Sterling Silver Jewelry Care & Cleaning
Q: My jewelry came with a label that says “Anti-Tarnish”. But my jewelry is now discoloring. What is going on?
A: Anti-Tarnish finish protects sterling silver, often extending its shine indefinitely. Certain conditions, including perspiration, salt air, or volcanic emissions can cause the protective finish to break down and your jewelry may begin to tarnish. This depends on the acidity of your skin oils, the harshness of the environment (being located right by the ocean, for instance), and the amount of time that the jewelry has been exposed to the air. Unfortunately, Anti-Tarnish is not forever.
Q: What do I do if my jewelry is tarnished?
A: There are many effective products on the market that will enable you to recover your jewelry to its original shiny finish. For flat surfaces, a polishing cloth treated with silver polish will usually do the trick. My personal favorite is a brand called Connoisseurs® Jewelry Wipes. For hard to clean surfaces, such as earwires, bracelet links, charm rings, chains, etc. I recommend using a silver cleaning dip. These products are specifically designed to remove the oxidized layer from the surface without polishing, but you need to rinse the jewelry with warm, soapy water immediately after dipping then dry thoroughly. Three brands are equally effective that I can recommend: Connoisseurs® Jewelry Dip for Silver, Goddard’s® Silver Dip and Shine Brite™ Silver Dip.
Q: Can I prevent my silver jewelry from tarnishing in the first place?
A: The only foolproof way to prevent tarnish on silver is to keep it in a completely air tight environment, such as a zip lock bag. Of course, this only works if you are storing it between wearing, and it has to be clean going into the bag. I keep one of those small disposable Connoisseurs® wipes by my jewelry box and use it every time I remove my jewelry, then place the pieces in small zip lock bags. This will go a long way toward preventing tarnish.
Q: I bought some jewelry that is marked 925 but it does not discolor. Why is that?
A: The only way this can be true is if that brand of jewelry is plated with something else on top of the sterling silver. Two metals are typically used. Rhodium is a precious metal which has non-tarnishing properties but is darker in color to begin with. Many people are fine with the look of rhodium, but others prefer the bright white shine of sterling. The other plating which is used is nickel, which has bright white coloring but is an allergen for a significant portion of the population.
I never use nickel in any sterling silver HHD jewelry. The other coating being used is called e-coat. This is essentially a polymer (plastic) layer which is bonded to the silver to keep out the air and prevent tarnishing. Unfortunately, it can break down and when it does, it literally peels off.
Q: I bought some HHD (HonuHeart™ Designs) Jewelry recently and it was not marked with the anti-tarnish label. Have you stopped treating it?
A: At one time we were treating all HHD Jewelry with the anti-tarnish protective finish. In 2015, we switched to using a “deox” sterling silver which is very resistant to tarnish and does not require the added step. Deox silver clearly extends the “shelf-life” of the shine, and makes it easier to polish when it does tarnish. I stopped using the labeling in October 2012 because it was causing some customers to think that anti-tarnish meant no tarnish.
Q: Is it OK to wear my sterling silver jewelry in the shower? How about the pool or the ocean?
A: Removing skin oils and perspiration is good for sterling silver, and it is usually fine when worn in the shower, as long as it is dried off afterward. I do not ever recommend wearing sterling silver into a hot tub, swimming pool or the ocean, due to the chemicals and salt content. This can damage sterling silver to the point that it cannot be recovered.