Does your silver jewelry live in your bathroom? Or is it hanging around on some sort of display, or cluttered up in an open dish on a random counter top? Do you then have to go through the effort of cleaning it all up or having it professionally done, and don’t really want to go through all that again?

Sorry, but, unless its costume jewellery, but, even then,…..NO!

The number one complaint I hear about owning sterling silver jewellery is that tarnishing (the darkening) will eventually creep over your pieces and hide their bright shiny happy selves. Yes, my pieces in part one of this post were well worn and then definitely neglected, being left to be taken over by tarnishing for many years. But, they are now back to their former luster and I would like to keep them that way. Preventing the tarnishing from taking over our pieces is easy through proper care and storage.
The number one way to prevent tarnishing is to wear your jewellery. But what about those pieces that you no longer wear every day? Maybe they are now keepsakes, or you are lucky to have so much jewellery you can’t possibly wear it all often enough to keep it tarnish free. When getting ready to go out the last thing you want to have to do is to spend time cleaning it up. With proper storage , even after years of neglect, a two second wipe with a polishing cloth is that’s needed.
Storing your pieces properly helps prevents two things, scratches and dings, and tarnishing taking over where you don’t want it. Silver like gold, is soft, and will become scratched and marked simply having your pieces crashing around in a container with other pieces, (this occurs a great deal when searching for something in that pile) especially other pieces with precious stones, will cause unnecessary wear.

Prevention is key and makes life so much simpler!

  1. Jewellery must be clean and dry before storing. Contaminates such as moisture, oil, dirt, salt, food particles, and residual chemicals will accelerate tarnishing. If you are turning your pieces in for long term storage, and they are in good condition, clean them with warm water, ivory soap and a soft toothbrush, then give them a good polish with a cloth. If you will be wearing them again in the next two weeks, just a quick wipe down with a polishing cloth is sufficient.
  2. Choose a container or jewellery box that is, or close to, air tight. Tarnishing of silver occurs at the surface as a chemical reaction between the metal and sulfur in the air. By reducing the amount of air getting at your pieces you reduce the amount of tarnishing that can occur. Placing pieces of regular chalk board chalk, re-purposed silica gel packets, or anti tarnish strips in the container will also help a great deal by absorbing moisture and sulfur.
  3. Pick a place that is neither hot or humid, and free from lots of chemicals (such as the bathroom, attic, or kitchen) to keep your jewellery container or box, as this type of environment accelerates tarnishing.
  4. To reduce the amount of tarnishing further by keeping your pieces extra airtight, you can also put individual pieces into small zip lock baggies. This is a great extra step to take especially with pieces going into long term storage, that are not worn more than once or twice a month.

My freshly cleaned and shiny jewels bagged and ready to be stored in my jewellery box, just need to pick up a bigger baggie for the cuff. Sadly there are many other item’s in my box, like the two rings above that could use some attention, guess I will have to get to these at some point.

4. Lastly, we need to keep items separate so they don’t damage one another. Putting individual pieces into separate baggies, cloth pouches, or separated with small compartments that some jewellery boxes are designed with, will prevent scratches and dings. Little pouches and premade jewellery organizers are available at specialty stores and on line and are a great thing to invest in, but they can be pricey. Make your own with 100% cotton flannel free from acid, sulphur or salt, or flannel that has been treated with chemicals such as silver nitrate to help retard tarnishing. Or wrap your pieces in acid free archival quality tissue paper, and store in a ziplock bag and/or in an airtight container.

Wow! That’s a nice box!

Now that you know how simple it is to care for your sterling jewellery there is no reason to have your pieces looking sad and dull with tarnish where it’s unwanted. Every once in a while breaking the rules is a beautiful thing. These antique earrings were gifted to me with a very dark patina, and I refuse to clean them because I think they look fantastic after being neglected for years, I love them just the way they are.

Reprinted with permission from Working Silver