Sterling Silver is a durable alloy of Silver. For a long period of time, it has been a material of choice for industrial instruments, silverware, stylish stationery, jewelry & personal accessories like cases for business cards.
It contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% weight of other metals, preferably copper, nickel, or zinc. Unlike pure silver, this alloy is stronger, malleable & less prone to rusting. Even though Sterling Silver is easier to maintain than Silver, it is prone to tarnish i.e. the discoloration of silver with a black layer due to exposure to moisture or water. In other words, Sterling Silver can get wet.
Can sterling silver get wet or should you Avoid Water and Moisture?
If you wear or use Sterling Silver on a daily basis, you cannot avoid its exposure to water or humidity. If you are not in the habit of removing silver jewelry before a swim or a shower, be ready to clean it afterward. More so, if it’s an outdoor swim during spring break.
Silverware and jewelry get exposed to water on a daily basis, especially if you do the household chores by hand. Chances are, you may be familiar with the black tarnish over sterling silver. The problem gets worse if the water is hard or chlorinated.
Business card cases, storage boxes, and pens are also prone to water contact. After all, they are touched by moist hands after business lunches. The same hands come in contact with silver goods at home and office.
Last but not the least, air moisture can tarnish silver easily. It is nearly impossible to avoid air. Even if summers are dry, other seasons will have enough moisture to affect your silver adversely.
How to maintain Sterling Silver or 925 silver?
First, try to limit contact with water. Do not wear them under a shower, at a pool, during hand-washes, or during chores. Additionally, you could avoid the contact of perfumes & deodorant with the silver. Sometimes, the exposure to water is limited, but subsequent exposure to sunlight can result in a tarnish anyway. Either way, water does play a role in the blackening of the silver.
Second, if they do get wet, dry the silver article immediately. For example, you can remove a ring or bracelet and pat it dry with a towel.
A dry napkin or handkerchief can be used for the same purpose. Do not clean the silver in a circular motion. Instead, you must use a gentle touch & clean it with a back & fourth action. Remember, the silver may require drying after the use of sanitizers.
This can be quite difficult though as jewelry has a lot of small parts. Using a heat source such as a hair dryer can help to dry these parts but it might be impossible to get everything dry.
Third, if the discoloration of silver becomes visible, do any of the following:
- Warm up some soft water and use it with soap to polish the silver. Tap water may have minerals or chemicals that act harshly upon silver. On the other hand, soft water from a water purifier can be safe. A bowl of warm water and a little soap can remove the tarnish & you can dry the silver immediately.
- If the soap is ineffective, replace it with a few drops of white vinegar and a pinch of baking soda. Do not add high quantities of vinegar or soda. A mild blend can be more effective than soap & it will not risk the silver to any damage. Let the mixture fizz before you soak the silver in it.
- Another option can be the use of lemon juice. It has acidic properties that remove the oxidized layer and leave the silver with a shining glow.
In all cases, you must dry the silver after polishing it. You might be wondering why the use of water is necessary for all 3 tips. Why is water being used to remove the tarnish, even when the silver was kept away from direct water contact?
The answer is simple, everyday water contains harmful elements but this water contains cleaning agents. Water acts as a base to clean the product, without risking your skin or your health. Abrasive cleaning agents may help you polish your silver, but they can be very bad for your skin or health.
If you live in a highly humid environment, the silver may require frequent polishing. In such weather, it is prudent to store the silver article properly. For example, you can store the silver jewelry or case in a dry box before sleeping.
This box may contain dehumidifying agents that are readily available in the market. You can also buy anti-tarnish strips and use them while storing the silver goods in a dark, cool environment. Some individuals may observe tarnishing in storage, as opposed to tarnishing by wearing the silver. These are rare cases when the body oils help protect the silver from moisture.
What if the Tarnish is Stubborn?
You need to get a second opinion from a reliable jeweler, silversmith or cleaning service. Make sure that they possess specialization in the maintenance of sterling silver. They have the tools & expertise to clean silver & they can tell you if the product needs replacement.
You maybe tempted to purchase a specialized cleaning solution, but these can be highly abrasive. In other words, the use of silver cleaning products requires a certain expertise that most consumers do not possess
Eventually, sterling silver is only as good as the nature of its use. If the consumer is aware of the causes and remedies of the tarnishing, she/he can increase the longevity of the product.
Otherwise, the tarnishing & the polishing can have a combined effect to lessen the durability of the sterling silver. The maintenance of silver can be simple, easy & hassle-free if you make the best of the aforesaid suggestions.
Sterling silver can last a long time if you take care of it. Part of this is not showering with it as it can’t handle water too well. It takes some dedication to remove it every time you swim or take a bath but it is worth it as your item will look nicer. It is a shame if it starts to tarnish or discolor. Cleaning it can help but avoiding problems altogether is the better option.