Going from old to new. Is it a time capsule? A miracle face cream? A new exercise technique? Ummmm….no. While all those would be great, today we’re discussing how to bring that dazzling sparkle back to your bright sterling silver jewelry so you can fall in love with the piece all over again!
First, a mini-lesson in silver.
- Why is silver so popular for jewelry?
Silver is commonly used in many jewelry designs due to its beautiful color, physical strength and malleability. This means that it can be made into different shapes and wires so it’s a perfect medium to use for the one-of-a-kind fine silver woven designs I make. Extracting silver is an expensive process however, so some people will use “silver plate” rather than sterling or fine silver.
- What’s the difference between Sterling or Fine silver and Silver plate?
‘Sterling’ silver is 92.5% pure silver (the remainder is normally copper) and ‘Fine’ silver is 99.9% pure silver. Silver plate however is the process of taking less expensive copper, brass or nickel wire and coating a layer of silver over top of it. The strength and malleability of the base metal remains and it saves cost. However, because it’s a coating, over time it will wear off causing the under metal to show through. In my designs, I only use sterling or fine silver. My goal is to make you a piece you can cherish for a lifetime.
How do I clean my Sterling or Fine silver piece?
Option 1: Use a standard polishing cloth for your piece. This is a great method for silver that’s been patina’d on purpose. It allows you to polish the brighter highlight areas without removing the darker contrast.
Option 2: Purchase a silver polish cream from the grocery store. This is useful if you have a smooth silver piece without any wires or a lot of detail. Application is quick. You use a sponge or rag to rub the polish into the piece. Rinse with warm soapy water and dry with a soft cloth. This application is not good for woven pieces however, because the polish won’t properly get into all the depth of the piece.
Option 3: Use and Ultrasonic cleaner. Using ultrasound waves and chemicals, an ultrasonic cleaning machine can remove foreign particles such as dirt, oil and tarnish. High-frequency waves, usually from 20-400 kHz, are sent to pull the unwanted particles off your piece, leaving everything clean and rid of all contaminants.
Option 4: Put your piece in a jewelry tumbler for 30 – 45 minutes. Tumblers use stainless steel shot and a rotating or vibrating action. This removes small amounts of silver, leaving your piece sparkling. It’s a safe cleaning method for both patina’d and bright pieces and can also be used with the stones in place. All my one-of-a-kind woven silver pieces go through this as the final step in production. Because they remove silver however, I would use this method as a treat rather than a more regular practice. If you’ve purchased a one-of-a-kind woven piece from me, I will be happy to give it a check and tumble for you once a year and return it to you at no charge!
Option 5: Use the 5 minute stove top method and a few standard household items that are detailed below. This is the quickest method for removing tarnish and grime but should not be used with pieces that are patina’d, as it may remove the finish
- Gather your tools: Baking Soda, Aluminum Foil, Toothbrush, Dishwashing liquid, Small saucepan.
- Take a piece of foil and fold it to fit into the bottom of your saucepan. It only needs to rest on the bottom; it doesn’t need to be fully lined.
- Put enough water in the pan to cover the jewelry you want to clean and drop in your piece. (you can do multiple pieces at one time)
- Bring the water to a simmer/low boil. You may need to use a spoon to press the foil back into the bottom of the pan as it starts to bubble.
- Sprinkle ¼ – ½ tsp. of baking soda directly over the piece and watch it fizz. The fizzing is the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the foil and will not harm your piece You will notice a ‘browning’ of the foil after several pieces have been cleaned- this is the tarnish that was on your piece! You can use this method for multiple pieces until the foil becomes “saturated” with tarnish.
- Wait 20-30 more seconds until the fizzing is done and remove your piece from the water (caution- hot!)
- Using a soft toothbrush and dishwashing liquid soap, gently brush your piece. This removes any baking soda residue.
- Set aside to air dry or use a micro-fiber or soft cloth to dry.
Wala- Your piece is sparkling clean!
So the next time you are looking at your silver jewelry and thinking “oh, this is a mess- I should throw it out” try cleaning it. You may decide to fall in love with it all over again!
Side note: Some gemstones do not react well with the cleaning methods suggested above (Opals, for example). Please make sure you know whether your stone is up to the task before cleaning!