the copper replaced with germanium. It is also somewhat more resistant to scratching.

If you have your regular, garden variety sterling silver, here is what you need to do. Store your jewelry in a zip lock bag. Get in the habit of saving lose little silica gel packets that come in vitamin supplements and pockets of clothing to absorb moisture. Add one of those to the bag with your jewelry. You can also purchase anti-tarnish strips that can be added to the bag.

Also, many tarnish removing polishing cloths contain a chemical that will help your silver resist tarnishing. Purchase one of these cloths and clean your sterling silver jewelry with it when you first bring it home. You might be surprised at how much tarnish your silver has already accumulated.

As with all jewelry, put it on only after you have applied hairspray, perfume and lotions. Give them time to dry so you do not expose your jewelry to those chemicals. Remove your jewelry while washing your hands, doing the dishes or taking a shower.

Take good care of your sterling silver jewelry and it will adorn you for the rest of your life.

P.S. After this article was published, a good friend pointed out to me that the anti-tarnish strips really only last about six months. Then they must be replaced. She told me about anti-tarnish zip lock style baggies. They come in a wide variety of sizes (some are large enough for a sterling silver platter). They last about two years. I will be giving them a try.


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Author: Uzumaki Naruto

"I want to see this market as a sharing market. Where merchants and customers sincerely support one another."

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