What Is "Sterling Silver"?
Sterling silver is by far the most popular silver alloy in the world for jewelry. Sterling silver (also called .925 silver) is an alloy consisting of 92.5 percent fine silver and 7.5 percent other metals (usually copper). Jewelry manufacturers use sterling silver because of its strength and durability. Fine silver alone is too soft and too easily damaged to be used as jewelry. In the United States, an alloy must be at least 92.5 percent fine silver to be marketed as "silver".How Is Sterling Silver Jewelry Finished?
Different silver jewelry items may be finished in different ways. For some items, the .925 sterling silver design is plated with a thin layer of .999 fine silver. This process is known as flashing, and it gives the item a shiny finish. Some factories will apply a plating of nickel or copper on the jewelry prior to applying the .999 silver plating.
Though this flashing method gives the jewelry a brighter, longer shelf life it does require re-plating if sized or machine buffed. Other silver items are rhodium plated, which again results in a bright, shiny finish. Other jewelry items may be gold plated or left un-plated depending on the design. Flashing or plating silver jewelry also helps reduce irritation or discoloration for customers with sensitive skin.How Can I Keep My Sterling Silver Items Looking Great?
Sterling silver is susceptible to tarnish - this is a natural reaction the metal has with chemicals in the air. Thankfully, preventative maintenance can help keep your sterling silver jewelry looking great for years to come. Frequent light polishing with a polishing cloth designed for sterling silver will help minimize tarnish. You can also wash your jewelry periodically with mild dish soap and warm water - be sure to rinse well and dry completely before putting your jewelry away.
You can minimize tarnish of items that are stored in a drawer or jewelry box by using desiccated silica gel, granules that absorb the humidity in the air. Covering the jewelry with Pacific Jeweler's Cloth (available at most fabric stores) will also help minimize tarnish. When storing silver jewelry items, keeping them in sealed polyethylene bags will help reduce tarnish as well.
Tarnish can be easily removed when first noticed. However, if left untreated, the color of the tarnish will darken and will become more difficult to remove, requiring professional cleaning.
It is also important to avoid exposing sterling silver jewelry to harsh chemicals like chlorine, cosmetics, hair spray, and perfume, and to avoid extended exposure to direct sunlight.Create an anti-tarnish/tarnish resistant storage environment for silver:
Use 1 or 2 of the ideas below for storage. All are inexpensive, easily available on the Internet, from a local jeweler, hobby shop and even free. Also all are safe and do not emit fumes, gases or vapors.Tarnish absorbing cloths
Pacific Silver Cloth (Pacific Cloth) or a Silver Tarnish Inhibiting Cloths are great to wrap jewelry in before storing or lay the cloths inside box with jewelry on top or next to the cloth. These cloths have minute particles of silver to attract the sulfur to the cloth. It will become saturated with the sulfur so you will need to change them but, some versions last up to 40 years depending on the amount of silver in the cloth.Anti-tarnish Strips
Hagerty Silver Strips or 3M Anti-Tarnish Strips absorb the sulfuric gases that cause tarnish. These are safe economical way to stay tarnish free. They are paper strips that contain activated charcoal that absorbs the gases. You can just lay them within a drawer or cut them up for compartments or smaller drawers. Jewelry does not need to be laid on them just placed in the drawer. These strips last at least 6 months and you can label/date them so you know when to replace them. You can find them online, at jewelry stores and even hardware stores. A box is roughly $8 - $12 for a pk. of 8. Not bad, huh?Silica Gel granules.
Do not throw away those little packs of that come in your jewelry box,new purse,shoes or medicine bottles! These absorb moisture in the air and retard tarnish. Add one to each drawer to help keep the jewelry box interior dry. Lack of air movement can cause a moist environment. This is why the gel packs are in leather products and more when you purchase them. Since we all throw them away and they come with most everything, you're sure to have quite a few around to save. Store them sealed in a plastic bag and keep them in a dark cool place for future use. This will keep them from absorbing moisture before you need them. Change them every few months. A must in humid climates.Chalk
Even standard blackboard or sidewalk chalk can be used in a jewelry box. It has amazing absorption qualities and a little piece will work for months to control moisture/humidity.