One of the most common questions I get is how to clean sterling silver jewelry, particularly if there are stones. Sterling silver jewelry can tarnish over time, which is due to the oxidation of the alloy in silver (usually that alloy is copper). Since many stones may be damaged in commercial sterling silver cleaner solutions, I suggest these three alternative ways to clean your sterling silver jewelry:
- Simple silver polishing cloth: If the piece of jewelry is smooth and the jewelry pieces has stones, you can take a simple silver polishing cloth and rub gently in a back and forth motion to remove tarnish. Be sure to avoid using the polishing cloth over the stone. The downfall is that your hands may blacken and you will need to clean up! Silver polishing cloths can be purchased through Amazon or Target.
- Baking soda: For textured silver, put a dab of baking soda on a soft bristle toothbrush, add a bit of water to make a paste and brush gently on the silver (avoiding brushing stones). Rinse under lukewarm water and dry with a soft, clean, lint-free cotton cloth. Avoid paper towels or tissues as they can scratch the silver.
- Baking soda, salt, aluminum foil, and water: For sterling silver chains and for heavy tarnished silver jewelry that do not have stones, you can use this environmentally-friendly cleaning solution: in a bowl or baking dish, line with aluminum foil (shiny side up), place silver jewelry on foil, add boiling water until pieces are covered and then add 2 tbsp. baking soda and 2 tbsp. salt, stir until dissolved. Wait 5-10 minutes, and pull jewelry out with salad tongs and put in colander to rinse. *Note: there will be a sulfur/rotten egg smell. Rinse jewelry with lukewarm water, and then dry with a clean, soft, lint free cloth.
To prevent your sterling silver jewelry from tarnishing in the future, store each jewelry piece in ziplock plastic baggies. The airtight seal will prevent the oxidation reaction from happening and will slow down tarnishing.
One last note: Silver plated, silver-filled, fine silver, and other silver-like metals such as argentium may have different needs for care and cleaning. Be sure to consult with a professional jeweler on proper care of these metals.