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How to Care for Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

Sterling silver jewelry is a beautiful addition to any jewelry collection and with proper care, can last a long time. From sterling silver rings and necklaces, to bracelets and earrings, you can’t go wrong when building your collection of beautiful pieces. 

But how do you safely care for sterling silver jewelry at home? We’re here to help with our favorite tips for how to limit tarnishing and oxidation, and how to clean sterling silver jewelry, so your jewelry is as bright and brilliant as the day you got it. 

Sterling silver necklace, hoop earrings, and a gemstone ring displayed against a white background.

How to Prevent Your Sterling Silver Jewelry from Tarnishing

Before you get to cleaning sterling silver, there are some simple ways to care for sterling silver jewelry that will help prevent tarnishing. Proper care can also mean less frequent cleanings. 

Another consideration with silver jewelry that many people ask about is does sterling silver turn your finger green? The simple answer is maybe. Not all sterling silver is destined to turn your fingers green, but there are a few reasons that it could:

  • Metal alloys (when metals are combined to create more stability) with copper or nickel 
  • Skin composition reacting with metals (hormonal changes or acidity): The human body produces very small amounts of hydrogen sulfide, which is used as a signaling molecule and essential for bodily function, but it may contribute to tarnishing jewelry.
  • Skin products reacting with metals
  • Moisture on skin (like sweat)

How quickly your jewelry tarnishes or its potential to turn skin green can also depend on how well you take care of it. 

Let’s look at some ways to take care of your sterling silver jewelry to help limit tarnishing and discoloration. 

Store Your Sterling Silver Jewelry Properly

The first thing to do (before learning how to clean sterling silver) when purchasing a new sterling silver necklace, bracelet, ring, or pair of earrings is to make sure you know how to store it properly. This is key to help prevent tarnishing. The following storage tips will help preserve your jewelry:

  • Always store sterling silver jewelry in a cool, dry place away from any moisture. Some people may want to store their jewelry in the bathroom so they remember to put it on every day, but the moisture from the shower can make jewelry tarnish more quickly. Instead, store it in a safe place outside of the bathroom. 
  • Store sterling silver jewelry in a jewelry bag or a jewelry box. A box lined with velvet or other soft material serves two purposes: helps absorb excess moisture before it tarnishes your jewelry and it separates your pieces. 
  • Store sterling silver jewelry away from other pieces. This reduces the risk of scratches, damages, and tarnishing. Sterling silver can react with other metals and tarnish faster. 
  • Store sterling silver jewelry anti-tarnish strips. Storing jewelry in their bag with anti-tarnish strips (pieces of paper that accompany jewelry) can help to reduce tarnish and keep jewelry looking vibrant longer. 

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

When learning how to take care of your sterling silver bracelets, rings, necklaces, and earrings, be sure to avoid harsh chemicals, as these can react with the metal and make it tarnish. This includes chemicals often found in:

  • Lotions
  • Self-tanners
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Body washes 
  • Hand soaps
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Dish soaps
  • Perfumes
  • Pools
  • Hot tubs

Gently Clean Sterling Silver Regularly

Now that you’ve learned more about how to clean sterling silver, a simple wipe down every day or every few days can help your sterling silver stay shiny between cleanings. This can be as easy as wiping down your jewelry with a cleaning cloth when you take it off for the night. Sterling silver jewelry cleaners, (like Silpada jewelry cleaner), polishing cloths, and pens can help you get in every nook and cranny, and serve as great daily cleaners.  

Keep Jewelry Dry

One of the most important things you can do to prevent your sterling silver jewelry from tarnishing is to keep it dry, except when cleaning. Tarnishing and discoloration happen when the sterling silver is exposed to elements such as water. This creates a chemical reaction, which then changes the color of the metal. 

To prevent this from happening, remember to always take your jewelry off before showering or bathing, swimming in a pool or hot tub, and even before a good workout. By keeping your jewelry clean and dry, you can limit tarnishing and therefore not have to clean your sterling silver jewelry as often. 

How to Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry at Home

These tips can help limit sterling silver tarnish, but it’s still important to clean it regularly to maintain its beauty and help your pieces last decades. 

Use a Jewelry Cleaning Machine

When researching how to clean a silver necklace or other silver piece, the chances are that various jewelry cleaning machines will come up as options. There are different types, but the most common type for cleaning sterling silver jewelry is an ultrasonic cleaner

Ultrasonic jewelry cleaners use ultrasonic sound waves to gently clean jewelry with water or a special solution in just a few minutes. These machines are a safe bet for cleaning sterling silver jewelry at home because they don’t use any harsh chemicals. They take up minimal space and can be used with an automatic setting that shuts off when cleaning is done. 

Use a Polishing Cloth

The quickest way to clean sterling silver jewelry is to use a specially designed polishing cloth. As we mentioned, using a polishing cloth is great daily maintenance to limit tarnishing. 

Create an At-Home Cleaning Solution

Some commercial cleaners are too harsh and can damage your jewelry. If your jewelry needs a deeper clean, make a simple, gentle cleaning solution that’s made with ingredients you likely have in your kitchen already! Here are some of our favorite solutions:

Dish Soap and Water

We previously said that you shouldn’t expose your jewelry to water or chemicals, but when cleaning sterling silver, gentle dish soap is one of your best bets. Make sure you use ammonia- and phosphate-free dish soap and thoroughly rinse off any soap when you’re done cleaning. You should also make sure to dry your jewelry completely to reduce the risk of excess moisture that can cause tarnishing. 

Baking Soda and Water

Another great solution for cleaning sterling silver is baking soda and water. To do this:

  • Take about two tablespoons of baking soda and slowly add a little water until you make a paste. 
  • Take a soft-bristled toothbrush and clean your jewelry using the paste. This slight, very gentle abrasion can help remove dirt and tarnish. 
  • Be careful and not scratch your jewelry.
  • For delicate pieces, add more water to make the paste thinner. 

When considering cleaning solutions, be careful in selecting one that is gentle enough for sterling silver. Some commercial cleaners are too harsh and can end up damaging your jewelry more than they help.

How to Care for Gold-Plated Jewelry

Gold-plated jewelry is a beautiful option if you’re looking to add a bit of color into your collection, but to ensure you’re getting the best quality pieces, purchase jewelry with a strong base, like sterling silver. This will support the gold-plating applied on top and will improve the longevity of your jewelry. Cheaper metals are more likely to turn your fingers green and are more prone to damage.

Keeping the gold-plating pristine depends on proper care and a bit of science. The PH scale comes into play as it determines how acidic or alkaline (basic) a substance is. Substances as close to a neutral PH level (7) are less likely to wear away the gold-plating and substances with a PH below 7 (acidic) are more likely to tarnish the gold-plating. Since the gold finish has either been chemically or electrically bonded to the base metal, exposing this delicate veneer to anything with a PH of 1 or 2 (cola, tomatoes, citrus, etc.) can really damage the exterior.

Caring for gold-plated jewelry is slightly different than sterling silver, and there are a few do’s and don’ts to keep the plating looking its best:

 Do’s:

  1. Remove jewelry before swimming, bathing, or applying lotions and perfumes.
  2. Polish with 100% cotton or microfiber cloths.
  3. Store each piece individually in a soft bag or lined box.

 Don’ts:

  1. Standard jewelry cleaners. The chemicals used to make these products can wear off the delicate layer of gold.
  2. Avoid harsh contact with other metals, like hand weights during workouts.
  3. Anything with a low PH (sweat, lemon juice, vinegar) can affect the longevity of the plating and cause tarnishing. Go au natural and lose the jewels before exercising, cooking, or cleaning.

Pro tip: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently buff nooks and crannies in delicate designs.

Scratches and fading will occur over time, so if you’re looking to revive your jewelry, use a trusted service to restore gold-plated items through re-plating or order an at-home kit for a more DIY approach.

Two pairs of drop earrings, a beaded bracelet, and a necklace being displayed on gray boxes.

Investing in High-Quality Sterling Silver Jewelry

There are so many things to love about sterling silver jewelry, including the fact that it pairs well with so many outfits, it’s durable, beautiful, and affordable! Once you learn more about how to clean sterling silver jewelry, you’ll likely want to grow your collection because sterling silver is versatile and easy to maintain. 

Luckily, you don’t have to splurge to get high-quality sterling silver jewelry that you love. Here at Silpada, we believe in providing everyone stunning jewelry at a price they can afford. Don’t forget to check out our complete collections of sterling silver jewelry to find your next favorite accessory. 

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