A beautiful piece of silver jewelry may remain forever untarnished in your memory, but reality isn’t always so kind. Exposure to a number of factors–including sulfur compounds in the air, moisture, salt, body oils, and other metals–can speed sterling silver’s natural tarnishing process, turning a beautiful piece of jewelry from silver to black. Even contact with wool, newsprint, or rubber (including latex gloves) can tarnish silver more quickly.
The good news is that minimal care when you wear it, paired with careful storage, and you’ll be able to keep your silver jewelry safe from tarnish. Keeping your silver jewelry forever bright starts with when you put it on, and where you put it when you take it off.
Practice a “last on, first off” policy.
Your silver jewelry should be the last thing you put on, after you’ve applied any cosmetics (including hairspray, lotion, or perfume). Take your jewelry off (and store it) before you apply makeup remover, or other cleansers, at the end of the day.
A few more hazards to watch out for: Never wear silver jewelry in the shower, swimming pool, or hot tub, and never wash it with regular soap, which can dull its luster. You’ll also want to keep your silver away from food and drinks as much as possible, and don’t leave it on wooden surfaces, which are often treated with chemicals that will tarnish silver.
Dry your silver jewelry carefully.
Use a soft, clean, nub-free cotton cloth before you put it away. This removes not just moisture but also body oils that may tarnish the silver over time. Never use paper towels or tissues to clean your jewelry; they may contain wood fibers that can scratch silver.
For sentimental heirlooms, wrap each piece of silver jewelry individually.Use acid-free, archival-quality tissue paper or an anti-tarnish cloth. (The acids in non-archival-quality paper or cardboard can cause your silver to tarnish quickly.) Wrapping the pieces individually cuts down on their exposure to the air and contact with other metals–both factors that can encourage tarnish–and also reduces the risk of your silver being scratched or marred by another piece of jewelry. To safely wrap a delicate silver chain, lay the chain out on an anti-tarnish cloth or acid-free tissue paper. Roll the cloth or paper into a “log” from one end, then coil the “log” into a spiral.
Store your silver in a jewelry drawer or compartment lined with anti-tarnish cloth.For the sentimental silver jewelry, seal each wrapped piece inside a polyethylene or Mylar bag. You can purchase specially made bags or boxes, but many silver experts recommend small Ziploc® bags for this use. Steer clear of polyvinyl and other plastics that contain sulfur compounds, which encourage tarnish. Squeeze air out of the bag, from the bottom up, as you close it.
Don’t rubber-band the bags together, or even store rubber bands in your jewelry safe; as they age, they release sulfur and speed tarnishing.
For added protection, include anti-tarnish strips in your jewelry safes silver compartment.Alternately, silica drying packets or activated charcoal packs can cut down on moisture within your jewelry safe drawers. Just keep in mind that some gemstones, such as pearls and opals, actually benefit from the moisture in air; these should be stored separately from your silver jewelry. Because moisture and sunlight both promote silver tarnish, the best place for your silver is out of direct sunlight and away from excessive humidity.
Finally: silver is soft, so it can scratch easily when you try to clean it. If your silver does get tarnished, use a soft, clean, all-cotton cloth and a few drops of mild (non-lemon-scented, phosphate-free) dish washing detergent in lukewarm water to remove the tarnish–then polish the silver to a shine with a polishing cloth designed specifically for silver. If you can’t get the tarnish off a piece of silver jewelry yourself, it’s time to take it to a silversmith for professional cleaning.
The above practices will ensure any treasured heirloom remains in the same exquisite state as the day it became a part of your collection. At Brown Safe, all of our jewelry safes feature fully configurable luxurious hardwood chests that provide the optimum environment for jewelry collections of all types and sizes. Follow this link to view our luxury lineup of Jewelry Safe offerings.