Care, cleaning, & storage

Will my sterling tarnish?

Yes! .925 (or sterling) silver is an alloy of fine silver and small amount of copper. Fine (or 99% pure) silver is too soft to use for jewellery, so the copper helps harden the jewellery. This also make the jewellery ‘oxidize’ or tarnish. Some styles actively use oxidation to highlight elements of a piece. 

Wait, the sterling silver piece of jewellery that I bought at the store didn’t tarnish!

Commercial sterling silver is sometimes plated with rhodium – making the outside of your piece rhodium, not sterling. Rhodium doesn’t oxidize in the way that sterling does, hence no tarnishing.

Patinas

One of the treatments I use most often with my pieces is antiquing with a natural oxidizing solution. This is a process which forces oxidation to occur which results in a dark colour to the silver. After buffing, this helps to highlight certain elements of the piece and create contrast. If your piece has been antiqued it may require special care and should not be cleaned in silver dip. This will remove all finish from the piece. 

These are the best ways to care for your sterling silver and 24k gold accented jewellery

All sterling silver will tarnish over time, but if its exposed to certain products this will happen must faster. The amount of tarnishing is largely based on the skin and care habits of the wearer. Here are some things you can do to prevent your pieces from tarnishing:

How to avoid tarnish

Most importantly, wear it! Most tarnish from sterling silver jewellery comes from when its not being worn, and sitting in a drawer somewhere.

Avoid:

  • exposure to chemicals in pools & hottubs,
  • cleaning supplies
  • lotions, perfumes, cosmetics & hair products

All these things can speed up tarnishing when gardening (banging around your sterling silver can dull and scratch it up)

Cleaning your jewellery

Soap and water: You can wash your jewellery using some warm water and a mild dish soap like Dawn. Using a soft toothbrush gently clean the jewellery. Rinse with warm water and pat dry with a soft cloth.

Hot water & baking soda: This is my favourite way for removing light tarnish from my own sterling silver jewellery. Best thing is you can do multiple pieces at once! Work smart, not hard I say! (I don’t recommend using this with jewellery that has pearls)

  1. Line the bottom of a small dish or pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up.
  2. Add about 1 tbsp of salt and 1 tbsp of baking soda to the dish.
  3. Pour hot (almost boiling with 100% sterling silver or shower-hot for anything with stones) over into the dish so that it will come up about an inch or two over the jewellery.
  4. Drop your silver pieces into the dish, making sure they’re on the foil and not touching one another.
  5. Keep an eye on your jewellery – the tarnish should begin to disappear. Once they’re clean take them out and rise off with warm water. Dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. Don’t leave the pieces in there too long, otherwise some of the tarnish may transfer back to the silver.

Polishing cloths: You can also purchase polishing cloths from jewellery stores. 

Commercial silver dips: I don’t typically recommend silver dips unless the original condition of your piece was entirely polished (ie no intentional patinas as silver dip will destroy the delicate oxidized details). Don’t use a silver dip if your piece contains stones or pearls.

Storing your jewellery

The dryer, the better. Try not to store your sterling jewellery in your bathroom where the steam of hot showers and baths will increase the speed of tarnishing. You can keep your pieces in a soft bag. If you have left over silica gel packets from a recent purchase you can keep it with your jewellery to absorb moisture.