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Caring for Silver Jewelry

As a jewelry lover, you may know that sterling silver is an affordable and beautiful metal to add to your collection. This metal is extremely versatile for all sorts of looks, from delicate to bold. With such an affordable piece of jewelry, one would think it may not be lasting, but with proper care and cleaning procedures, you can maintain your silver jewelry to last a lifetime.

What is Silver?

Silver is a metal that has been used to make jewelry since ancient times. This is a metal that is smelted from ore. Going all the way back to the ancient Byzantine civilizations, it is one of the most enduring and versatile metals available.

Over the years, silver has been used to make utensils (think of silverware), buttons, boxes, and many other items. Silver trays and tea sets have been treasured heirlooms through the ages.

This metal is too soft by itself to be used for jewelry, so it is mixed with other metals to make it durable. When mixed with an alloy, it is known as sterling silver. In order to protect consumers, the Federal Trade Commission requires that in order to be sold as sterling silver/solid silver/sterling, that at least 92.5% of the product must be pure silver.

One of the popular alloys used to balance sterling and add hardness is copper. This will tend to cause darkening, or tarnishing, or silver. Because of this, there are special things you need to do to keep your silver looking its best.


When storing your silver jewelry, it is best to use cloths or bags treated with a tarnish preventative. This keeps the jewelry from rubbing against other pieces, which will avoid scratching it. It is best to story your silver in a cool, dry place. It is best preserved away from any light - sunlight, or artificial light.

To extend the beauty of your silver jewelry you can also choose to apply a thin coat of Egyptian lacquer to your pieces. This will help prevent your sterling silver from premature tarnishing. Also, don't expose your pieces to chlorinated water/bleach.

If left in the air, the jewelry will react to the hydrogen sulfide and sulfur in the air. This will cause a build up that will make the jewelry look dull. This makes the jewelry lose its natural sheen.


Use a low abrasive cleaner to remove some light tarnish. NEVER USE BLEACH TO CLEAN JEWELRY. Some people will use toothpaste, but this is debated since some believe it may be too abrasive. If you wear your jewelry continually, sterling silver will develop a patina. This is a glow, combined with the darkened area. Some people prefer this look, but if you want the shiny look simply use a silver polish.

Another method of cleaning silver of fingerprints, and light grease/dirt is to use mild liquid soap, such as Ivory, in a half cup of warm water. Make sure it is completely dry when finished.

Ultrasonic cleaners are great when cleaning certain pieces of jewelry. However, if you have many types of gemstones use caution when using one of these cleaners.

If your jewelry has gemstones, you will need to factor this into your cleaning methods. Some gemstones are soft, and can have the polish on the stone harmed. General rules to remember for cleaning gemstones:

*Do not use toothpaste, especially for amber, lapis, and turquoise. The abrasive nature of toothpaste will scratch the surface. While many recommend toothpaste as a cleaner, it is not recommended by professional jewelers. Do not use it for soft stones at all.

*Opals are a very delicate stone. Avoid chemicals, and even heat. Strong sunlight can also dry opals. This will cause hazing and color change in your gemstones.

*Pearls are also delicate. Take extra care to protect these from other gemstones that can scratch them, as well as common chemicals. These will wear away the surface "nacra" which will cause color changes.

When using an ultrasonic cleaner, you run the risk of losing stones from the high speed cleaning. Make sure to use this method carefully with the correct stones, and NEVER with pearls or opals.

The most important thing to do with your silver jewelry is to enjoy it. Once you have gone through the trouble to select and protect these beautiful pieces, don't forget to wear it. The many choices in silver jewelry, including necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets make silver a perfect choice for gifts. Give one for a friend, and some for yourself. With this wonderful metal, you get beauty, affordability, and easy care for years of beauty. Start a collection for your heirloom items to pass down with quality silver jewelry.

Denise Sanger is the owner of which has a diverse catalog of Fashion Jewelry including trendy Silver Jewelry. We are located in Sunny North Florida.


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