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What exactly is sterling silver, and how do I care for it?


Sterling silver is an alloy that is at least 92.5 percent silver, and 7.5 percent consists of another metal – usually copper. Silver itself is a soft metal, and the added alloys in sterling silver will give the object strength and durability, and with proper care the piece can last a lifetime. But, since sterling silver does tarnish, proper care is very important. Not only should sterling silver never be worn in the swimming pool – chlorine and other chemicals will hasten the tarnishing – but also minerals in lakes, the ocean, and even your shower can cause sterling silver to tarnish. In fact, sometimes even skin oils can tarnish sterling silver.

There are many different brands of silver cleaner on the market, but many people find a mixture of baking soda and warm water will do the trick. Also, never use any kind of bristles to remove tarnish from your sterling silver jewelry, as they could cause scratching. A soft all-cotton or flannel rag is all you should use. When it comes to storing your sterling silver jewelry, do not lay it on bare wood, for the oils will increase the rate of tarnishing. Also, do not store your sterling silver next to other metals, or anything rubber. A small stick of chalkboard chalk next to your sterling silver pieces will help absorb impurities in the air, keeping your sterling silver tarnish-free for longer periods of time.

It’s important to mention here that sulfur is one of the worst enemies of sterling silver. Sulfur can be found just about anywhere, it’s an airborne pollutant, present in natural gas, and can even be found in the oils secreted from the skin. When sulfur adheres to the surface of sterling silver, silver sulfide is created – and that is the black substance that is most often referred to as tarnish. Though it is nearly impossible to give a blanket answer as to where the sulfur is coming from that is tarnishing your silver, as mentioned above, it is best to store sterling silver in an air-tight container.

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