Over time, any sterling silver jewelry findings exposed to air will tarnish. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. It’s the other metals, primarily copper, that make sterling silver to tarnish. The copper reacts to moisture and sulfur in the air, causing the sterling silver tarnish. Silver tarnishes faster in areas with high humidity and air pollution. Chemicals like hairspray, perfume, deodorant, body lotion, bleach, etc., can speed up the tarnishing process.
Here are some tips on how to help prevent tarnishing on your silver jewelry and pieces from happening in the first place:
- The best way to prevent tarnishing is to store clean, dry sterling silver in a dry airtight container, like a Ziploc bag, Tupperware, etc.
- An anti-tarnish strip with the silver jewelry in a Ziploc bag or airtight container helps to absorb tarnish-causing elements.
- Don’t leave silver jewelry in the bathroom unprotected, and do not wear it the shower, swimming pool or hot tub. Humidity and moisture can make tarnish appear faster!
- Minimize sterling silver’s contact to chemicals found in hairspray, perfume, body lotion, makeup, etc..
- After taking off your silver jewelry, clean it with a dry soft cloth, or polishing cloth, before putting it back into an airtight container.
- A general rule of thumb for silver jewelry: it should be the last thing put on before leaving the house, and the first thing removed when returning home.
Below are some tips on how to clean sterling silver if tarnishing occurs, or, you simply want to bring back it’s luster:
- If an item does begin to tarnish, cleaning it right away will make it easier to restore the shine than if you let it sit longer.
- Use a silver polishing cloth to remove oxidation from silver. We recommend using a Sunshine Cloth. If the silver jewelry has a matte finish, it can be re-matted after polishing by using matting paper.
- If the polishing cloth doesn’t remove all the tarnish, wash silver jewelry (without gemstones or pearls) in warm water with a few drops of mild dish washing liquid. Immerse the sterling silver in the water and gently hand wash. Use a cotton swab for tight corners, or soft baby toothbrush can be used for more abrasive cleaning if needed.
- If the jewelry contains gemstones or pearls, do not submerge the entire piece into water. Instead, use a cotton swab with mild dish washing liquid to wash only the silver.
- Thoroughly rinse your pieces after washing, and completely dry the sterling silver before storing, as moisture is one of the factors that contribute to tarnishing
- Jewelry cleaning solutions are also available, but will remove any and all oxidation from our piece. Some jewelry and charms are meant to have oxidation to bring out textures, stamping, etc., so it’s best to hand clean those pieces.
- If this process has not removed the tarnish on the sterling silver, it may require a visit to a professional jeweler who will clean your jewelry with more advanced techniques and equipment.
- We do not recommend using toothpaste or baking soda for cleaning as it may scratch the surface of the silver. Do not harsh chemicals such as bleach, acetone, etc, to clean your silver because they can actually make silver more dull, and ruin the surface.
The most effective approach to managing tarnish is to properly store clean, dry sterling silver to prevent the tarnish in the first place! If tarnishing does begin to show, cleaning it as soon as it appears will make it easiest on you. Make sure to take care of your precious jewelry and keepsakes so that they can last a lifetime!