What is sterling silver?

Pure silver is a natural white shiny metal but is very soft and most pieces of jewellery would get dents, dings and scratches very quickly if it was made from pure silver.

So most jewellers use sterling silver which is an alloy made from 925 parts pure silver and 75 parts copper which makes a much harder metal which can withstand more knocks and bumps and hold its shape much better.

Pure silver doesn’t tarnish very easily, unfortunately adding copper to it means that sterling silver is prone to tarnishing, otherwise known as oxidisation which discolours the surface of the metal. This is accelerated by some chemicals and by moisture in the air, particularly if you live near the sea you might find your jewellery tarnishes quite quickly. Also, the PH levels in some people's skin can oxidise sterling silver and copper which is why some people’s skin reacts to the metal, sometimes resulting in discoloured skin as well as tarnished jewellery. This happened to me when I was a teenager but a few years later it stopped so I believe it might be an effect of high hormone levels.

How to care for your sterling silver

I’ve found the best way to store my jewellery is to keep it in a ziplock bag away from the light, I store all my stock like this and it rarely tarnishes. If you do notice your sterling silver is darkening the easiest way to keep it clean is to catch it quickly, and give the piece a rub with a silver cleaning cloth (I’ve found the best one is from the supermarket cleaning aisle for about £5) then wash with dishwashing liquid and hot water, rinse well and dry thoroughly before sealing in a bag to store. If this doesn’t work then you can resort to using silver dip, but remember this is a chemical and if used too much it might damage the metal so follow the instructions and wash the jewellery well afterwards.

Better still, WEAR the jewellery as this seems to slow the oxidisation process for most people. And fabulous jewellery was made to be worn!

Posted by Gill Melly on April 1st 2021

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