A few things about Sterling Silver & Silver Plated
Knowing a few industry terms will help you understand the physical attributes of your jewelry and how to care for it. The purity of the metal, for instance, determines how malleable the silver is and how quickly it will tarnish .950 sterling silver will bend more easily and tarnish more quickly than .925 sterling silver because of its increased purity, so extra caution should be used to take care of .950 silver jewelry.
Silver plated, also known as rhodium plating, is a process that coats a fine layer of rhodium over silver to increase their durability and shine. The main problem with silver jewelry they are getting tarnished and scratches. Rhodium plating provides protection and prevent tarnish and scratches.
“Oxidized” is another term used to describe silver. For some works silversmiths intentionally allow parts of the jewelry to darken and oxidize, typically small details, to make them stand out more. This detailing can be lost, though, with excessive cleaning and polishing. So be sure to identify any purposefully oxidized jewelry you have and set them aside for separate cleaning.
Taking the time to keep your jewelry clean after wearing can significantly reduce tarnish:
Perfumes: Be sure any perfume or lotions are completely absorbed into skin.
Hair Products: Apply all hair products before putting on jewelry.
Swimming: Remove all jewelry before swimming or getting into hot tubs.
No Sunlight: Store away from heat, direct sunlight, window sills and vents.
Not In Cars: Don't leave jewelry in cars.
Bedtime: Take off all jewelry before bed.
No Tissue: Never use tissue or paper towel to clean silver.
Simply polishing your silver with cotton towel works well when the tarnishing is not too severe. It’s also the best method for cleaning oxidized silver, as you can stay away from the intentionally tarnished areas.
Silver is soft and can become scratched easily. You can use a special silver cloth to polish your items, but a lint-free flannel, microfiber, or other soft nonabrasive cloth will do as well. Do not use paper towels or tissues to polish your jewelry as they contain fibers that can scratch the silver.
When polishing, use long back-and-forth motions that mirror the grain of the silver. Do not rub in circles, as this will magnify any tiny scratches. Also, change to a different section of your cloth frequently to avoid placing tarnish back on the silver. You can use a Q-tip to get into small, detailed areas.
Be careful with rhodium-plated items, as excessive polishing can remove the plating.
Homemade Silver Cleaner
Soap and water: Warm water and a mild, ammonia- and phosphate-free dishwashing soap should be your first line of defense if the polishing cloth fails to remove tarnish. Soap and water should also be used to clean your pieces before using any of the methods listed below.
Olive oil and lemon juice: Mix 1/2 cup lemon juice with 1 tsp. olive oil in a bowl large enough to hold the cleaning solution and a small microfiber cloth.
Dip the cloth in the solution and wring it out so that it doesn’t drip, then polish the silver, rinse, and dry.
Combination: If your pieces have very stubborn tarnish, you can use these treatments in succession to get them looking shiny again.
NOTE: Never use any chemicals on your rhodium items. Never use toothpaste and never brush with a toothbrush.