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Sterling Silver Jewelry Care Guide

Sterling silver jewelry is a beautiful addition to any outfit, but it requires special care to maintain its shine and luster. Sterling silver is a popular metal for jewelry because it is durable, beautiful, and relatively affordable. However, it can tarnish and become dull over time if not properly cared for. In this article, we will discuss what is the sterling silver alloy, its peculiarities, and provide some care routines for sterling silver jewelry that can help keep it looking beautiful for years to come.

What is sterling silver?

Sterling silver is a popular metal alloy used for jewelry, flatware, and other decorative items. It is made up of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, predominantly copper. The reason for this combination is that pure silver is too soft for practical use in jewelry and other items, so the addition of copper or other metals makes the alloy stronger and more durable.

The name "sterling" comes from the currency of medieval England, where it was used as a standard for the purity of silver coins. Today, sterling silver is a popular choice for jewelry makers because of its beauty, affordability, and durability. It has a distinctive bright, shiny appearance and can be polished to a high sheen.

Can sterling silver tarnish?

Sterling silver jewelry can tarnish over time due to exposure to air and moisture. Tarnish appears as a dull or dark coating on the surface of the silver and can be caused by a variety of factors, including exposure to chemical or acidic substances such as many of the skin oils, lotions, hand sanitizers, chlorinated or salt water.

When sterling silver is exposed to air and moisture, it undergoes a chemical reaction that causes copper in the sterling silver alloy to oxidize, resulting in the tarnish. However, there are many ways to prevent or remove tarnish from sterling silver jewelry, some of which are discussed in 'Sterling Silver Jewelry Care Routines' section of this article.

Can sterling silver rings leave green marks?

Green fingers is an occasional problem that some people may experience when wearing sterling silver rings. This is caused by a reaction between copper in the sterling silver alloy and the acids and oils in the wearer's skin. The reaction can cause a greenish discoloration on the skin, as well as on the ring itself.

Typically, a green finger is caused by applying an acidic product such as skin cream or hand sanitizer prior to wearing the ring. It is highly recommended to remove all of your sterling silver rings prior to washing your hands or applying skincare products. Dry your hands thoroughly afterwards before putting your silver jewelry back on. However, some people may also have naturally acidic skin that can cause oxidation in sterling silver and leave a faint mark on their finger. 

While getting green finger mark can be nasty at times, it is not permanent or hazardous to your health. It is also not an issue that should be regularly experienced with a sterling silver ring, with most instances of green finger happening due to exposure to a chemical product or only within the first few wears.

To prevent tarnish buildup and getting green finger marks from your jewelry, follow the sterling silver care routines listed below.

Sterling silver jewelry care routines

Store your jewelry properly: The first step in caring for your sterling silver jewelry is to store it properly. Sterling silver is prone to tarnishing when exposed to air and moisture, so it is important to keep it in a dry, cool place. Store your jewelry in a soft cloth or jewelry box with anti-tarnish properties. Avoid storing it in plastic bags or containers, as these can trap moisture and cause tarnishing.

Clean your jewelry regularly: Regular cleaning is essential for maintaining the shine and luster of your sterling silver jewelry. Use a soft cloth or a special polishing cloth designed for sterling silver to gently wipe away any dirt, grime, or tarnish that has accumulated on the surface. Avoid using abrasive materials, such as toothpaste or baking soda, as these can scratch the metal and damage the finish.

Use a silver cleaner: If your sterling silver jewelry is heavily tarnished or dirty, you can use a silver cleaner to restore its shine. Choose a cleaner specifically designed for sterling silver and follow the instructions carefully. Most silver cleaners require you to soak the jewelry in the solution for a certain amount of time, then rinse it thoroughly and dry it with a soft cloth.

Avoid exposure to chemicals and moisture: Chemicals such as chlorine, bleach, and ammonia can damage sterling silver jewelry, so it is important to avoid exposing your jewelry to these substances. Remove your jewelry before swimming in a pool or hot tub, avoid wearing it while cleaning with harsh chemicals, or doing activities that could cause excessive sweating.

Wear your jewelry often: Believe it or not, wearing your sterling silver jewelry can actually help keep it looking beautiful. The natural oils in your skin can help prevent tarnishing and keep the metal shiny. However, avoid wearing your jewelry when doing activities that could scratch or damage it, such as sports or heavy manual labor.

Control the shine: Sterling silver, composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, possesses natural self-oxidizing properties. The appearance and texture of this material can be controlled and preserved by adjusting the frequency and intensity of polishing of your piece. While all sterling silver items are initially made and delivered polished to a shine, regular use or open air storage will result in a gradual dulling of their luster. To maintain a glossy silver finish for your jewelry, we advise regular polishing. Conversely, for a deeper, more aged appearance, occasional light polishing is recommended to only eliminate any accumulated grime or discoloration.

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