Caring for Streling Silver

 Caring for Sterling Silver

Coral Patterned Sterling Silver Ring. Available on Etsy (Designed by Anna Harper)

Caring for sterling silver can be easy. Most forms of Silver will tarnish over time. Wearing your jewelry will help keep it from tarnishing too quickly. Silver doesn’t tarnish if it’s polished regularly. When you wear it regularly, as it rubs against your skin is polished. When you take off your jewelry gently wipe it off with a soft cotton cloth and place it in an airtight resealable zipper bag, remove as much air as you can and seal. This will slow down the tarnishing process, plus keep it from getting scratched by hard stones when stored in a jewelry box. If you want to keep your jewelry looking its best and age well, keep reading.

Sterling Silver

Blended 92.5% fine silver with 7.5% copper creates sterling silver, and brings the hardness up to a 3 on the Mohs scale. Sterling silver is usually made with copper, though it is sometimes other metals such as nickel. And is the same strength as gold alloys. Yes, it’s just as durable as gold jewelry. Sterling silver is most commonly stamped .925, but sometimes it is stamped with the text, sterling or sterling silver.

There is a great deal of quality silver coming from Bali, Thailand, and Mexico; however, that silver should also be marked and identified with a quality stamp. Some are only described with the nation of origin. The name of the source country is no guarantee of quality or silver content on its own.

Argentium Silver

Argentium sterling is alloyed with a small amount of germanium; this produces a brighter whiter metal that looks closer to fine silver than traditional sterling. Argentium silver is also whiter than white gold, making it an excellent choice for setting colorless stones, such as diamonds, making them look their best. With 93.5% pure silver, Argentium meets the legal standard for sterling silver. All Argentium is made from reclaimed silver, guaranteed by Argentium International Ltd. This makes it an earth-friendly choice.  It can be age-hardened to make it more durable. It is also able to take a brighter, more long-lasting shine than other precious metals. It is a brighter-white than sterling silver, resists tarnish, everyday scratches and dents, and has a brilliant brighter shine. Argentium silver is rated 3 to 4 Hardness level Mohs Scale.

Though Argentium silver is slow to tarnish, and silversmiths who are more familiar Argentium can fuse without solder. However, it remains less popular than sterling silver for several reasons. The two biggest reasons are it is less readily available and is significantly more expensive than standard sterling. The third reason is difficult to distinguish from sterling once on the market because the quality stamp is still .925. Because it is trademarked, jewelers must go through an application process to receive authorization to use the Argentium(r) mark stamp. Each stamp includes a winged unicorn icon and a unique registration number, making the stamp large and impractical for many jewelry pieces.

Argentium sterling silver is an excellent affordable alternative to gold rings. Silver will give you a classic wedding ring style without the expensive price tag. And if you are looking to purchase a white gold ring, consider Argentium instead. It’s tarnish-resistant, a brighter white, and planet-friendly because it is reclaimed metal and will not require replated like most white gold.


Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that forms over copper, brass, aluminum, magnesium, neodymium, and other similar metals as their outermost layer undergo a chemical reaction. Tarnish does not always result from the sole effects of oxygen in the air. For example, Silver needs hydrogen sulfide to tarnish, although it may tarnish with oxygen over time. It often appears as a dull, gray, or black film or coating over metal. 


The effect of oxidizing pieces is different. Oxidation happens when silver jewelry is purposely exposed to air that contains sulfur. This compound, silver sulfide, creates blacked patches, which gives the Silver a dark black finish. Both oxidation and tarnish are surface phenomena and self-limiting. Unlike rust, only the top few layers of the metal react, and the layer of tarnish seals and protects the underlying layers from reacting.


It’s safe to clean most silver jewelry and antiques with an anti-tarnish polishing cloth as long as you take great care that it does not come in contact with a gemstone stone or that you rub off any areas that may have an oxidized, a patina, or a painted finish.


Lacquered pieces should only be wiped with a clean soft cotton cloth, damp with warm water only, rub very lightly or patted dry with a clean soft cotton cloth, gently dabbing any excess water from the stone. Never soak a lacquered piece. If they are yellowed or sticky to touch, it is time to take them to a professional who can safely remove the aged lacquer and restore its finish.

If your silver has no stones, special surface finishes, or anything extra that would react to soaking or heat, you can use a hands-free process to clean your Silver. Check out my care guide: The Non-toxic Way to Clean Your Sterling Silver Jewelry. 


You should never soak turquoise, opals, or other porous stones.

Antique and Vintage

For very old antique and vintage pieces with untreated stones, you can use a toothpick to carefully remove thick debris and dirt from the metal if you are careful not to touch the stone with them, they may scratch it. Many collectors will want to keep the natural patina; polishing can devalue a piece. If it is a piece of value, I highly advise taking it to a trained jeweler who can clean and repair it for you if needed.


‘Tarnish,’ Wikipedia:

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