Sterling silver jewelry is classic and beautiful. It can look simple or be exotic, but it is important to use the proper steps to keep the jewelry clean and untarnished. Many people are not aware that sterling silver jewelry can become tarnished and corrode, especially when the pieces are not worn for long periods of time.


Why Sterling Silver Jewelry Tarnishes

Sterling silver contains 92.5 percent silver and about 7.5 percent of other metals, usually copper. When air touches sterling silver jewelry, oxidative reactions occur with sulfur. Moisture can also cause tarnish, as well as corrosion, on silver.


Because of the copper or other metals used in sterling silver, it will tarnish when out in the air or exposed to moisture. High humidity levels and air pollution will also cause sterling silver to tarnish, as will contact with chemicals such as deodorant, perfume, hairspray, bleach, and lotion.


Do not wear your silver jewelry while cleaning, swimming and taking a shower. The chemicals such as ammonia, bleach and chlorine in water could cause tarnishing. Before returning your silver jewelry to storage, wipe and clean them with a soft cotton cloth preferably a professional jewelry polishing cloth such as Sunshine Polishing cloth, to remove any body oils, dirt, lotions etc., Do not use paper towels or tissues to dry your jewelry as they contain fibers that can scratch silver surface.


When you remove sterling silver jewelry after wearing it, immediately place it in a jewelry box or container instead of laying it on a table or counter or in a bathroom. Always remove jewelry before showering, swimming, or being in a hot tub. The shower has excessive moisture and humidity, the swimming pool is chlorinated, and a hot tub has all three: moisture, humidity, and chlorine.

When wearing sterling silver, consider refraining from using perfume, hairspray, body lotion, and other items for the skin. The oils and other ingredients in skin care products can tarnish the sterling silver. You should also make sure there are no rubber bands in your jewelry box, as rubber bands release sulfur as they age.


The best thing you can do when wearing sterling silver jewelry is to put it on last before leaving the house and remove it first when you return home. Jewelry is considered a fashion statement and it is more important to wear it while out of the house than while at home.


It is a good practice to clean your silver jewelry once in a year using an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. However, silver jewelry studded with gemstones should not be cleaned using an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner as the chemical used in the cleaner might damage the gemstone. Use a jewelry polishing cloth such as Sunshine Polishing cloth to polish and remove tarnish on silver jewelry studded with gemstones. Silver is a soft metal and can be easily scratched so be sure to use a clean soft cotton cloth to remove any dust or dirt before using polishing cloth on the jewelry. When in doubt about the methods or materials you use to remove tarnish, clean or polish your silver jewelry, please take it to a Professional Jeweler.