I think the place to start is to know why your bright and shine Sterling Silver jewelry starts to look old and discolored. What I remember is my grandmother and great aunts cleaning their silver platters, serving dishes, cutlery, etc. You might remember this too. And today, all those beautiful antiques are no longer popular, likely because we don’t want to sit and polish the tarnish away! So let’s get started.
There are two types of Silver:
Fine Silver: Fine Silver has a higher purity of Silver. It is 99.9% pure silver. This also makes is softer than Sterling Silver.
Sterling Silver: Sterling Silver is 92.5% Silver and 7.5%
Tarnish is a discoloring of your Sterling Silver. It can take on many colors and essentially makes your jewelry look dull, and unappealing.
What Causes Tarnish to Happen?
There are 3 main causes: sulfur, moisture, and sunlight. Each of these three things can cause a chemical reaction on the surface of your silver jewelry. Why? Well, the copper in Sterling Silver is highly reactive. The longer the exposure, the more tarnish can form.
Does Fine Silver Tarnish?
Fine Silver does tarnish, but much slower than Sterling Silver. This could be due to having a source of sulfur in the environment. It could also be due to living near the seashore, or having a lot of road traffic. The other culprit could be that the plastic bags the jewelry is stored in is off-gassing.
What Can I Do to Prevent Tarnish from dulling my Silver Jewelry?
The first thing would be to minimize moisture and sunlight. Sulfur however, is harder to detect. If you live in Vancouver or the North Shore, you know that there is a giant heap of neon-yellow 99.9% pure elemental sulfur. So this is a factor for any of us living here in the Vancouver proper.
Here Are Some Things to Avoid:
- Light from the sun and from light bulbs that off-glass.
- Water, especially sulfur-rich well water, seawater, seaside air, hot tubs, and swimming pools.
- Natural gas, which may be used in you stoves, or as a heat source.
- Fingerprints with body oils
- Cosmetics and body products, such as lotions and perfumes.
- Food and wine, especially foods containing egg, onion, salt and oil.
- Storing under glass, in plastic display cases or in plastic sandwich bags, where off-gasses can accumulate.
Always Do These Things:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your silver jewelry.
- Store your jewelry in tarnish-resistant bags so there is no off-gas.
- Use a tarnish resistant tab.
What is the Best Home Remedy to Clean my Silver Jewelry?
- Toothpaste: I used to recommend using toothpaste because it is readily available in your home.However, this will eventually scratch your silver. And it will definitely scratch plated silver. So I would not recommend this method any more. I don’t use plated silver, but you may have some and not even know it. I just don’t want you to scratch anything precious to you!
- Clean Silver with White Vinegar and Baking Soda:
Another method is to take an old pan and line it with aluminum foil. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar with 2 tablespoons baking soda to warm water. Then soak your Silver for 30 minutes, or until the tarnish has gone.
This is a good idea, but what I found to be faster is to just make a paste with white vinegar, baking soda and warm water. Then take a clean sponge and rub/scrub your jewelry clean. Easy, and quick.
3. Jeweler’s Cloth:
Personally, I use a jeweler’s cloth. There are many out there, and most jewelry stores order them. I have one that is two tone. The dark cloth is for cleaning, and the light colored cloth is for shining.
I have two that I can wholeheartedly recommend. One is called the Sunshine Cloth from Rio Grande. And the other is from Pandora. They are both excellent. You can use them until they are thread bare. It doesn’t matter how black they become, they will still work!
4. Jeweler’s Cleaning Fluids:
When you have chains it really works best to use a cleaning fluid to get in to the nooks and crannies of the chain. For this I recommend a cleaning fluid. To keep your cleaning fluid clean, you can pour out a bit into a smaller jar just for this purpose. And, for anyone with arthritis, or anything affecting your ability to scrub, I recommend a cleaning fluid.
Something to consider though is that cleaning fluids are not okay with your pearls! And, also, don’t use them on soft or porous gemstones. The last thing anyone wants is to loose the sheen on their gemstones and pearls!
You can purchase cleaning fluids from your local jewelry store, or from Stones and Findings in Toronto, Canada, or from Rio Grande in the States.