Silver in its pure form is too soft for jewelry or any other use. Although objects identified as silver, sterling silver, solid silver or sterling has to contain 92.5 percent pure silver according to federal standards, the small amount of other metal helps make the alloy strong enough to use. Usually sterling silver contains copper for strength. Unfortunately, the copper is what causes sterling silver jewelry to tarnish requiring the right kind of care and cleaning.
Storing Sterling Silver Jewelry
Specially treated bags and cloths are available for the storing of sterling silver jewelry to prevent tarnishing. Other products like jewelry boxes are also available to keep the jewelry from making contact with air which reacts to the copper content and causes the discoloration. Sterling silver jewelry that is worn frequently will resist tarnish if it is rinsed and dried regularly. Careful storage is most necessary for pieces that are rarely worn. Frequent wearing will also develop a patina that will give an aged but not tarnished look. If you like this patina, be careful with the sterling silver jewelry that is developing it since cleaning will remove it.
Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry
Many products are available to clean sterling silver. The most important aspect to look for is non-abrasive cleaner. Always avoid anything that will scratch your jewelry. Also avoid letting your sterling silver jewelry make contact with a metal sink as it can cause scratching. If you are using a polish, make sure it hasn’t dried up since it will become abrasive.
Tarnish is easiest to remove when it is just starting. The longer it tarnishes, the darker it becomes and the more difficult it is to remove. Some products offer protection from tarnishing. This is a good idea unless, as before, it might be abrasive.
Old sterling silver jewelry may show a purplish color even after cleaning. This is called firestain and occurs because of processes no longer used to make sterling silver. If it shows up, don’t try to remove it. Firestain is a part of the piece and cannot be removed. Trying to clean it away can damage your sterling silver jewelry.
Fine sterling silver jewelry is an investment that can become an heirloom. If you take care to store it properly and clean it, when needed, according to directions you will be doing your best to protect your beautiful investment.