Practical information about the care and maintenance of sterling silver.
Sterling silver is a metal alloy that consists of at least 92.5% silver and up to 7.5% of another metal, usually copper. Silver in itself is a soft metal and the additional metal alloy in sterling silver provides strength and durability. If you maintain it correctly, it can last a lifetime. But because sterling silver stains over time, proper maintenance is necessary. Sterling silver should never be worn in swimming pools because the chlorine and other chemicals will accelerate the development of dark stains. The minerals in lakes, seas and even the water in the shower can likewise cause stains. Furthermore, many kinds of skin care products like creams and oils as well as perfumes can affect the appearance of silver.
There are many different silver polishing products on the market, but the cheaper brands are usually fine and can be purchased in normal supermarkets. Never use any kind of brush to remove stains from silver jewelry, as this can cause scratch marks and scrape marks. A polishing cloth for silver and a little patience is all that is needed.
For more info about Silver jewellery maintenance please see below this page.
What is sterling silver?
925 sterling silver is an alloy of silver, which is a mixture of silver and other metals. The number 925 indicates that the material consists of at least 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. Silver is mixed with other metals to make it harder, as silver itself is a very soft material that in its pure form is not suitable for jewelry. It would too easily lose its shape and get marks and scratches. Therefore, you can think of 925 sterling silver as a quality mark that indicates both a high silver content and durability.
How to care for and clean your silver jewelry
Although 925 sterling silver is a durable material, you can extend the life of your jewelry even further with simple precautions. Because silver tarnishes over time, it is very important to care for it properly. There are many different brands of silver cleaner for jewelry. Usually the cheap brands are excellent and have the added advantage of being available in regular supermarkets. Never use any kind of brushes to remove tarnish from silver jewelry as they can cause scratches and scuffs. A silver polishing cloth and a little patience is all you need.
Gold-plated sterling silver
Many jewelry pieces are made of gold-plated sterling silver, which is silver with a thin gold coating. Because the gold plating is very thin, it is usually measured in Microns (μ), 1μ is 1/1000 mm. At Smyks, gold-plated silver parts are gold-plated with 1 - 1.5μ of 18 karat gold as standard, which provides a reasonably good durability. Gold-plated jewellery parts, like silver jewellery parts, silver cutlery, etc. can oxidize (get black and dark red spots), as gold plating in its basic form is porous on the surface and air can therefore penetrate. To prevent oxidation, you can coat/varnish the jewelry before use, which significantly extends its lifespan. However, once the damage is done, you can easily clean the jewelry with liquid silver cleaner, which removes the discoloration in seconds and usually makes the jewelry as good as new. If, on the other hand, there is direct wear and tear where the gold has worn off, you may want to consider having it gold-plated to make it as good as new. Note that it is not recommended to use silver polishing cloth on gold-plated jewelry as this can cause wear and tear.
Is sterling silver water resistant?
You should never wear your sterling silver jewelry in the swimming pool, as chlorine and other chemicals accelerate the dark stains (oxidation) that can occur on silver jewelry. What may be more surprising to many is that your jewelry can also tarnish from lake, ocean and even bath water. This has to do with the mineral composition of the water, which can cause unwanted tarnish on silver.
Be careful with creams and perfumes
You also need to be careful with the creams and oils you use on your skin. They can affect the appearance of silver jewelry, as can products such as hairspray and perfume. Therefore, wait until you have finished your daily morning routine before putting on your jewelry.
Ensure proper storage for sterling silver jewelry
When it comes to storing silver jewelry, avoid contact with wood. The natural oils and vapors of wood can cause silver to darken. Additionally, you should not store it in contact with other untreated metals or rubber. An easy tip to keep silver tarnish-free for longer is to place a small piece of chalk with your silver jewelry to absorb impurities in the air.
Avoid oxidation with airtight storage
It's also important to mention that sulphur is one of the worst enemies of sterling silver. Sulphur can be found everywhere, including in natural gas and even in sweat secreted from the skin. When sulphur comes into contact with the surface of silver, silver sulphide is created through a process known as oxidation. Silver sulphide is the black substance that appears as tarnish on silver jewelry. Sulfur is transported through the air, which is why you can protect your jewelry by storing it in an airtight container.
However, in many cases, this darkening process is also used deliberately for decorative purposes, for example to achieve an antique look. Please note that a special environmental permit is required to purchase oxidizing liquid. Alternatively, you can have Smyks oxidize your silver parts for an additional fee. Contact us for the options.
Silver darkening / Oxidization as a decorative element
Often the darkening process (oxidation) is very welcome as a decorative element. It is used consciously to give silver an antique or pitch black look. At Smyks.com we can oxidize purchased silver items before shipping, please contact us.