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The name sterling silver most likely comes from a type of silver coin that was originally made by Britain's King Henry II, due to its steady value and durability.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?
How to store your silver jewellery to avoid tarnish:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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We are looking for a part-time jewellery maker to join our small team, on a part-time basis. The ideal candidate is someone who has goldsmithing experience, either in a commercial or home based workshop and is used to having tools in their hand every day. This is a busy and fast-paced workshop and speed and attention to detail are required.