It can be incredibly frustrating to pull out your sterling silver flatware or a treasured piece of jewelry only to discover that the silver turned a copper color. This is a common issue with sterling silver because of the way that it is made, but you can prevent tarnish with proper care and cleaning of your items.
Silver Turned a Bronze Color
Pure silver pieces of jewelry are made of 99.9 percent silver with just traces of other elements. Unfortunately, silver is quite a soft metal, and pure silver is difficult to shape. This is one reason sterling silver is the preferred choice for silver flatware and jewelry items. In some cases, items are made of other materials and are simply plated in sterling silver.
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Sterling silver is 92.5 percent silver and is recognizable because the pieces are stamped with the number 925. The remaining 7.5 percent of the alloy is made of another metal, usually copper or zinc. Tarnish occurs when the metals react with oxygen and sulfur in the air, causing them to look discolored or dirty. While pure silver can become tarnished, copper and zinc tend to tarnish more easily, and this is why you may find that your sterling silver ring turned copper.
Prevent Sterling Silver Tarnish
There are some simple steps to take to keep your sterling silver tarnish-free. Wearing silver jewelry often actually helps to prevent corrosion and keeps the shine on the silver. Keep it out of direct sunlight whenever possible, as this can increase the rate of tarnish. When not in use, store silver in airtight bags in a cool and dry location. Consider using silica packs or anti-tarnish strips to further reduce the risk of tarnish.
Avoid allowing it to come in contact with chemicals that may increase tarnish. Some examples include household cleaners, rubber, chlorinated water and many beauty products, such as hair spray, makeup and many types of lotion.
For your jewelry pieces, this means that you should put on your jewelry after you have applied lotions and other products and take off rings before cleaning even if you plan to wear gloves for the task. Don't wear sterling silver in the shower or while swimming or soaking.
Clean and Restore Sterling Silver
After using or wearing a sterling silver piece, use a soft cloth to gently wipe it. In some cases, this is all you need to do before storing it. However, if you notice any sign of tarnish, be sure to clean it right away.
There are many commercial silver cleaners you can purchase and use to clean your silver by following the package instructions, or you can simply use some common ingredients you have in your home. Soap and water is an easy and effective way to clean your pieces. You can also make a paste with baking soda and water and use a cloth to apply the paste and gently scrub the silver.
Regular cleaning should keep your silver shiny, but if tarnish does build up, you can still clean and restore the silver. In a glass or container, combine 1/2 cup of vinegar with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Soak your jewelry in the mixture for up to three hours before rinsing and drying the silver. This mixture will foam, so it may be best to do this in a sink. Finally, wipe the pieces with a silver polish cloth before storing them.