Overview Of Sterling Silver Jewelry Care
Silver in all its luminous apparitions, has co-reigned alongside gold for more than 6000 years as the ‘Queen of Precious Metals’. However, of all silver’s heirs it is sterling silver with its intrinsic beauty, value and durability, that has ensured itself a place in the history books as one of the most popular mediums of personal adornment.
Owning a prestigious item such as sterling silver jewelry should be undertaken with an eye on the future. Like all precious metals, sterling silver’s value increases with time, and one day your jewelry could well become a priceless family heirloom, so looking after it now can only pay dividends in the future. However, to understand the proper care and maintenance of your sterling silver jewelry it is first necessary to look into sterling silver’s background.
Both silver and sterling silver are precious metals, and both closely related, but they are not the same. Pure silver is quite soft and because of this won’t hold its shape; sterling silver was invented as a more durable form of this highly malleable and lustrous metal, lending its hardwearing properties to the creation of frequently worn jewelry.
Sterling silver is 92.5 percent true silver; the remaining 7.5 percent is comprised of an alloy, usually copper or zinc. Sterling silver tarnishes, this is caused by a reaction between the silver and the sulfur containing oxygen particles of the air. The following guide gives you some useful advice on preserving your sterling silver gemstone jewelry in the state you want for future generations.
Store your sterling silver jewelry in a dark, cool place away from direct sunlight or other sources of extreme heat such as radiators. A perfect place is in a jewelry box in amongst your clothes.
Sterling silver jewelry, as is the case with all fine jewelry, should be stored alone in a separate compartment in a jewelry box or in its own soft pouch. Not doing this will eventually result in scratches, or even breaks if there are gemstones in the jewelry.
Never store your sterling silver jewelry in paper, cardboard, or cotton filled boxes, as these contain trace elements of sulfur. For best results, place the items in a sealed, airtight plastic bag or jeweler’s sulfur-free tissue prior to boxing and wrapping.
Cleaning & Polishing
Over time, sterling silver will develop a mellow patina caused by ‘Oxidization’, which results in an ‘Antique’ look where tarnish builds up in the fine details giving your sterling silver jewelry a beautifully unique air. You may or may not appreciate this aspect; you should consider this before making any attempts at cleaning your jewelry.
The best way to preserve and encourage the tarnished ‘Antique’ look to sterling silver jewelry can be done by not cleaning the jewelry with water, and not wearing the jewelry in the shower or bath.
The best way to prevent tarnish is to wear your sterling silver jewelry as often as possible.
If your sterling silver does become tarnished, it is easily restored to its former glory by using warm water with a mild soap, rinsing it and then making sure to thoroughly dry it with a fine soft cloth. Soaking is discouraged.
Use a soft cloth, similar to the cloth provided with spectacles, in light even strokes for cleaning the wider surface area, and cotton buds or Q-tips in the same manner for getting in to more difficult corners.
Never use tissues or hard brushes, including toothbrushes, when cleaning or polishing your sterling silver, as they will leave scratch marks. This is especially important if there are gemstones such as pearls mounted into your jewelry.
Polishing should be done quickly, and all traces of polish should be removed afterwards. Leaving traces of polish behind can dull the design by clogging engraved areas.
Silver pastes, treated polishing cloths or other sterling silver cleaning materials should be used under the guidance of your local jeweler, this is especially true if there are gemstones as these chemicals can destroy them.
The Dos’ & Don’ts
Always take your sterling silver jewelry off before applying suntan lotion, skin creams, and swimming in chlorinated or salt water.
Never wear your jewelry when working with detergents, bleaches, ammonia or alcohols; these chemicals will cause discoloration, damage and loosen any gemstones.
Never use an ultrasonic cleaner, ammonia or any chemical solution to clean opaque gemstones, such as turquoise, malachite, onyx, lapis lazuli and opals. They are a porous stone and may absorb chemicals, which build up inside the stone and cause discoloration. Simply wipe them gently with a moist soft cloth until clean.
Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver Care
Some sterling silver jewelry is plated with rhodium; this is designed to make your jewelry tarnish resistant. Caring for rhodium-plated sterling silver jewelry requires a different approach than non-plated sterling silver jewelry.
Clean it with a soft polishing rag or fine cleaner, but never use chemical based silver cleaners because this will damage the rhodium finish and also the inlaid gemstones.
If you own antique sterling silver jewelry or rhodium plated sterling silver jewelry we recommend that you seek expert advice from your local jeweler who will be able to instruct you on the best brands of jewelry cleaning products in your area.
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By David-John Turner
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