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How to Clean Silver Jewelry Safely

Posted by Charmed by Heather on April 22, 2011 at 12:05 PM

Sterling silver is made up of 92.5% pure silver and 7% copper; that is why it is often referred to as .925.  The .925 silver is the common standard for silver jewelry.  Copper is added to silver to make the metal stronger.


Fine silver has recently become a jewelry trend with the arrival of PMC or precious metal clays.  PMC is an organic clay mixture that has been mixed with recycled silver molecules that are usually captured from chemicals used in manufacturing and photo processing.  After it is mixed with the clay, artists can sculpt and form it into any shape they desire.  Then they use a torch or kiln to fire off the clay and fuse the silver molecules into the shape of the melded clay piece.  They polish it up and the remaining result is a bright shiny piece of nearly pure silver, .999 or 99.9% pure, to be exact.  Pure silver is very soft and can be easily scratched, although it will not tarnish or at least not nearly as quickly as sterling will.  Over time, sterling silver jewelry will tarnish because of the copper.

Some people are fond of the antiqued look and it looks great on certain pieces, bringing out highlights and details.  Others will want to keep their jewelry bright and shiny. While polishing silver is probably not much of a mystery, silver with certain stones and definitely silver that encases your precious family photographs might present a problem so I’m going to share my polishing secrets with you.


The simplest way to clean your photo jewelry (or any jewelry for that matter) is to polish it regularly with a soft cloth or a silver polishing cloth.  I highly recommend this method for jewelry with stones such as turquoise, coral, lapis, or any other porous stones.

To clean your regular sterling pieces without stones or photos try this all natural method with ingredients right out of your own kitchen.

 You will need:



*aluminum foil

*a little bowl or jar

*a soft cloth, I use a piece of cut up t-shirt

Put enough hot water in the jar to cover the piece ofjewelry you are cleaning.  Add a couple of tablespoons of salt to the jar and stir until it dissolves.  Add a few strips of aluminum foil to themixture and drop the jewelry into the water. Let this sit for about 5-10 minutes, then rinse the jewelry and polish it with your cloth.  This chemical mixture creates an electrolytic cell: the silver and the aluminum serve as the cathode and anode, and the salt ferries electrons back and forth removing the tarnish. Repeat the process until all of the tarnish has been removed.  Make sure that your jewelry is completely drybefore storing it.

Although our photo jewelry is water-proof, I do not recommend this method for cleaning photo jewelry because I’m just not sure how the resin will react to the salt and if there is any gap at all in the seam between the resin and silver you could get a little moisture seeping into the piece if you soak it for several minutes.

Do not use tooth paste or baking soda to clean your silver. Silver is a soft metal and the abrasives in either of those will scratch and dull your pieces.

Areas that are high in pollution, near a water source, or heated by gas (which can cause condensation), cause your jewelry to tarnish more quickly.  To protect your jewelry,wipe it clean after each use and store it in an air tight bag or plastic container.  Do not keep your jewelry in your bathroom where it can be exposed to moisture on a daily basis.  If using hairspray, lotions, or perfumes, apply before putting on your jewelry.



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