April 30, 2013 / Educational

Silver: Tarnishing, Cleaning, Polishing & Protecting

Learn how to protect and polish your sterling silver to keep it shiny. Sterling silver tarnish is natural, but you can keep your jewelry looking great. ...

Tired of your favorite silver jewelry tarnishing? Learn more about protecting silver from tarnish as well as the different ways to clean and polish your sterling silver. Read the article and watch the video.

Sterling silver tarnishes and unfortunately there's nothing we can do about that nasty little fact. But, you can clean and protect silver from tarnish with readily available supplies.

Why Does Silver Tarnish?

Silver reacts to sulfur. If you know anything about this element, it's everywhere. In fact, humans have used sulfides for years! It is in the air we breathe, soil, common beauty products, smoke, fertilizers, foods, gasoline, pollution...etc. The list is so long there is no way to cover it in a blog, but trust me, it's everywhere. Some locations (ex. the beach, lakes and urban areas) have higher quantities in the air and so silver tarnish happens even quicker in those locations.

You can take many common-sense steps to store your jewelry securely and delay tarnishing. Read more in our article entitled How to Keep Sterling Silver from Tarnishing - Protecting Jewelry.

Fortunately, you can clean, polish and then protect silver to slow down the process, and I'll tell you how. Just be careful with any jewelry that contains stones, pearls or glass. Metal cleaners can damage some of these substances so do additional research before cleaning them or spot clean the metal areas only.

Polishing Cloths and Pads

Silver polishing cloths

For simple silver cleaning and polishing jobs, you can use a treated cloth or pad. Rub tarnished areas with the cloth and that's it! You will see black residue coming off onto the cloth, but it will continue working even after it appears dirty. This type of cleaning is ideal for items with smooth surfaces such as blanks, wire, and sheet. We also recommend using these for items that contain stones easily damaged by chemicals. Just avoid sensitive components when polishing. The added benefit of treated cloths is that they delay the tarnish reaction after cleaning, so they actually protect your sterling silver too.

Dips and Sprays

Cleaning sprays and dips for sterling silver

For cleaning silver items that have more texture, relief, and details, you'll want to use a spray or a dip. Either spray or soak jewelry for 1-2 minutes, rinse, wipe off with a soft cloth and you're done! This is the best way to clean detailed rings, chains, and pendants that are entirely made of silver.

Protect it!

Anti-tarnish tabs and bags for sterling silver

You can slow the tarnishing process using anti-tarnish packaging materials. Simply storing your silver with anti-tarnish products can really make a difference. Just remember to check the shelf life and switch them out as soon as you spot the first tell-tale signs of tarnishing. Two popular tarnish protection options are shown here, anti-tarnish tabs and bags.

Argentium or TruSilver

Another anti-tarnish choice is the metal itself. Removing some of the copper and replacing it with germanium produces Argentium sterling silver. TruSilver is a similar alternative. The alloys are tarnish-resistant (I say resistant because it will tarnish after an extended period of time or under intense sulfur exposure) but they can be more expensive than sterling silver and harder to find.

Jewelry Cleaning and Polishing Video

Silver can be a pain to take care of but just one look at that beautifully polished metal and it's worth all the extra care that's required! Don't miss our video overview of silver polish products.

For heavy-duty cleaning and polishing, read Flex Shaft Attachments for Finishing.

Download Sterling Silver Care and Cleaning Info Cards

These cards are formatted to fit on 2x3 business cards! Create a double-sided insert or add them to the back of your business card so your customers will always know how to care for their jewelry.

Sterling Silver Info Card

Sterling Silver Care & Cleaning Card

More Great Articles:

How to Keep Sterling Silver from Tarnishing - Protecting Jewelry

5 Ways To Educate Your Jewelry Customer

Cleaning Gold-Filled Jewelry

Halstead is one of North America's leading distributors of quality jewelry supplies. The firm is celebrating its 46th anniversary this year. Halstead specializes in wholesale findings, chain, and metals for jewelry artists.

Got questions? Email our studio coordinator Erica Stice at [email protected]. We'd love to hear from you. Sorry, studio support is not available by phone. Emails only, please.

Written By: Hilary Halstead Scott
Hilary Halstead Scott is the President of Halstead, a wholesale jewelry supply company in Northern Arizona. She is the second generation of Halsteads to own and operate the business. Hilary has an MBA in Marketing and a Masters of International Business.

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