How to Prevent Tarnish on Sterling Silver Jewelry

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The sterling silver jewelry you wear often is hard enough to keep untarnished. But go to your jewelry box to find just the right piece to wear with your new dress, and you're likely to find that all of the pieces there are badly in need of cleaning. Tarnish not only affects the way stering jewelry looks, it can corrode the pieces over time. Here are a few thinks to think about that will keep your sterling silver jewelry in like-new condition.

  • Read up on why sterling silver tarnishes. Tarnish is nothing more than corrosion at the silver pieces experience oxidation. It is akin to rust, although it happens more slowly and it is caused by sulfur and other chemicals in the air. It creates dark grey, or if not cleaned frequently, black substance that permeates the metal.

  • Stay away from areas that get a lot of sun or where it is excessively humid and do not store your sterling jewelry on a wooden counter because it might contain chemicals that will hasten tarnish.

  • Find a container to store your sterling silver jewelry. One that reduces the air is desireable because it will slow down the corrosion. Zippered plastic bags are great to use because they keep the air out and they are free from abrasives, but stay away from bags made of PVC because they contain chemicals that will speed up the corrosive process. For a bit more money, you can find containers at jewelry stores that are made especially for sterling silver jewelry.

  • Place chalk into your container of sterling silver jewelry, because it will help absorb corrosive chemicals found in the air. You can also find special cloths at jewelry stores that are chemically treated and contain a small amount of silver to attract corrosive chemicals, including sulfur, that are found in the air. Finally, shoe boxes and bottles of pills often contain packs of silica to help absorb moisture. Rather than throw them out, put them into the container of your sterling silver jewelry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Try this if your sterling silver jewelry is still tarnished. Line the bottom of a dish with aluminum foil. Boil a quart of water, add ¼ cup of baking soda, then pour that liquid over your pieces until they are covered. The tarnish will begin immediately to disappear. Silver that has a lot of tarnish will take longer and you might have to heat more water. When the tarnish totally disappears, wipe the pieces gently with a non-abrasive cloth.
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