Silver is a beautiful metal. In its purest form, silver is too soft and damages easily. To rectify this, an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper makes sterling silver, which is a more long-lasting version. Between its versatility, luster, and brilliance, it is easy to see the reason why silver is a popular choice for rings. When sulfur and oxygen encounter silver rings, they bond chemically to the surface. The result of this chemical bonding is a dirty and discolored look or tarnishing. Cleaning silver is as easy as ABC, as long as you know a few facts about sterling silver.
A Few Facts about Sterling Silver
Arming yourself with a few facts is an excellent help in the understanding of silver. The purity of the silver determines how malleable it is, and how fast it tarnishes. For instance, .950 sterling silver tarnishes and bends more quickly in comparison to .925 silver. The purer it is, the more vulnerable it is. Some silversmiths allow jewelry to oxidize and darken to enable tiny details to be more visible. With too much polishing and cleaning, these details might get lost.
You can prevent tarnishing by wearing your jewelry more often. The oils in the skin keep the silver looking shiny.
Contact with sweat, rubber, household chemicals, or substances with sulfur such as mustard, eggs, mayonnaise, latex, etc. causes tarnishing and corrosion. Silver rings for women are especially prone to tarnishing because of kitchen chores. Lotions, hair products, perfumes, and cosmetics are also an enemy of silver. Direct sunlight is also another cause of tarnishing, so ensure you remove your jewelry before swimming.
Exposure to air tarnishes silver and storing your jewelry in airtight plastic bags, which have anti-tarnish strips, is one of the best storage methods. Ensure you do not store several pieces of jewelry in one container. This is because silver is very soft, and the parts might cause scratches to each other. Keep chain or link bracelets unclasped to avoid scratches. If you do not have plastic bags, ensure you store them in a low humidity area. Use a packet of activated charcoal, some silica gel, or a piece of chalk in your storage areas to minimize tarnishing.
Polishing works well when your jewelry is not too tarnished. It is the best technique for polishing oxidized silver; in this way, you can avoid the intentionally oxidized areas. Since silver is soft and scratches easily, use a cloth specially made for polishing silver. A microfiber, lint-free, or any nonabrasive cloth works as well. Avoid using paper towels and tissues, which contain fibers that will put scratches on your jewelry. Use sweeping back and forth motions that go along the silver’s grain. Rubbing in circles magnifies any scratches. When polishing, shift to a different cloth section to avoid re-tarnishing the silver. Use a Q-tip to reach into areas with intricate designs. Exercise caution when cleaning silver-plated jewelry. Too much polishing might remove the plating, especially if the plating is not very thick, leaving the jewelry worse than before.
Professional Care and Commercial Cleaners
In case of severe tarnishing, and you have no time for cleaning the pieces, you can take them to a professional. Also, take antiques to professional silver cleaners to avoid damaging them. Commercial silver polishes are readily available but have serious disadvantages. If inhaled, the vapors from the silver polish cause health issues.
The solvents in the cleaners need specialized waste disposal to avoid contaminating the environment. The commercial solutions might damage your silver by erasing the anti-tarnish coating. The cleaners might lend the jewelry a temporary shine, but they will tarnish faster and need cleaning more frequently.
Silver is an elegantly stylish metal, yet gentle on the pocket. It can last many years if well taken care of. If you know the amount of silver in your jewelry, it is easier to care because the purer the silver, the more it tarnishes. Silver mixed with a small amount of copper gives you sterling silver, which lasts longer and is easier to care for. If you cannot care for the jewelry, take it to a professional to avoid damaging it.