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How to care for your sterling silver jewellery ?

February 03, 2021

How to care for your sterling silver jewellery ? - Lulu + Belle Jewellery

What is sterling silver ? 

Sterling silver is a much loved, stylish material to choose for your jewellery and sterling silver jewellery will last for many years with a little care. At Lulu + Belle we use high quality sterling silver .925 and tarnish resistant .935 argentium silver in our pieces. Sterling silver is a precious metal with a beautiful lustre when polished, which makes it a great option for sterling silver necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pendants.

It is known that all sterling silver will tarnish to some degree over time, eventually losing its shine and lustre. No one wants to see a precious piece of jewellery looking dull, so keep your sterling silver jewellery looking its very best by following our sterling silver care guide.  Even if your favourite piece of jewellery does become tarnished, it is easy to bring it back to new at home, with a simple clean and polish.

Fine silver or silver with close to 99.9% purity, is too soft for use in the making of long-lasting jewellery. To make it stronger and more durable, silver is mixed with copper to strengthen the precious metal. This silver alloy is called sterling silver and is generally about 92.5 % pure silver with 7.5 % other metals that make up the alloy.

At Lulu + Belle we also use argentium silver or .935 silver in our pieces.  This is an 'alloy' or mixture of metals which has a high content of pure silver mixed with a small amount of germanium. This makes it a very fine form of silver and gives it some very beneficial qualities in the making of silver jewellery.  It has no copper in the alloy which makes it more tarnish resistant and gives it a brighter, white finish when polished.  Check out our full post on argentium and why we use it here

A little history of sterling silver !

The name sterling silver most likely comes from a type of silver coin that was originally made by Britain's King Henry II, due to its steady value and durability. It is believed the coins, at 92.5 % purity, were known as "Easterling coins." This name was eventually shortened from Easterling to just sterling.

What makes sterling silver tarnish?

Tarnish on sterling silver occurs when oxygen or sulphur reacts with the copper in the silver alloy.  This chemical reaction causes a black coating to form on the silver. Sterling silver will tarnish more quickly in places where there is high humidity and air pollution. 

What does tarnish look like?

The early stages of tarnish can look like a yellow to brown discolouration on silver jewellery. Eventually as tarnish develops, it will look like a black film on the jewellery.

What impacts the speed at which a piece of sterling silver jewellery tarnishes?

The rate of tarnish will depend on a number of factors, including what the jewellery comes in contact with. Some things that will speed up the rate of tarnish are household chemicals, everyday items containing sulfur such as eggs, wool and latex and tarnish can even be caused by the body chemistry of the wearer. Chlorine is also known to cause rapid tarnish of sterling silver and a piece of jewellery worn in a swimming pool or hot tub can become very tarnished within just a few hours.  

How do I care for my sterling silver jewellery?

  • Keep your jewellery clean: Clean your jewellery with a soft polishing cloth after wearing it. Cleaning your jewellery will avoid a build-up of oils from you skin which could contribute to your jewellery tarnishing more quickly.
  • Keep your piece dry: Humidity and moisture will cause your piece to tarnish over time. Store your silver jewellery in a cool dry place. Avoid wearing your piece swimming or in the shower – if you do shower with your jewellery on, make sure that you completely dry the piece afterwards.
  • Chemicals and silver: Hand creams, lotions, perfumes, make-up and even hairspray can cause your jewellery to tarnish. Make sure your jewellery is the last thing you put on when you are getting ready and the first thing you take off at night.
  • Handling your jewellery: Some everyday items such as fish, shellfish, eggs or onions have a high sulphur content, which could cause silver to tarnish. Always wash your hands after cooking before handling your jewellery to avoid transfer of the sulphur. 
  • Avoid wearing your jewellery at the beach – the salt water is very harsh on silver jewellery and sand could also scratch your piece, so avoid wearing your jewellery on beach days. 

How to store your silver jewellery to avoid tarnish:

  • Sterling silver tarnishes quicker when it is exposed to humidity and air pollution. It’s best to store each piece of silver jewellery in a separate air-tight bag when you’re not wearing it.
  • Always make sure the jewellery is completely clean and most importantly dry, before storing it.
  • Using an anti-tarnish strip or a little silica gel bag when storing your silver which will help keep moisture away
  • Avoid storing your jewellery in direct sunlight as continuous exposure to sun can speed up tarnish
  • Wear your jewellery, silver is more likely to tarnish if it isn’t worn, so that’s a great excuse to wear your favourite pieces every day!

How to clean silver jewellery and remove tarnish at home ? 

You can easily clean your sterling silver jewellery at home to remove any tarnish and bring it back to bright polish. It is easier to clean tarnish at the early stages so a little regular maintenance is recommended. 

Polishing cloth:

Use an anti-tarnish polishing cloth to remove light tarnish from your piece. Our favourite cloths are the sunshine brand polishing cloths.  The yellow cloth will remove tarnish build up on your piece while the blue cloths are great to give your piece a regular polish. 

Polishing creams:

If your piece has a little more tarnish build up or you need to clean a hard to reach area, you could use some polishing cream.  You can use these with a regular soft cloth or cotton bud to get into small nooks in your piece. 

Silver Dips: 

If your piece becomes very tarnished, silver dips are a very effective way of removing tarnish quickly.  Your jewellery is placed in a little basket and immersed in the dip solution.  Silver dip is particulary useful for cleaning chains which have lots of small links and are difficult to polish by hand. Follow the manufacturers guidelines carefully when using silver dip.  One of our favourite silver dips for home polishing are the town talk silver sparkle dip. 

With some regular care, sterling silver jewellery can last for many years.  Discover our range of sterling silver necklaces, bracelets and earrings


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