I’ve seen quite a few posts on some of the boards I belong lately regarding how to care for sterling silver and copper jewelry. If you don’t want to read it all, my big tip of the day: Worcestershire sauce is a miracle cleaner for copper. Really.
Here you go:
Sterling silver is a beautiful metal that will last for generations with proper care. To prevent tarnish, follow these tips:
Store your jewelry in a cool, dry place. Silver tarnishes when exposed to air, so it’s a good idea to keep your silver in airtight zip lock plastic bags or an airtight container when not in use. This will help to slow the tarnishing process and protect your jewelry from scratching.
Remove when cleaning, swimming and taking a shower. Always remove your jewelry before using any product that contains bleach, ammonia, alcohol, fingernail polish removers that contain acetone, and turpentine. Some of these can cause a breakdown in the metal alloys leaving the your jewelry beyond repair and dull or even pit the surface of your gemstones.
Remove when sleeping. Movement during sleep can also cause stress.
The best way to clean your jewelry is with a professional jewelry polishing cloth. The cloth is treated with cleaning chemicals and not only will the cloth last a long time, it will give you an amazing shine each and every time. Rub gently and a lengthwise motion and it will also shine the stones.
Silver polishing cloths are available at major supermarkets, hardware and jewelry stores.
Use a non-abrasive brand name liquid or paste silver polish to remove heavy tarnish. Rinse thoroughly with warm water to remove all traces of polish from your gemstones. Dry your jewelry before storing it in an airtight zip lock bag or container. Never use toothpaste as it is very abrasive.
Never dip any silver jewelry in ‘dip’ solutions or commercial cleaning solutions even though it may say that it is for silver jewelry. Dip cleaners will work the first few times, but after that, the silver jewelry may change color and will never look the same. Also stones and beads may be damaged by dip solutions.
If you find you need more than a polishing cloth, another simple way to clean your silver jewelry is to fill an aluminum pan with really hot (but not boiling) tap water. Add about 2 teaspoons of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir a bit. Add your jewelry and let soak for 10 minutes. Rinse and dry thoroughly. (Note: some dyed beads may lose their color when cleaned in this manner. Test first before cleaning the whole piece.)
Brass / Copper
Brass and copper components will patina over time. This is a natural occurrence. However, copper and brass are very simple to care for. While they do tarnish more quickly than sterling silver, they can be restored to their original shine easily. Methods for cleaning and shining copper and brass jewelry are:
Commercial copper/brass cleaner. Be sure that any stones in the jewelry can withstand the chemicals in the cleaner or do not use it.
Worcestershire sauce does a great job of cleaning copper and brass jewelry. This method should not be used with gemstones or pearls that cannot be cleaned with chemical cleaners, as the acid in the sauce may affect more delicate stones.
The acid in the tomato of the ketchup shines up copper and brass quite nicely. This method can be messier than the Worcestershire. Apply it with a toothbrush or soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly. Avoid getting ketchup on the same types of stones as should not be used with chemical cleaners.
As with sterling silver, copper and brass jewelry will tarnish more slowly if stored in an airtight zip lock plastic bag or jewelry case with anti-tarnish paper.
You can find my handmade artisan beaded and wire wrapped sterling silver jewelry at my online shop
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