Caring for Your
Sterling Silver Jewelry
Since ancient time, silver has been mined and used for making jewelry, and items for daily use like eating implements, serving items, rattles and much more! Silver alloy surgical instruments have been found in the ancient cities of Er, and Rome as well as in Egypt during the Hellenistic era. From 1840 to 1940, sterling silver flatware was all the rage, and was always a part of any proper table setting. Silver has great conductivity, which is only rivaled by copper. So with the onset of World War II, silver became an important part of the creation of the electricity used to make enriched uranium in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
In its natural state, silver is a very soft metal, so to give it strength an alloy is created by adding copper and other metals. You may noticed the numbers 925 stamped on jewelry and other items, this signifies that the metal alloy is 92.5% silver by weight and 7.5% other metals by weight.
Silver by itself is a relatively non-reactive metal and does not change when exposed to oxygen or water at normal temperatures. But because sterling silver has some copper added to it, it does react to air causing the metal to darken or tarnish. So, at first you may notice your items will turn brown and then eventually become very black with tarnish. Unfortunately, when it has reached this point your jewelry will have to be professionally cleaned. Hopefully, some of the following information will prevent that from happening to your treasures!
Care and Storage
The best way to keep your sterling silver jewelry clean is to wear it often! The oils from your body actually help to prevent tarnish, so wearing your jewelry is good for you and your jewelry! Remember, the copper in the sterling silver alloy cause it reacts to many everyday items, making it darken or tarnish. The best way to prevent this is to not expose your jewelry to cosmetics, hair spray, perfume, bleach, and chlorine. You should not wear it while swimming, cleaning, washing dishes or exercising! Just like pearls, it is best to put it on last when getting ready for the day and take it off first when getting ready for bed.
I find that periodically rinsing your jewelry off with water and patting it dry with a soft towel before putting will go a long way in keeping your jewelry in good condition! Using a polish cloth from time to time will also help in preserving that beautiful shiny look!
Be sure to store any pieces you will not be wearing regularly in a dry Ziplock bag with a small strip of non-tarnish paper. You can also purchase tarnish prevention cloths and bags to store your jewelry in. Silica gel pouches, what you get in shoe boxes, can be added to the jewelry box to keep additional moisture away from your jewelry.
Since silver is soft, store it separate from other jewelry to prevent scratching. Never clean your sterling silver with toothpaste, it is just too abrasive and will scratch the surface, making it dull. Do not store it in newspaper or aluminum foil or allow it to touch a wood surface directly during storage.
Your sterling silver jewelry when cared for properly should last you a lifetime! It is my hope that you have found this information useful, and you will keep your sterling silver jewelry clean and in pristine condition to pass on to future generations of jewelry lovers in your family!
Sources: Sterling Silver on Wikipedia and
How to Care for Sterling Silver Jewelry, by Mariet Smart