Sterling silver jewellery, when new, carries a bright lustre that makes it among the most beautiful of all metals for jewellery, fine silverware, or other uses.
Unfortunately, especially under certain conditions, sterling silver’s shine fades fast and transforms beauty to tarnish.
This blog will explain the science behind sterling silver and how to keep it looking like brand new.
What Is Sterling Silver
Sterling silver is not pure silver, but an alloy. It contains, in most cases, 92.5 percent silver. The remainder comes from a combination of other metals like copper and/or zinc.
Metalsmiths add copper or zinc to silver for strength and resiliency. Pure silver is too soft for practical use in jewellery or silverware.
Why Does Sterling Silver Tarnish
What copper and zinc add is resiliency, and they take away in tarnish. Pure silver stoutly resists tarnishing. Zinc and copper, however, react to elements in the air, such as oxygen and sulphur. High humidity, air pollution, and common toiletries can accelerate the tarnishing process.
When these metals react with the surrounding environment, the sterling silver first loses its shine, and then it shows discolouration.
Tips on How to Protect Your Sterling Silver
Because sterling silver tarnishes so easily, a number of techniques and products are available to help prevent the process from happening.
Of course, if your sterling silver does tarnish, a number of different cleaning and polishing products can return the pieces to a new or near new look.
Keep Sterling Silver in Optimal Conditions
Sterling silver tarnishes due to chemical reactions to its environment, specifically from the air. Pieces made from sterling silver can also suffer discolouration in sunlight.
The best way to protect your sterling silver from tarnish lies in using a variety of products to shield it from the harmful effects of the air and the sun.
Using Bags to Protect Your Sterling Silver
Many people use a cheap, but effective solution to protect their sterling silver. They place items in resealable clear plastic food bags.
These bags provide several advantages. First, they are versatile. You can purchase small sandwich bags for fine jewellery, medium-sized bags for silverware and small serving pieces, and large bags for lots of silverware or special pieces, such as platters or plates.
Second, they are airtight. For the most effective protection against airborne tarnishing agents, you should purchase name brand freezer bags. These will provide an airtight seal that ensures safe storage.
Some, however, find food storage bags inconvenient. They may find that a number of bags look trashy or is awkward to put into storage. For a somewhat larger expense, you can use specialised jewellery bags. These have the added convenience of being opaque, preventing light from potentially discolouring the surface of your silverware or jewellery.
Any level of humidity in the air will speed up the natural chemical reactions between sterling silver and the surrounding air. Experts suggest a variety of substances that can help to dry the air and protect your sterling silver.
First, chalk provides an inexpensive way to draw humidity out of the air. Chalk can also absorb harmful chemicals from the air as well.
Silica packs can perform many of the same functions as chalk in pulling chemicals and humidity from the air. You can use any packs that come with items that need to remain dry, such as new shoes.
For full peace of mind, you can also purchase specialised anti-tarnish strips specifically designed to protect your sterling silver pieces.
Regular Treatment With Anti-Tarnish Cloths
Despite your best efforts, sterling silver may tarnish anyway, but much more slowly. To keep your silver in top looking condition, wipe every once in a while with anti-tarnish wipes. These remove blemishes before they start to require “elbow grease” to scrub off.
For More Solid Protection, Store in a Container
Experts also recommend that sterling silver be kept in a solid container. You can buy special cases for jewellery or silverware that range from inexpensive to pricey. Some may protect the silver on their own, while others will require extra layers to keep the silver in its shine.
This may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to keep sterling silver in its finest condition is with regular use.
Most people think that using their fine sterling silver only on special occasions will keep it in prime shape, but they are mistaken.
The action of wearing sterling silver jewellery or using fine silverware rubs any emerging tarnish from the surface. Post use cleaning also will ensure that tarnishing compounds get rubbed away.
Do Not Wear Sterling Silver Jewellery into Harsh Environments
In the case of sterling silver jewellery, however, make sure to wipe it down and store it promptly after use. Also, never wear sterling silver jewellery into hot tubs or swimming pools due to their harsh chemicals. Some also advise not to wear sterling silver into the ocean either.
Keep Away From Wood and Chemically Treated Products.
Wood and other chemically treated products can dull and discolour silver. They often contain compounds that react with copper and zinc, rendering the surface discoloured. Even naturally coloured wood will likely be treated with substances to prevent rot.
Newspaper and Rubber Bands Can Also Discolour Sterling Silver
Two substances that people constantly turn to when storing sterling silver are newspaper and rubber bands. You should use neither. Newsprint contains large numbers of chemicals from those used to make the paper itself to the ink printed on the page. None of these benefit the look of sterling silver, even though some believe that it will prevent scratching.
You should also avoid the use of rubber bands. Again, chemicals in their makeup can make sterling silver tarnish even worse.
Reach out today to see our wide selection of beautiful fine sterling silver jewellery. Mali Silver has a wide range of items at a reasonable cost that will beautifully adorn any woman. Check out our full selection today.