ABOUT STERLING SILVER
Know the terms
Understanding the attributes will help you care for it. The purity of metal, for instance, determines how malleable the silver is and how quickly it will tarnish: .950 sterling silver will bend more easily and tarnish more quickly than .925 sterling silver because of its increased purity, so extra caution should be used to take care of .950 silver jewelry. Pure Silver also known as .999 can also be easily bent, however, .999 fine jewelry also has antibacterial properties & can help treat infections.
is another term used to describe silver. Some silversmiths intentionally allow parts of the jewelry to darken and oxidize, typically, small details, to make them stand out. This detailing can be lost, though, with excessive cleaning & polishing. Be sure to identify any purposefully oxidized silver bracelets, earrings, rings or necklaces you have and set them aside for separate cleaning.
Avoid tarnish by wearing your jewelry often. The oils in your skin will "clean" the silver & keep it looking shiny.
Contact with household chemicals, perspiration, rubber, chlorinated water, or any substance containing sulfur, so it's a good idea to remove your jewelry when doing household chores. I'd recommend avoiding doing chores period. Direct sunlight also causes silver to tarnish, so be sure to take off your jewelry before sunbathing.
As exposure to air tarnishes it, storing silver in airtight plastic bags with anti-tarnish strips is a great preventative measure. Make sure not to store multiple pieces in one bag: Silver is a soft metal, so the individual pieces can scratch each other. Link or chain bracelets should be kept unclasped or unhooked to prevent scratches.
Polishing your silver works well when the tarnishing is not too severe. It's also the best method for cleaning oxidized silver, as you can stay away from the intentionally tarnished areas. Silver is soft and can become scratched easily. you can use a special silver cloth to polish your items, but a lint-free flannel, microfiber, or other soft nonabrasive cloth will do. Do not use paper towels or tissue to polish your jewelry as they contain fibers that can scratch the silver.
If your pieces are heavily tarnished & you don't have time to clean them, take them to a professional silver cleaner. Very old, fragile, or valuable pieces should also be cleaned by a professional.
Homemade Silver Cleaner
For cases when polishing cloths aren't enough to remove tarnish, you can make your own silver cleaner using ingredients from your kitchen. Note, however, that silver cleaner are not for all types of silver jewelry. You should not, for instance, immerse jewelry adorned with pearls or opaque gemstones, as this could seriously damage these softer stones. (give these pieces a brief rinse if too dirty)
Jewelry with clear gemstones
Take special care when using silver cleaner: Chemicals could lodge under the gemstone settings or loosen any glue. Remember, do not use a silver cleaner on your oxidized jewelry. After using any cleaner, be sure to rinse your silver with running water or a clean, damp cloth. It is important for detail or etched items since polish can stick in small crevices and harden. Dry pieces with a microfiber cloth to prevent white water spot stains from forming.
Soap & Water
Warm water & mild, ammonia & phosphate-free dishwashing soap should be the first line of defense if polishing cloth fails to remove tarnish. Soap & water should also be used before using any of the methods below.
Baking Soda & Water
You might have heard that a non-whitening , non-gel toothpaste can be a good substitute for commercial silver cleaners, but nowadays these basic toothpastes are hard to find or distinguish. Instead, make a paste of baking soda & water & use a clean cloth to apply a pea-size amount to the silver and polish. For etched, stamped or detailed items, thin the paste with more water & use a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush to get the cracks & crevices. Run the silver pieces or piece under running warm water & dry with a clean cloth.
Olive Oil & Lemon Juice
Mix 1/2 cup lemon juice with 1tsp. olive oil in a bowl large enough to hold the cleaning solution & a small microfiber cloth. Dip the cloth in the solution and wring it out so it doesn't drip, then polish the silver, rinse & dry.
White Vinegar & Baking Soda
Use this gentle cleaner to remove heavy tarnish that's preventing from polishing the silver. Soak the tarnished piece in a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar & 2 tbsp. baking soda for two or three hours, then rinse and dry.
Baking Soda, Salt, Aluminum foil, & Boiling Water
Line a glass roasting pan or the kitchen sink with aluminum foil, dull side facing down. Place the silver pieces on top of the aluminum foil. Then pour boiling water till they are covered & add 2 tbsp. each of baking soda & salt. Stir the solution to allow the baking soda to dissolve. The reaction causes the tarnish to transfer to the foil & in about 5-10 minutes you'll see the tarnish disappear from the jewelry. ( be prepared for the smell of rotten eggs, though, as the sulfide tarnish comes off the silver). Using salad tongs or nitrile gloves (not rubber gloves, which contain sulfur), remove the silver jewelry from the hot water or drain into a colander. Rinse the jewelry with water, then dry & buff with a soft cloth. Your silver should be sparkling clean & ready to keep you looking fabulous.