Care of Sterling Silver Jewelry

Silver in its pure form is a soft metal, so for it to be used for jewelry and other products, it is mixed with other metals to add hardness. The most common silver mixture, called an alloy, is known as sterling silver, which is 92.5% pure silver with the other 7.5% being copper. Centuries ago England developed a hallmarking system to guarantee the 92.5% purity and these products are commonly referred to as British sterling silver. Copper adds hardness to silver but at the same time it creates a tendency to tarnish – a darkening that occurs from exposure to light and moisture.

Ideally you should store your sterling silver jewelry in tarnish prevention cloths or bags. The treated cloth slows down the tarnishing process and keeps the jewelry from rubbing against harder jewelry that can scratch it. It is also important to keep your sterling silver jewelry in a cool, dry place.

Phosphate free detergents are good for cleaning sterling silver. A light tarnish may be removed with a low abrasive cleaner. Toothpaste is commonly used to clean sterling silver, although expert opinion cautions against it since it is felt that toothpaste is too abrasive and leaves dulling scratches.

Sterling silver articles, when worn continually or used frequently, develop a tactile patina, a kind of glow combined with darkened areas. Many people feel that the beauty of the piece is enhanced by the patina and therefore do not clean it.


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