Silver is a soft metal in its pure form, too soft to be used for jewelry and other items, so it's mixed with other metals to make it more durable. A popular silver mixture, called an alloy, is known as sterling silver. The US Federal Trade Commission stipulates that jewelry sold in the US cannot be marked or described as silver, solid silver, sterling silver, sterling, or using the abbreviation Ster. unless it contains at least 92.5 percent pure silver. Copper is the most common metal used to round out the 7.5 percent alloy balance in sterling silver. It adds hardness to pure silver, but brings with it a tendency to tarnish - a darkening that occurs when sterling silver reacts with gases in the air or with other substances that it comes in contact with.
1) Keep your jewelry clean.
Clean your sterling silver jewelry with a jewelry cloth, soft 100% cotton cloth or flannel cloth. Remember silver is a very soft metal and you can scratch it if you aren't careful so don't rub it too briskly. Never use anything but a clean 100% cotton or a special sterling silver cleaning cloth or very soft bristle brush, like a babies tooth brush or a horsehair silver brush.
For light cleanings: To remove light dirt, fingerprints or makeup just use a small amount of mild liquid detergent to a 1/2 cup of warm water and rinse thoroughly with clean fresh water. (Remember, be careful because too harsh of a cleanser could damage the polish on the stones.) Dry it completely before storing it in an air tight zip lock bag. Then just polish it up with a soft cotton cloth, an old cotton t-shirt works well. Do not use the polishing cloth on your gemstones and do do not submerge jewelry with stones in liquid.
For more stubborn tarnish: Use a silver cream cleaner or a silver polish spray, we like Hagerty's Silversmith's Spray Polish or Wenol cream. Silver cleaners can damage gemstones like turquoise, so be sure to try and keep it off of your gemstones when cleaning your sterling silver.
If you wear your sterling silver jewelry regularly, your body oils help to keep the tarnishing down and cleaning to a minimum.
2) Be careful of chemicals
Remove your jewelry before using bleach, ammonia, chlorine, acetone, etc
3) Clean before storing and store in the proper manner
Storing your sterling silver in the open air and humidity for extended periods of time can cause it to tarnish quickly. Tarnish first appears as a golden hue on your sterling silver then quickly turns to black. This is a normal process that is caused by oxidization and moisture from air and believe it or not sunshine. To keep tarnish to a minimum it is advised that you store your jewelry pieces when not wearing them in a ziploc bag, which each piece is shipped in.
Avoid storing your sterling silver jewelry directly on wood surfaces, with other metals, like pennies, and rubber. These can all lead to tarnish and damage. Do not place in a card board box or on paper as they have sulfur producing compounds in them that increase the rate of oxidation.
5) Care of Vermeil:
Vermeil is an overlay of gold on sterling silver. This ensures a quality metal as opposed to base metals under your gold. Again, preventative care is the most important tool against tarnish so we always recommend keeping your jewelry in a sealed plastic bag or an air-tight jewelry box. The plating is sensitive to scratching and cleaning, so if you need to polish your jewelry use only a clean soft cloth. DO NOT use a silver polishing cloth as it will remove the gold overlay from the silver. If your jewelry has a water spot, spray Windex on a soft cloth and wipe the spot. For severe tarnish or cleaning, you can lightly use a gold polishing cloth, but repeated use will ruin the surface of the jewelry. Do not wear in the shower, pools or hot tubs.