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How To Clean Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

ibleeve
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Clean your sterling silver jewelry with a soft 100% cotton (nub free) cloth or flannel cloth and gently rub off any excess makeup.  Remember silver is a very soft metal and you can scratch it if you aren't careful so don't rub it too briskly.  Never use anything but a clean 100% cotton or a special sterling silver cleaning cloth or very soft bristle brush, like a babies tooth brush or a horsehair silver brush.  Paper, polyester, and coarse fabrics often contain wood fibers or synthetics, that can cause tiny scratches in the surface of your fine sterling silver jewelry.  Dirt left over from previous cleanings can scratch the surface as well.

For Light Cleanings: To remove light dirt, fingerprints or makeup just use a small amount of mild liquid detergent to a 1/2 cup of warm water and rinse thoroughly with clean fresh water.  (Remember, be careful because too harsh of a cleanser could damage the polish on the stones.)  Dry it completely before storing it in an air tight zip lock bag.  Then just polish it up with a soft cotton cloth, an old cotton t-shirt works well.  Do not use the polishing cloth on your gemstones!

For deeper clening sterling silver without gemstones: To clean away excessive tarnish, clean with a soft cloth and a non-abrasive brand name liquid or paste silver polish to remove tarnish. Using dip polish cleaners or pastes on sterling silver without gemstones is safe and will not harm your sterling silver.  

How To Clean:

Now that we have recommended what cleaners to use, there is a method that is recommended for using these cleansers.  Make sure you remove any trace of the polish from gemstones and rinse thoroughly with clean water. 

Rub with a lengthwise motion, never clean in a circular motion because this may cause scratches.  Many will leave the tarnish in the deep crevices to enhance the look of the piece.  However, if you want to remove the tarnish to hard to reach areas, use a very soft brush like a child's tooth brush or a jewelry horse hair silver brush.  A mushroom brush works well for this and can be found at most grocery stores.  After cleaning with a silver polish, use a clean cloth to remove any residual cleaner from your jewelry.

Remember that all metal cleaners have some type of small abrasive particles that help them to clean and will inevitably cause some form of fine scratches.  These are not that obvious and after a time will blend with the fine scratches just from wearing the piece and are not that obvious.  They will still have a beautiful soft sheen that is prized by many. 

Don't feel that you have to get every bit of tarnish from lines and crevices.  Leaving some of the tarnish in hard to reach areas just adds definition and an antique look.  In fact, many of our pieces are oxidized to give it that look.

If you wear sterling slilver jewelry regularly, your body oils help to keep the tarnishing down and the cleaning to a minimum.

Careful not to scratch the surface:  The polished sheen was produced by the skilled hands of silversmiths that spent time filing, sanding and buffing the sterling silver piece to a perfectly flat surface.  It is the light reflecting off this flat surface that gives it the shine.  If you put tiny scratches into the surface you diminish the sheen because the light isn't able to bounce off the surface as well as it once did.  So do protect your sterling silver jewelry from excessive scratches.  If you have pieces that have been abused and are terribly scratched, you should consult a bench jeweler to see if they can be re-polished to remove them and return it to it's original or close to original luster. 

Please use soft cotton cloth, soft sponges or soft bristle brushes to clean your sterling silver, if in doubt, test a small area in an area that isn't obvious and clean that area, and wipe dry.  Inspect it under a strong light to see if the brush you have chosen, left any scratches or not.

Using a spray polish:  Use a soft bristle brush, like a child's soft tooth brush, a mushroom brush, or jewelry horse hair brush, and a little mild soap like Dove. Clean well and then spray on the spray polish. Let it dry for a couple of minutes then rub off with a 100% cotton, soft cloth, like an old tee shirt. If there is turquoise or other soft porous gemstones in the jewelry, be careful to keep the spray off the gemstones.  We would recommend spraying the cleaner directly on the cloth and rubbing the area around the gemstone with the cloth and cleanser to avoid spraying the gemstone.  Polish it to a shine with the soft brush or soft cotton cloth and buff to a shine.  This is quick and easy!

Using a Silver Wash cleaner: Simply apply the wash to a soft sponge or directly to the item with your fingers and wash it like you would a fragile dish. I use a circular motion, which seems to work best for me.  It only takes seconds, it will work up into a foam, then when you feel you have removed the tarnish, rinse in cool water and polish to a shine with a soft cotton cloth.  It is really easy and quick.  This is my preferred method. 

Using a sterling silver paste or liquid cleaner:  Always follow manufacturers directions, but basically you just apply it to all silver areas, avoiding gemstones, let it dry and then polish clean with a soft cotton cloth.  You may have to rinse it with cool water to help remove all the cleaner.

To use baking soda or toothpaste or not:  Using toothpaste or baking soda seems to be controversial.  I have been researching this and some say yes and others say NO!  The argument is that the baking soda and toothpaste are too abrasive.  Use at your own risk.  I say if in doubt . . . don't.  Therefore, I recommend against using them.  Stick to a trusted silver cleaner. You would hate to have to have your pieces professionally buffed and refinished.  I, however, have found that it dulls and scratches the finish in my tests, so I don't use it.  Our preference a silver polishing cloth and spray Polish or Wash Foam Cleanser. 

However, if you wish to use backing soda here is what you should do:  Barely moisten your sterling silver jewelry with water.  Place in the palm of your hand and pour a liberal amount of baking soda over your jewelry and rub gently with your fingertips. Continue doing this until you remove all the tarnish. Rinse with cool water and dry. 

Toothpaste is mainly recommended for gold, not silver. Use an old soft toothbrush, dampen and scrub lengthwise as recommended to reduce the chance for scratches and marring the surface.  Rinse in cool water. Remember that toothpaste has abrasive material in it.

Remember that we do not recommend the use of baking soda or toothpaste methods, but many respected jewelers see no problem with it, so be cautious should you decide to try this method.  

Your sterling silver jewelry is a metal that is meant to be worn.  If you just leave it laying around, it will tarnish. To prevent tarnishing while your not wearing it, store your jewelry in a plastic zip lock bag. 

 
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