How To Care For Your Silver Jewels
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How To Care For Your Silver Jewels

How to care for silver jewels and how to avoid tarnishing them.

                                                                                         Silver and its alloys

Silver, like gold, is a weak metal, which means that it is difficult to keep its shape. With a Mohs hardness scale of 3.25, pure silver is soft and easily damaged. It is commonly combined (alloyed) with copper to produce the more sturdy material to stand up to the task of molding in jewelry making. This is why sterling silver was invented in the Middle Ages. The standard has changed little since then.

Sterling Silver conforms to the legally enforceable standard Sterling 925 adopted by Gorham and Tiffany in 1850. The standard means 925 parts out of 1000 parts or 92.5 % pure silver content as the minimum. Sterling Silver is manufactured using 92.5 % pure silver alloyed with 7.5 % copper. Sterling silver is usually identified by the numbers 925 stamped into it. Sterling silver contains no nickel, so people with nickel allergies may find sterling comfortable to wear.

Mexican silver may be 90% silver and is stamped with 900 which is less pure than pure sterling, or 95% pure silver and only 5% copper, making it a higher quality, but softer than sterling silver. The 95% alloy is identified by the number 950 stamped into it.

Technically, the silver products go through electrolytic surface treatment to maintain the lustrous finish and delay tarnishing which is a natural phenomenon for silver.

Tarnishing of Silver

It is a natural for silver to tarnish when exposed to sulfur-containing materials particularly hydrogen sulfide.  The most common tarnish causing elements are wool, contact with foods such as eggs and onions, fossil fuels, cooking gas, rubber bands, gloves, carpet padding and certain paints.

Tarnishing is accelerated in a humid environment.

Caring for Silver

While sterling silver is a fairly sturdy metal, care should be taken not to bend or twist it unduly, and more so for 95% Mexican silver which is softer than sterling. The acids in wood can mar its finish, especially oak, so you should avoid leaving your silver jewelry lying on a wood surface, and it is best to keep it in a dark, dry place − even the light from a single light bulb will speed up the rate of tarnish.  As well, silver is incompatible with acetylene, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide, so avoid getting any of these on your silver jewelry at all costs. And take it off before you dive into the swimming pool.

Silver items develop stubborn tarnishing which is not easily removed by over the counter cleaning solutions.

After wearing your jewelry, gently wash and dry immediately to avoid tarnishing them.

When tarnish develops (early stage is yellowish), wash it with a phosphate-free detergent so that the tarnish does not become stubborn which will require more abrasive polishes that are available in the market.

References:

1. http://www.handcrafted-jewelry.net/metals.asp

2. Gioielli International brochure on The Elegance of Silver

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