Cleaning Silver Jewelry is Surprisingly Simple
If you're an independent jewelry retailer, you know how important it is to maintain a beautiful and lustrous appearance for every piece in your inventory. Silver requires a little more maintenance and cleaning than other metals used in jewelry making, but customers still seek out sterling silver jewelry because of its captivating shine and color, and because it offers the best value by far of all the precious metals used in jewelry making.
The good news is that it's very simple to keep sterling silver jewelry clean. It just requires a jewelry polishing cloth. The key is to take good care of the pieces and polish them on a consistent basis.
Silver Can Get Dirty and Tarnished from Handling and Everyday Wear
Silver jewelry gets dirty from wear and tear, or even from transport and handling when you’re displaying it to customers. Also, silver reacts to the oxygen and sulfur in the air- tarnish gradually occurs when sulfur becomes bound to the surface of silver.
Preventing and Limiting Tarnishing and Staining is the Best Approach
The best way to prevent tarnishing and maintain a piece's lustrous appearance is to keep silver jewelry in a sealed bag when it isn’t in use or being displayed. This limits its exposure to the oxygen and sulfur floating in the air. When placed in a sealed bag, silver jewelry must also be completely dry, because exposure to water can cause tarnishing as well.
Always Clean Silver Jewelry with a Polishing Cloth
The best option for cleaning silver jewelry is to use a jewelry cleaning cloth, which has two sheets:
- The inside layer, which contains special chemicals that will whiten silver jewelry and make it look like new; and
- The outer layer, which is used for for buffing.
Each cloth lasts for dozens of uses. Hand polishing silver is a great way to keep silver shiny, and will not damage its patina. If done on a consistent basis, hand polishing with a jewelry cleaning cloth is the only method needed to keep your inventory looking beautiful and new.
Need Serious Cleaning? Do What the Pros Do
If you have many pieces that were a bit neglected and require serious cleaning, then using you may need something faster, more thorough, and more efficient than a jewelry polishing cloth.
In these cases, consider using a jewelry ultrasonic cleaner. Ultrasonic cleaning requires two main components:
- a cleaning tank; and
- the cleaning solution
The cleaning tank emits high frequency sound waves which create a scrubbing action within the fluid. This method will rapidly remove contaminants from silver jewelry pieces without damaging the finish on the metal.
One word of caution when using ultrasonic jewelry cleaning: Some silver jewelry pieces that feature stones or inlays such as cubic zirconia, crystal, mother-of-pearl, onyx, turquoise, marcasite, and other materials may use glue to adhere those components to the cast silver finding. Immersing such jewelry pieces in an ultrasonic solution or any other liquid may dissolve the glue and make the stones fall off. Prong-set stones will not have this problem, but be careful when using ultrasonic cleaning with pieces that have embellishments that may be glued on. If unsure, try one or two pieces of similar type, style, and origin and inspect carefully before cleaning the rest of the batch in an ultrasonic solution.
Don’t Do Anything That Will Scratch or Damage Your Jewelry
It is highly recommended that you avoid using toothbrushes or any object with bristles to clean your silver jewelry. Silver is a very soft metal, and this will result in permanent scratches which will devalue your jewelry. It is also a bad idea to wash sterling silver jewelry with stainless steel jewelry. Washing them together will result in chemical reactions, resulting in sterling silver jewelry with black marks. Also, using soap that contains phosphate can turn your sterling silver jewelry brown. Overall, be very careful about using off-the-shelf, consumer-grade silver cleaning solutions as sometimes they can have unexpected effects and do more harm than good.
A Worthy Bit of Old-Fashioned Wisdom
There's an old adage in the medical community: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Surprisingly, this also applies to keeping sterling silver jewelry looking new and beautiful. With proper care using only an inexpensive jewelry polishing cloth, a well-constructed piece of silver jewelry will maintain its beauty and shine for decades.