Caring for Silver Jewelry and Dealing with Tarnish.
Lustrous, solid and reliable, there are many reasons why silver is one of the most common metals circulating in the jewelry world. But with all it's rewards it still has it's flaws. Most commonly tarnishing. The natural process that happens when the metal oxidizes.
Tarnishing is caused by exposure to the elements. Light, air, and moisture can all effect the silvery sheen on your jewelry. Which means, the more you wear them the faster they tarnish. Bonus fact: lotions and oils cause oxidation too. All jewelry tarnishes with age. Unfortunately It's inevitable.
The good news is tarnish does not harm your jewelry. Oddly enough it's actually a protective layer that forms to prevent damage from the elements. Tarnish can go from a milky coating that dulls the shine of the silver all the way to black in the most severe forms of tarnish. And it's completely reversible. No matter how dark. So if aged isn't your look there are several good ways to get your jewelry sparkling again.
There are a lot of good recommendations for keeping your jewelry from tarnishing. You can store them in anti-tarnish bags which are essentially zip-lock baggies that are treated to keep the light off your piece. They're small enough to fit in your jewelry box so they're an easy solution and a winner for those of us organizing queens who love to label.
They sell sealable jewelry boxes online that keep an airtight seal. Preventing tarnish from air and light. Mildly affordable a bit bulky at times. But a good choice for the gems you need to store for long periods of time.
Rhodium plating, which is a platinum coating, is an excellent choice to protect your silver over a long period of time. It's not a permanent solution as the plating will wear down with normal wear, but it will extend your time between cleanings drastically. These days a lot of silver jewelry on the market already comes rhodium plated to give it a brighter sheen. Jewelers use a process that bonds the platinum to the outside of the jewelry piece using an electrocurrent.
A more affordable solution that you can get from your jeweler is an anti-tarnish treatment. Similar to plating in that it involves beakers and heat. But instead of a metal coating it's a chemical solution. It's hypo-allergenic, but highly sensitive peoples should still be cautious.
So we've talked about preventing tarnish, but what about the necklace you inherited that looks like it was dipped in coal? As I said earlier, it's completely reversible!
My favorite solution, as I use it here in the shop on a daily basis, is silver cleaner. Silver cleaners are available wherever jewelry is sold. You simply swish the jewelry piece in the solution for no more than 10 seconds and it comes out bright and white again. It's handy to also have a polishing cloth on hand to give it a good buff and shine once it's dry. Do not use silver cleaner on soft stones like turquoise, pearl, or opal. There are gentler cleaners sold specifically for delicate stones, and they still pack a punch. Remember do not go over 10 seconds. I've had people bring in pieces that are chrome black because they left it in overnight. Just a swish rinse and you're done.
In cases where the jewelry needs more than just a dunk in jewelry cleaner, you can always take it into your jeweler for a professional polish. We have equipment that will buff off the tarnish and reveal the shiny metal hiding underneath all that grime. The polishing process also removes all of the scratches on the surface making the jewelry look brand new again.
There's a lot of DIY silver cleaning methods I found online in my research. But I can't suggest any of them because I haven't tried them myself. They seem like fun, so maybe that'll be another article for another time.
Remember, tarnish is preventable but only for a period of time. Tarnish is reversible. Read your solution labels carefully, and treat soft stones delicately. And when in doubt, bring it into your local jeweler.