Tips to Keep Your 925 Silver Jewelry Looking Great
How to Properly Clean and Care for Your Silver Pieces
As a jewelry seller, your jewelry is your main asset.
Obvious, right? Well, if you want to maintain your assets and make money off of them in the future, you’ve got to care for them until they are sold.
Otherwise, you’re losing money. It’s like buying a bunch of delicious vegetables that you’re going to cook and sell at a restaurant and then not refrigerating them properly.
Can you say, “throwing money out the window?”
Vegetables go bad much more quickly than jewelry, but the concept remains the same: You have to invest time and energy in caring for your product now so that you can make a profit off it later.
There are many different things to consider when caring for your jewelry assets, but today we’ll be focusing on how to clean and care for sterling silver jewelry.
Since most of the jewelry offered at Elf925 is sterling silver, we thought this would be a useful topic. And to be honest, there is A LOT of misinformation out there about how to care for your sterling silver jewelry.
Some recommended “tips” will make your silver shinier and brighter in the short-term, but make it EASIER for your silver to tarnish in the long-term.
Why Does Silver Tarnish, Anyway?
If a customer ever accuses you of giving them shoddy sterling silver jewelry simply because it’s tarnished a bit, rest assured – ALL silver jewelry will tarnish with time.
Tarnishing happens as a natural consequence of the molecules in silver interacting with the molecules in sulfur. Sulfur is present both in the air and in common food and household items.
The blog, Silver Magpies, states in a piece titled The 5 Things Everyone Ought to Know About Silver Tarnish:
“Tarnish develops as a chemical reaction. The most common source is through the air (although direct contact with substances that contain sulfur will also cause tarnish).”
Tarnishing can also occur due to silver being exposed to:
- Direct sunlight
- Chlorinated Water
Tarnish is just like rust on a car – if you care for the car well, rust won’t be an issue.
However, you need to be extra careful if you live in a certain climate. Specifically, if your shop/warehouse is in a coastal area and/or a very humid area, you’ll have to put more work into maintaining your silver than you would otherwise.
Myths About Cleaning Silver That You Shouldn’t Follow
Before we get into the proper ways to care for your sterling silver jewelry, here are a few myths about cleaning silver that you should be aware of:
Myth #1: Toothpaste is a good silver cleaner. Maybe back in the days when toothpaste was mostly baking soda and water, this was true. However, nowadays there are so many additives in toothpaste that you are taking a big risk by using it to clean your silver jewelry.
Myth #2: Commercial silver polishes (like Flitz) are a good choice. Many polishes (including Flitz) are simply too strong and abrasive to be used on silver. While they may help the silver look shiny in the short-term, they will make the silver tarnish more easily in the long run.
Myth #3: The more your customers wear their jewelry, the more they need to clean it. Actually, the opposite may be true. While people have different body chemistries, in general, the oil from your skin acts to protect silver from tarnishing.
Preventing Tarnish and Scratching from Developing
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If you can prevent your silver pieces from tarnishing too much in the first place, you’ll save a lot of time and money because you won’t have to rigorously clean your jewelry in order to sell it.
Here are the 3 rules to prevent silver from looking bad:
Rule #1: Air Is the Enemy of Silver
The first thing you need to understand is that air and silver don’t play well.
That sounds ridiculous, but the most common way silver gets tarnished is by exposure to air. The more you can prevent fresh air from coming into contact with your silver, the better that silver will look.
As the Silver Magpies say:
“….silver is generally stored in air-restricted spaces. I say air-restricted because glass front cabinets and silver chests are not airtight and even when stored in these places, tarnish will still eventually develop, just at a slower pace.”
Make sure your jewelry case is relatively air-restricted, and don’t leave sliding pieces of the case open unless you are actively opening or closing the case.
When the day ends, don’t leave your jewelry in the display case. As the Silver Magpies said, a case isn’t really that airtight.
Instead, store your silver in an airtight, soft, fabric-lined box. Alternatively, you could put your silver into small zip-lock baggies.
You need some sort of airtight seal to prevent sulfur and humidity from damaging your assets. And you don’t want to put multiple pieces of jewelry in the same bag/box as they can rub against each other and scratch.
As a Novica.com piece titled “How To Care For Sterling Silver Jewelry” states:
“As exposure to air tarnishes it, storing silver in airtight plastic bags with anti-tarnish strips is a great preventative measure. Just make sure you don’t store multiple jewelry pieces in the same bag: Silver is a soft metal, so the individual pieces can scratch each other.
Link or chain bracelets should be kept unclasped or unhooked to prevent scratching as well. If you can’t use plastic bags, try to make sure that the storage area has low humidity.”
Rule #2: Avoid Putting Silver in Direct Sunlight
While it may look good to have your jewelry on an outside display case or in the middle of a bright window, it’s not the best for your silver in the long run.
The bright sunlight will cause your silver to tarnish much more quickly.
So, your options are:
- Don’t put your jewelry in direct sunlight. Done!
- Do it anyway, but be prepared to spend more time cleaning said jewelry so it continues to look good. Also, accept that you may not be able to sell those pieces in the long run, but the cost may be worth it as a form of marketing.
Rule #3: Never Put Silver in Contact With Items That Contain Sulfur
Air is only the enemy of silver because it contains sulfur. So really, sulfur is the true villain here.
Here’s a short list of common items containing sulfur:
- Latex (no latex gloves!)
- Rubber (no rubber gloves, either!)
Never put your jewelry into contact with any of these items, and your jewelry will be safe.
How to Polish Silver That Has Already Been Tarnished
Even if you store silver perfectly, it will still tarnish over time. So it’s likely that you’ll have to polish your silver at least every few months in order to keep your pieces looking good.
There are two ways you can polish silver that we’ll be giving you here. One way is more suited for a maintenance rubdown where the silver isn’t seriously tarnished.
The other way is a little more involved and should be used when you have a piece that is badly tarnished.
Polishing Silver: The Easy Way for Less Serious Cases/Maintenance
If you are just doing maintenance, you don’t need anything more than a polishing cloth and some elbow grease.
Be sure to use a microfiber or jewelry cleaning cloth as paper towels or rougher cloths can scratch the surface of the jewelry.
Otherwise, follow these directions from Novica.com:
“When polishing, use long back-and-forth motions that mirror the grain of the silver. Do not rub in circles as this will magnify any tiny scratches.
Also, change to a different section of your cloth frequently to avoid placing tarnish back on the silver. You can use a Q-tip to get into small, detailed areas.”
If the jewelry is a bit more tarnished, you can use one of the following solutions as a cleaner:
- A very mild ammonia and phosphate free soap with warm water.
- Baking soda and water. Novica.com states: “Make a paste of baking soda and water and use a clean cloth to apply a pea-sized amount to the silver and polish…. Run the silver piece or pieces under running warm water, and dry with a clean cloth.”
- Olive oil and lemon juice: use a ratio of 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1 teaspoon olive oil.
What if none of this is enough? That’s when you have to bring out the last resort (other than paying professional cleaners).
Removing Heavy Silver Tarnish Through Science
A Wired article titled, “Clean Your Silver Jewelry With Chemistry!” has an easy 5 step process you can use that will work like a charm on your heavily tarnished pieces.
Here it is:
- Take an aluminum pie plate or line a bowl with aluminum foil.
- Pour in enough very hot water to cover the jewelry.
- Add equal amounts of salt and baking soda. Try 1-2 tablespoons of each, but make sure they can fully dissolve.
- Place the jewelry in the solution, making sure that it is touching the aluminum. Let sit for about five minutes.
- Rinse and rub dry. Any remaining spots will probably rub off, but if not add a little more salt and baking soda to the solution and let the jewelry sit in the solution a bit longer.
Keep Your Jewelry Looking Good
Now you have a game-plan for preventing your silver from tarnishing as well as several ways you can remove tarnishes from your silver once it’s there.
All you have to do is implement these actions and your customers will be excited to buy your amazing looking sterling silver jewelry!