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Handling Sterling Silver

These are important tips on how to maintain your silver jewelry by understanding its characteristic properties. Here you will find the answers to most of your questions on how to clean silver jewelry, liquid silver jewelry, and silver jewelry with gemstones. Although nothing can be perfect, but based on common experiences, here are some good tips:

(1) You must know that silver reacts with certain elements of the atmosphere. Sterling Silver tarnishes from the interaction of silver and sulfides in the air. So on exposure to air it will first tarnish to a golden hue, and eventually, it will turn the piece black. This is a natural process.

Consequently too much tarnishing will take place at places with higher sulfide levels which in turn are associated with humidity and/or air pollution. Therefore remember, the more humid the climate, the faster sterling will tarnish. On a summer day in Miami, Florida, all you have to do is walk out the door and the sterling soon starts turning black.

(2) Sterling silver will easily polish up by rubbing or buffing it with a soft cotton cloth. A chemically treated cloth, like a Sunshine Cloth, makes the job a lot easier and also faster.

(3) Sterling silver dips are fast and easy to use. However, be careful and keep a few tips in mind.

First, too many dips will take the color and polish off many gemstones. Secondly, when using a dip, if you leave the piece in too long, or don't rinse it well enough with fresh water, white residues will be left on the piece when it dries. This residue is difficult to rub or remove.

Hence whenever you use a silver dip, dip the piece quickly in and out of the dip. Then immediately rinse it thoroughly in clean water. When the piece dries, buff it with a soft cotton cloth or a Sunshine Cloth. The buffing brings out more of the shine, helps take off any residue left on the piece, and with a Sunshine Cloth, leaves a little bit of a protective anti-tarnish coating on the piece to keep it shiny longer.

When using a dip, it is better to do a quick dip, rinse and dry and then repeat the process, rather than leaving the piece in the solution for a long time. However any dip, however is a last resort. Trying to buff the piece would have been a cumbersome task.

(4) A Tarnish Shield, or similar lacquer shield, helps to keep the piece of jewelry shiny until the tarnish wears off. But this rarely used except by jewelers who have a lot of items and jewelry that has to be on display for a long time, such as when they are selling their pieces at an arts and crafts fair.

This has a lot of disadvantages as well. Pieces that have been lacquered don't age well, until all the lacquer has worn off. In spots where the lacquer has loosened from the sterling, but not worn off, the silver will tarnish, but you won't be able to buff it. If however you try to use a dip to clean a piece that has a tarnish shield, very often the dip will get under parts of the lacquer, leaving a residue, wherever the lacquer is beginning to wear off.

If the piece is a chain, or a filigree work, the lacquer will form a film within the openings and cracks. This obviously will make the piece ugly and it will no longer be of any value.

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