How to Care for Your Sterling Silver Jewelry
Safe and easy jewelry cleaning and care can seem impossible to figure out for jewelry lovers everywhere.
Pinterest is flooded with blogs about how to clean your silver jewelry using baking soda and lemon juice, or toothpaste and aluminum foil...what?!
I'm excited to share with you how I recommend you maintain and clean your Third Hand Silversmith pieces, as well as how I clean my own sterling silver jewelry.
As a metalsmith, I wouldn't trust my own jewelry with these DIY experiments for a few reasons: They're difficult to measure accurately, and truly aren't as potent as the liquid jewelry cleaners they attempt to replace. More importantly, using these DIY cleaners on jewelry that have porous natural stones such as turquoise can destroy the beautiful stones your jewelry is made with. Although stones like turquoise are expected to become discolored over time due to body oils, soaps or lotions, and exposure to moisture, covering them in a bath of lemon juice and baking soda will likely destroy them instantly.
I promise you, there's an easier way. Keep your hands dry and your jewelry safe by forming daily habits that will extend the life and beauty of your silver jewelry, and learn what to do when you've neglected a piece for a little too long (no shade).
What to do every day:
Keep your jewelry dry
Moisture is the main reason why jewelry tarnishes or stones become dull or discolored. Store your jewelry in a dry place (no, not the side of the tub or bathroom counter), and remove each piece when you shower or wash your hands.
Get a jewelry box or organizer
Well, I own a lot of jewelry. I like to keep a few dedicated storage spaces around my apartment; in my bedroom, living room, and kitchen (oh yeah, take your rings off when you wash your dishes, too). This helps me know where my jewelry is so I know I'm not neglecting it.
Be careful with your stones
Much to my dismay, rocks aren't as hard as they look. They can last a lifetime or longer if treated with love and care, but you gotta know how to do it right. Avoid wearing stone-set jewelry when doing vigorous activities that may cause the stone to hit or brush up against something hard. Avoid exposing your stones to sweat, oils, lotions, and even water. Be sure to dry your stone gently and leave it somewhere airy to dry if you do get it wet.
Hotsprings often have small amounts of sulfur present. Sulfer is a natural oxidizing agent. I actually use liver of sulfur to intentionally darken many of my designs, but you may end up accidentally oxidizing your jewelry if you take it in the hotsprings to soak with you. Take a waterproof baggie to stash it, or leave it at home.
How to manually polish Sterling Silver:
You'll need a polishing cloth, fine grade steel wool, or a fine grit sanding pad. These Sunshine Cloths are highly recommended in the metalsmithing community, but I use the finest-grade steel wool I can find at the hardware store. The wool will provide a brushed metal look (this is typically what I prefer), and the polishing cloth will provide a shinier outcome.
I also love sandpaper polishing pads (I prefer 280 grade or finer) for removing tarnishing and achieving a brushed, matte finish! These are a little harder to come by, and considerably more expensive, but 3M and Rio Grande both sell 'em!
Quick Finish Guide:
Polishing cloth = shiny finish
Steel wool/brass brush = satin finish
Sanding pad/regular toothbrush = matte finish
Lightly brush the wool, polishing cloth, or sanding pad over the tarnished silver portions of your jewelry. Be very careful to avoid contact with stones.
Use only a small section of steel wool by folding over a large section many times. This will give you more control and give a more natural finish.
Brush a clean, dry toothbrush over your piece a few times after polishing with steel wool. It will remove any steel debris left behind and prevent rust-like specks.
Please Note: This method is only appropriate for non-plated silver jewelry. Silver plating is a thin coat of silver over a base metal such as copper or brass. Third Hand Silversmith uses only the solid form of each metal, like silver or brass. However, it can be difficult to tell with other jewelry, so tread very lightly and polish at your own risk. If you are not 100% comfortable polishing your own jewelry, bring it to a local jeweler in your area to ask for help!