Sterling Silver Jewelry: 5 Things you Should Know

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There are so many questions we received about sterling silver that we’ve put the answers in a blog for you. Here are the 5 things you should know before and after you invest in sterling silver.

1. What, exactly, is sterling silver?

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Sterling silver is a mix of pure silver with some other metals. This mix gives it the durability and resistance that pure silver doesn’t have.

Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver and considered a precious metal. The remaining 7.5% of the alloy is usually copper, which adds strength while still preserving the ductility and appearance of the pure silver.

2. Why does sterling silver tarnish?

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Chemically, silver is not very reactive. However, it is attacked by some of the things common in the atmosphere. When exposed to airborne compounds of sulfur, black tarnish will slowly start to appear. When exposed to low-level ozone, silver oxide forms. The good news is that solid sterling silver jewelry can easily be polished back up to remove tarnish and look good as new!

3. How do I care for my sterling silver jewelry?

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You can use the sand at the beach as a natural remover of tarnish. We don’t know the scientific reason for this but it works! So, try it it’s free and quick.

If you don’t live close to the beach then, Here are some tips to care for your silver jewelry:

  • Ideally, store it in a low-humidity environment.
  • Keep the jewelry clean and dry when you’re not wearing it.
  • If it’s in an airtight container, it won’t have a chance to react and tarnish.
  • It may help to place silica gel bags and/or a container of activated charcoal in the storage area to help inhibit future tarnish.
  • There are lots of anti tarnishing papers and bags on the market that can be used to discourage the tarnishing of your sterling silver jewelry.

4. How to clean or remove tarnish from sterling silver

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Method 1: Like a Pro (home-made style)

Here’s how:

  • Line the bottom of a glass baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil.
  • Fill the foil-lined container with steaming hot water.
  • Add 1 tsp. salt and 2 tsp. baking soda to the water.
  • Drop the silver item(s) into the container so that they are resting on the foil (and touching each other), then watch the tarnish disappear, like magic… science magic!.
  • Remove the silver when it appears clean. Leave heavily tarnished items in the solution for up to 5 minutes.
  • Rinse the silver with water and dry with a soft towel.

Method 2: Elbow Grease (or in this case, finger grease)

You can hand polish your sterling silver jewelry with a soft cloth and precious metal cleaner. This technique also helps to preserve the unique patinas of older pieces. TIP: Be gentle! Harsh polishing and aggressive buffing can permanently damage and devalue a piece of silver.

Method 3: Polishing or Cleaning Products

POLISH CLOTH: (with polish already in it): There’s a simple polish cloth we love that’s great for shining up silver—it’s called a Sunshine Cloth. You might have gotten a little piece of one with your order. We throw one in with orders that won’t react negatively to the “secret” polish in the soft yellow cloth, which removes tarnish surprisingly quickly and easily.

POLISH CREAMS: There are a variety of polishing compounds designed specifically for cleaning sterling silver if method 1 looks like too much work (but seriously, it’s fun). Most are creams that you rub on, then wipe off, and some have the added benefit of leaving behind some extra tarnish resistance. A few of our favorite brands are Blitz Silvershine (top choice because it’s not hard on the environment), Herman’s and Autosol.

5. How to Know if Something is Sterling Silver

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If the piece is commercial, check the markings. Sterling silver is often stamped 925 or .925 on jewelry pieces. Sometimes the words “sterling,” “sterling silver” or “ster” will be stamped, or the initials “ss.”

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