Updated: May 30, 2021
Keeping silver clean
All silver will tarnish due to its copper content. Very pure silver will tarnish much more slowly, but will still tarnish nevertheless. When this happens, silver darkens in colour and can even turn black. This is perfectly normal and is the result of the copper in the silver reacting to air and moisture.
So how do you keep your silver bright and sparkling?
Below is a list of some of the methods I have found useful in keeping my silver clean.
Avoid tarnishing in the first place
If you wear a piece of silver regularly,, you will find that it tends not to tarnish so much as it will effectively keep polishing itself by rubbing against your skin, hair and clothing.
For those pieces you do not wear so often, it is important to keep them as dry and far away from air as possible. You will notice that silver which is kept in a small box or pouch will tarnish much slower than silver kept in the open – such as earrings on an earring tree.
When not in use, I tend to store my pieces of silver in very small, sealable plastic bags. By doing this, I can open a bag after two or three years and not notice any tarnishing at all. Storing your jewellery in this way will also reduce the chance of your pieces rubbing against each other and scratching.
It is also important to keep your silver jewellery in a dry environment. So don’t store it in a bathroom where it will get damp or come into contact with hairspray, air fresheners or mist.
It is also important to avoid contact with water if possible. This doesn’t mean you have to take off your silver jewellery every time it rains! You should, however, take off your silver jewellery when you bathe (remember, your silver doesn’t like soap and shampoo) or when you are washing the dishes. Your silver will also not thank you for taking it into a salty sea or chlorine-filled pool either.
How to clean silver
There are a number of methods of keeping the silver in your jewellery nice and clean. Below are the ones I have found useful.
Silver polishing cloth
Silver polishing cloths are impregnated with chemicals which remove tarnish and are soft, so they do not scratch the metal. You can use these cloths until they are black - they shouldn't be washed.
These are generally the safest option to remove tarnish from your precious metal jewellery. To remove tarnish rub, your jewellery gently with a polishing cloth, doing your best to get into crevices. You'll find the cloth getting black marks on it as the tarnish is removed.
The downside of using a polishing cloth is that it can really difficult to get into all the nooks and crannies, such as small silver beads acting as spacers in between larger gemstone beads.
Another good method is to use a silver dip. Not only does this get into all those difficult to reach parts of your jewellery, it is also a very quick and thorough way of ensuring you clean all parts of your jewellery. You simply dip your jewellery in the dip for a few seconds (or a bit longer for heavily tarnished silver) and it will come shining as it did when you first acquired it. Once done, don’t tip the dip away! It can be used over and over again. After dipping, I rinse in clean, cold water and lay out on a kitchen towel to dry off completely.
BEWARE! Not all gemstones like silver dip. I have found that some organic gems - such as Pearls and Sea Bamboo (although Amber seems to be fine) can lose their shine. Most other gemstones seem to be fine though.
Now, here is a method I have seen mentioned over and over again on the internet, but which I have not tried myself yet. It is a relatively easy method of cleaning your silver using items you are likely to already have in your larder.
Cut a piece of aluminium foil which covers the bottom of a small bowl. Then pour a cup of hot water into the bowl and mix in the following:
· 1 tablespoon salt
· 1 tablespoon of baking soda
· 1 tablespoon dish washing detergent
Put the jewellery to be cleaned into the bowl, so it sits on top of the foil and is covered by the solution.
After 5 to 10 minutes, you can rinse your jewellery in cool water and dry it with a soft cloth. Discard the solution and the foil, which is likely to have turned a grey colour. Repeat if necessary.
This method can also help to remove scorch marks on silver.
NOTE! I have never tried this method myself, so don’t blame me if it all goes horribly wrong, but it seems that most people trying it believe it to be effective. Let me know how you get on.
Fortunaearrings is a handmade jewellery store featuring a wide range of unique earrings made of gemstones and sterling silver. As well as gemstone earrings which will appeal to the gemstone collector, you will also find a range of earrings made of Venetian glass lampworked at my Devon workshop. See my full handmade jewellery portfolio by clicking the shop link at the top of this page.