How to Care for your Sterling Silver Jewelry
Hello! I'm excited to show you how to care for your Third Hand Silversmith pieces at home, using the same techniques I use to polish and maintain my own jewelry!
Buy a jewelry care kit here.
All sterling silver jewelry will develop a unique patina over time in response to its environment, the amount its worn, and the adventures you've taken it on. Your jewelry will look different than the day you bought it after a while, just like most wearables. I love to see how a piece of jewelry wears over time, as it becomes much more personal and even more unique. However, I do re-polish my pieces every once in a while to remove tarnish buildup and keep things looking fresh.
There are tons of recommendations online regarding jewelry care that involve ingredients like lemon juice, baking soda, and toothpaste...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 effective at removing tarnish as the liquid jewelry cleaners they attempt to replace. More importantly, using these DIY cleaners on jewelry with 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 quickly.
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 and tarnish has built up.
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 (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
I like to keep a few dedicated storage spaces around my house; 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. If I know I won't be wearing a statement piece for a while, I'll store it in a tarnish-proof pouch.
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 activities (hiking, yard work, etc) 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. Always be careful to avoid scratching your stones when polishing the silver parts of your jewelry.
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, polishing pad, or a fine-grit foam-backed sanding pad. Fine-grit steel wool will also work in a pinch!
- Polishing cloth/pad will leave a shiny finish
- Steel wool/brass brush will leave a satin finish
- Sanding pad will leave a matte brushed 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!
Buy a jewelry care kit here.