We cherish our silver Jewellery – rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. Silver is bright, beautiful, and eye-catching. It’s the perfect metal to set off the sparkle of a diamond or contrast with a colorful ruby. But how can we keep it from getting tarnished? What should we look for when buying it? What’s the deal with plated Jewellery? And what is sterling silver, anyway?
If you’ve ever wondered about how to buy and care for silver Jewellery, here are a few things you need to know.
What is sterling silver? There are several grades of silver. Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver; it is generally too soft to use for everyday function. All silver used in Jewellery is in fact an alloy: a mix of silver and another metal. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% another metal. It is sometimes referred to as “925 silver.” Most sterling silver contains copper as the second metal.
What is “silver-plated”? Silver plating evolved in the nineteenth century as a way to make otherwise expensive silver items available to the masses. Silver plating involves fusing a very thin layer of silver over a layer of another metal. If a piece of Jewellery is silver plated, it will not have a sterling mark.
Silver plated Jewellery is less expensive than sterling silver. However, since silver is so soft, it can wear off over time with polishing or simple wear and tear. In general, it’s better to buy sterling silver than silver plated Jewellery.
What should I look for when buying silver? Look for the stamp. Most sterling silver Jewellery will have a small stamp that certifies it is sterling. Sterling silver is marked in a variety of ways; the mark might be “.925,” “ster,” “sterling,” or “sterling silver.” This will tell you that the metal is solid sterling silver and not plated. No matter what country you’re in when you’re shopping, look for a mark that indicates the piece is sterling.
Why does silver tarnish? Most Sterling silver is combined with copper. Since copper tarnishes over time, so does sterling silver. Silver Jewellery eventually acquires a light gold cast; then it may bronze or turn black. This definitely dulls the look of your Jewellery, and it can also stain your hands.
Is there any way to buy silver Jewellery that won’t tarnish? Some silver Jewellery is finished with rhodium. Rhodium is a metal found in the platinum family. It is also used to finish white gold, and it does not tarnish. If you buy a rhodium-finished piece, however, it will have a bright white color to it-not a more silvery gray. Some sterling silver has platinum as its alloy metal. This won’t tarnish either, although it will raise the price of the Jewellery. These are both good options if you like the bright white look of platinum, because it will be much less expensive than solid platinum.
How should I store my silver? The metals in sterling silver react with their environment by tarnishing. Even exposure to air, light, and water can hasten the tarnishing process. While you may not be able to keep sterling silver from ever tarnishing, you can slow the process down with proper storage.
Store silver Jewellery in a tarnish-resistant cloth. This cloth has been treated with materials that slow the tarnishing process. Never store silver Jewellery in a wooden box, as the acids in the wood can tarnish the silver. Since silver Jewellery is so soft, it’s best stored away from other Jewellery. This way, it won’t get scratched during storage. Some jewelers advocate storing your silver in separate plastic bags to keep them away from air and other Jewellery.
How can I remove the tarnish? It’s never good to polish silver too hard or too often. However, that’s exactly what you have to do in order to remove tarnish. To get around this, use an extremely gentle method of polishing. Avoid using toothpaste or baking soda, as these can scratch and wear down the metal. Most Jewellery stores sell polish that is specially formulated for silver. This can be applied gently with a soft cotton cloth. Be sure to read the label to ensure it’s safe for any gemstones in your Jewellery. There are also chemically treated cloths available that make polishing easier.
Silver is an attractive, affordable metal that’s perfect for all types of Jewellery. Buy the right silver, store it properly, and buff it to avoid tarnish, and it will stay beautiful for years to come.