Silver - is widely used for creating jewelry. It is harder than gold and softer than copper. Did you know that pure (100%) Silver is too soft to wear well and is alloyed with other metals to make it more durable. When you see the mark 925 or Sterling, you know that piece is 92.5% made of silver and 7.5% made of another metals, most often Copper.
Sunshine, oxygen, pollutants, and moisture in the air are the culprits that causes silver to tarnish. Keeping silver out in the open will speed up tarnishing. With proper storage silver doesn't require routine cleanings.
How to store it - The easiest way is to keep your silver jewelry in air-tight zip lock Mylar bags (like the ones you cook turkeys in) or use a polyethylene bag (regular Zip locks). Zip lock bags guard against both scratches and tarnish. Another solution is to use a protective bag made of tarnish-proof cloth. Most jewelers store silver pieces in zip locks as do we. Polyvinylchloride (PVC) bags accelerate tarnishing and can cause staining. Plastics with sulfur compounds are natural enemies to silver. * Adding anti-tarnish material in the zip-lock bags is the first choice of professional jewelers.
Best practices for cleaning silver and gemstone jewelry
Cloth Method - enhances shine
Use soft 100% cotton or flannel cloth. Because silver is a softer metal use a gentle pressure with the cloth. Make sure there are no nubs on the fabric to create tiny scratches. A silver polishing cloth is also a great choice. *Only use the polishing cloth on silver and not gemstones.
Soap & Water - light cleaning
Place your silver jewelry in a small cup or bowl with a few drops of mild liquid detergent you've added to a half cup or so of warm water. Let it soak a few moments and rinse it thoroughly. Dry it with your 100% cotton cloth. This method is wonderful for removing fingerprints and make-up. *Be absolutely sure that you have dried it completely before storing in your air-tight zip lock bag.
Paste & Sprays - serious cleaning
There are several quality brands of silver paste cleaners and spray polishers available today. Apply a tiny amount of the paste or polish and use a baby's toothbrush or horse hair silver brush to work it through the piece in a lengthwise motion (circles my cause scratching) and always use gentle pressure then let dry. Use a clean cotton cloth to remove paste or spray residue with the same motion. Now just admire your handywork. Be careful to use only pastes and polishes designed for use on silver. Some gemstones are porous or soft and can be harmed by pastes or sprays so, be careful when applying these products to your jewelry. *Using brushes is great for cleaning silver with intricately detailed patterns.
Ultrasonic Cleaners - power cleaning
Basically, these systems use ultrasonic sound waves to remove dirt, soap residue, and oils from jewelry. They are available with or without heaters. Usually, when a jewelry store in the mall offers to clean your jewelry for free, they are going to use an ultrasonic cleaner. This is definitely an easy way to clean your jewelry if it is made completely of silver. Gemstones require strong consideration. Ultrasonic cleaners are not safe to use on silver jewelry with gemstones. They cause discoloration, chips, cracks and some gemstones will literally fall to pieces in these machines. *Do not take the chance with your valuable gemstones!
Jewel Cleaners - Romancing your stones
Gemstones, with the exception of a few, are very delicate. Most cannot stand up to the same cleaning methods and chemicals used on silver. There are liquid cleaners on the market specifically formulated for cleaning gemstones. Since gemstones can be porous or soft, it is important they do not come in contact with abrasive cloths or harsh chemicals. Jewel cleaners are mild and safe to use with your most delicate gemstones and pearls. *Because jewel cleaners are very mild they will not clean silver or gold, but won't hurt them either.
Old School Methods - Baking Soda & Toothpaste
Baking Soda Method - My Dad would clean his rings with this method. Slightly wet the piece with cold water and shake off any excess. Place item in your palm and sprinkle baking soda all over it and rub delicately with your fingers until the tarnish is gone. Rinse under cold water and dry the item completely. Use a cotton cloth to shine it.
Toothpaste Method - Aunt Francis used this method all the time on her gold and silver jewelry. This method was thought to be best used on gold. Add a small amount of toothpaste to a dampened baby's toothbrush or piece of cotton. Lightly brush or rub it over the item until the tarnish is removed. Rinse with cool water and dry thoroughly. Use a cotton cloth to shine it. *** We don't use or recommend either of these methods to clean our silver and gemstone jewelry because either may cause scratching. But there are some professional jewelers who use one or both of these methods.
*** We use 100% cotton cloths, silver polishing cloths, cleaners specially formulated for delicate gemstones and ultrasonic cleaners (when appropriate). We store and ship our jewelry in zip-lock bags.
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