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Silver Care: The Care of Sterling Silver Jewelry

- from an article from www.sterling-silver-charms.org


There are about as many web sites telling about sterling silver care as there are sites selling sterling silver jewelry. We hope to cut through the maze of information and provide pragmatic and useful information. Understanding Sterling Silver
To fully understand proper care and maintenance of sterling silver we first turn to some background information regarding sterling silver. There is a difference between Silver and Sterling Silver. Both are considered a precious metal and both are closely related. Silver was first used anciently for jewelry pieces and for utensils and many other uses because of its malleability. Silver is easy to work with as far as metals go. But it is quite soft.

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Because of its softness, it wouldn't hold its shape very well. Because of that, sterling silver was developed. Sterling silver is 92.5 percent true silver the remaining 7.5 percent is comprised of an alloy which is usually copper and zinc, but not always. Sterling silver does tarnish. It is a simple fact of nature. Silver tarnish is caused by a reaction between the silver and oxygen and sulfur. It is also caused by swimming while wearing your sterling silver jewelry, using hair spray while wearing your sterling silver jewelry. Over time sterling silver develops a mellow patina which often results in an appreciated antique look. Often a black oxidation builds up in the fine details which gives your jewelry piece a beautiful and unique look. Understanding YOUR Sterling Silver Jewelry
Some sterling silver jewelry pieces are coated with rhodium which gives it the appearance of platinum. This process is design to make your jewelry tarnish resistant. Not all sterling silver jewelry comes this way because most prefer the true silver look of sterling silver. Understanding what you have is important in the care of sterling silver jewelry. The presence of rhodium means you'll care for your jewelry differently. Generally you'll clean rhodium coated sterling silver with a soft polishing rag or a fine cleaner.

Don't use silver dip because of the potential damage that can occur on the rhodium finish. It can also damage certain gemstones.

Prevention
When storing your sterling silver jewelry you want to avoid scratching the jewelry piece and you want to minimize the oxidation process. It would be best to store your sterling silver jewelry in an air tight container lined with something soft. The less air exposed to will slow the oxidation and the soft lining with avoid scratches. There are about as many web sites telling about sterling silver care as there are sites selling sterling silver jewelry. We hope to cut through the maze of information and provide pragmatic and useful information.

Cleaning
Interestingly, wearing your jewelry is a good way to help keep it in good condition providing you take some measure of care while wearing your jewelry. Notwithstanding all of the above, your sterling silver jewelry does need to be cleaned from time to time. This is where it is important to understand your piece of jewelry. Does your jewelry have gemstones mounted within the jewelry piece or otherwise attached to gemstones? What's good for the silver may not be good for the gemstones or other items such as leather or jewelers cord.

If possible it may be helpful to separate your jewelry piece when cleaning. Don't go to far with this idea. If the stone is mounted, leave it alone. If your necklace is tied together with cord or leather it may be ok to separate. Know what cleaners are best for each piece of your jewelry. Find a cleaner that can clean the whole piece without hurting one of the elements of your jewelry piece.

Common cleaning methods include warm water and mild dish soap. use a soft toothbrush or cotton swab. Frequent hand polishing with a soft cloth is also helpful. A traditional method of cleaning your sterling silver that has been past down from generation to generation.  That is the use of toothpaste to clean your sterling silver jewelry. Toothpaste can contain small abrasive granules that have been know to scratch the jewelry piece. A wise approach to this idea is to consider the piece of jewelry. If it has a smooth fine finish the scratches will show. If the piece has a lot of texture the scratches may matter to you. It's hard to deny the effectiveness of toothpaste as a cleaner of oxidation and tarnish. Use caution when considering

There are many commercially developed cleaner for sale that will work well but it is important to know the side effects of the cleaner, what it will work on and what it won't work on. Keep in mind the various parts of your jewelry piece. Gemstones react different to cleaners than does silver.

Last note: Enjoy your sterling silver jewelry. Wear it often and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

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