It is getting near the latter part of the summer season ( depending on where you might be in the world) and our jewels might have taken a bit of a beating, from exposure to water, and sunscreens ( which I hope you are all using liberally!) and well, general sportiness!....I get asked all the time about how to take care of and restore silver...so I thought I might take the opportunity to post a bit around its care and feeding since I am supposed to be something of an expert on the subject!
When you purchase a jewel, it is always good practice to ask the maker about any special care instructions for the stones, and whether or not the piece has been tarnish coated. This will determine your 'best practices' in terms of caring for your piece and helping it last for generations to come.
For starters, keep in mind that sterling silver, depending on the thickness, can be a softer metal than some of your karated gold ( in the lower karats) or platinum pieces....so remember to remove it when lifting that heavy kayak into the water, as it really can take a beating, and even bend out of shape....it will certainly scratch more easily than gold and will loose its sheen...
Pay attention to how you store your jewelry when it is not being worn. If possible, do not store your jewels loose in a jewelry box. Try not to leave silver lying against bare wood. Some woods contain an acid ( as do paper and cardboard..so avoid keeping the boxes as some of us like to do) that will affect the surface of silver. Best case scenario is to keep your silver in a pouch by itself. ( I prefer fabric, but those tiny ziplocs will do if you don't mind plastic). This keeps other jewelry from rubbing the silver (possibly causing scratches) and it will protect it from the air, which causes quick tarnishing. Tarnish, that icky coating that can build up over time is caused primarily by moisture and sulfide exposure. Perfumes, sunscreens, chlorine in pools and hair products can cause jewels to turn yellowish and then black. Also, simply wearing a piece often will help keep the dreaded stuff at bay...think about what a necklace that you haven't pulled out in a year looks like....so, keep the gals happy and let everyone have a night on the town from time to time!
The absolute best way to keep your silver in ship-shape, is to store them as I have described...and to use a soft flannel cloth that has been specially treated. ( I sell them in my etsy shop). Another thing I recommend is purchasing a fabric called silver cloth. You can buy as little as a yard and line your jewel box, or sew a roll, or make little pouches...works amazingly!....also, try to put on your jewels after you have done hair, makeup, and the like...it will really help!
That being said, here are 3 tried and true methods, both natural and easy peasy:
1) toothpaste ( white, not the gel kind) and a very soft kiddie toothbrush....take a dab and gently rub around the piece with the brush....try to avoid any stones....rinse and dry w/ a soft cloth
2) make a thick paste of warm water and baking soda....do the same as above....again staying away from stones....rinse well, dry w/ a soft cloth
3) a few drops of dish detergent in a cup of warm water and a brush. (Some folks like to add ammonia too, but since household cleaners are one of the leading carcinogens in our lives, I would avoid this)
Many sites recommend chemical dips....these have noxious chemicals in them..and can also strip out patina that has been applied intentionally in the recesses of your jewel
Be cautious of home style ultrasonic cleaners....these also strip out patina, but worse than that will harm many stones.....especially soft ones like turquiose, lapis, opals, and pearls...if your jewel does not have stones or patina, then these should be fine.
I do have a method that works well for stubborn tarnish on chains, using a slightly different technique...will be back with that post very soon...until then, shine on!