Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Polishing and Caring for Sterling Silver

I love working with sterling silver. It's beautiful, classic and best of all, quality. But as with any silver product, it will tarnish over time and with exposure to air, light and skin oils. This can be a frustrating process, watching your lovely pieces of shiny silver turn brown. I became quite frustrated with it myself, both with my finished jewelry and with my sterling wire supply, so I researched sterling silver polishing on the internet.

You can use regular silver polish on it, but I have sensitivities to chemical products like that, so I searched further for a more natural solution, and found two.

The first is a slightly more complicated method, but works very well in a hands-off fashion.

-Line the inside of a small bowl with tin foil.

-Put 1 tsp each of salt and baking soda into the bottom of the bowl.

-Fill it with tap water as hot as you can run it, stirring to dissolve the salt and baking soda.

-Add your sterling jewelry to the solution, making sure that the pieces are touching the tin foil as well as each other.

-Leave for about 5 minutes, then pour off the hot water and rinse well. Pat dry.

The second method is more time consuming, depending on how many pieces you're polishing, and it requires more hands-on involvement, but it seems to last longer and is, in my opinion, superior.

-Pour a bit of baking soda onto a plate.

-Make your fingers wet and dip them into the baking soda.

-Rub the paste gently on the sterling silver until it's shiny again.

-Rinse well and pat dry.

I've tried a couple of different brands of baking soda and have found that Arm and Hammer is the very best. It cut my polishing time down in half and worked twice as well as the President's Choice brand. :)

Note: use caution with pieces that incorporate dyed beads, beads covered in a coating or foil (I made this mistake with pink seed beads that had a fine coating), or pearls, which can be delicate. If you're the creator and have some spare beads of the type used in the jewelry, test the method on them alone before polishing the finished piece. If you've purchased the item and don't have spare beads, consider asking the seller about their polishing method if you're unsure.

Store the polished jewelry in a dark, airless place. I generally keep mine in a sealed plastic bag (with the air pressed out) in a tin container with the lid on, but I have found that some earrings I stored in a small plastic container with the lid on remained shiny for a very long time.

I wrote up care instructions cards in Print Shop with the second method, and I print them onto pre-perforated business card paper I buy at Staples. I include one in all of my Etsy packages. :)

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