picture of silver and bronze tamarack pin on the informational Cleaning Sterling Silver page.Cleaning Sterling Silver

All silver jewelry tarnishes; you can’t get away from it. But the good news is… cleaning sterling silver jewelry is easy if you follow a few rules:

Store it properly … Clean it regularly … Wear It!

What causes tarnish

Tarnish is caused by exposure to air which oxidizes the copper alloy used in most sterling jewelry. Fine or pure silver will not tarnish but it is very soft and rarely used in jewelry.

Deox silver which has been alloyed with silicon (and not copper) will tarnish but it takes longer.

Gold jewelry rarely tarnishes.

Note: the more exposure to air, the deeper the tarnish and the more difficult it is to remove yourself.


One of best ways to control tarnish and keep your jewelry from scratching is to store it (after you remove it from any paper packaging) in a zip-lock bag or the box in which it was received. A piece of anti-tarnish strip will be enclosed with all products purchased from us.

If you wish to keep the packaging for reference, store it some place else as paper produces sulfur which is an oxidizer. This includes paper boxes.

Jewelry racks used for hanging jewelry are tarnish magnets especially if you burn wood (that pesky sulfur again). Use only if you plan to clean your jewelry daily.

Jewelry will also tarnish faster if many pieces are stored in a bowl on top of your dresser. This is convenient but in the long run will cause you more work.

Suggestion:  Consider purchasing a jewelry box which is made exclusively for jewelry storage. I have one of those stand-up styles and can recommend it. It has plenty of room and lovely little compartments which help me find things easily and I don’t have to put everything in a plastic bag!


There are many products available at local jewelry stores:

Dip-it style liquid cleaners: Read the label carefully before you purchase. This product cannot be used with some stones.  It will remove tarnish quickly but it will also remove the “antique finish”. I really,really like a cleaner called Sunshine Jewelry Cleaner and it comes in a pink container. It is made from banana enzymes and is safe for ALL stones. It won’t remove the antique look either. It is available at Amazon.com. Sunshine also produces a cream cleaner used in conjunction with their liquid one and it works great on pieces which are highly tarnished. It is also very fragrant.

Cream Cleaners:  Do not use a paste cleaner which can be found in many local grocery stores. These paste cleaners are used for large silver or plated pieces, not jewelry as it fills detail and is difficult to remove.

Polishing Clothes: I like the Sunshine Cloths. These clothes have a built in polishing agent which won’t turn your fingers black and you can use it for a longlong time. There are also disposable wipes which work well but you always have to replace them.

Sonic Cleaners: These are great and pretty reasonably priced.  They clean by sound waves and use a special liquid cleaner, supplied at the time of purchase (tho’a small amount of Dawn detergent can be used and if it is really dirty you can add a small amount of ammonia.). It makes gold and diamonds sparkle but read the directions before you put other stones in the tank.  Never sonic clean emeralds, sapphires, rubies or opal. You can follow up with a polishing cloth.

Electric Toothbrush: Yes, seriously…. save one of your used sonic heads and use it to clean your jewelry. It works great because it is gentle and you can get into all those recesses. It won’t remove the “antique finish” either.  Use your favorite toothpaste but avoid ones with hydrogen peroxide.  Baking soda is also a mild abrasive which is okay to use. You can also use a non-electric tooth brush but be sure the bristles are soft (a baby toothbrush purchased new would be fine).

Suggestion: The electric toothbrush is the quickest and easiest… brush your teeth, switch heads and clean your jewelry. Rinse, dry, apply and you’re off!

For items which are more deeply tarnished or you just want more sparkle, follow up with a bit of elbow-grease and the Sunshine Cloth.

Wearing your jewelry

Pins need to be stored when not worn as it reduces the tarnish and protects the finish.  (It is nice to leave a pin on a special sweater or jacket and many times the natural friction will keep them looking nice without having to polish it).  We suggest you use a rubber sleeve when wearing your pin as it protects it from loss if the catch should come open. Simply slide the pin stem through the garment, slip the stopper on and close the clasp. If the pin should open the piece will stay attached to your garment.

Rings, pendants and bracelets, if worn all time, need little polishing because they are constantly rubbing against the skin and/or fabric. If your piece has a stone setting, check it periodically for broken or bent prongs or loose stones. Have a jeweler clean your rings every two years. They usually provide this service for free and will check your settings at the same time.

Earrings posts and hooks bend easily so keep them stored separately from other jewelry. Rubber stoppers on earrings are especially important during the winter months when we wear extra clothing. The rubber stoppers slide on the earwire until they are out of sight behind the earlobe.

Suggestion:  Consider keeping a container of handy-wipes available and wipe your posts, hooks and earnuts after you take them off.

Suggestion:  Consider removing your jewelry before you go to sleep. Pendants, bracelets and earrings can become entangled in your hair and bedclothes and this will prematurely weaken links and settings. Removing rings may prevent swollen fingers in the morning.

Suggestion:  Consider rotating the earrings you wear every few days. The wearing and handling produces friction which in turn keeps the surfaces polished and less work for you!

Remember:  The cardinal rule of jewelry wear…. Last On, First Off.  ENJOY!