Sterling Silver EarringsSterling silver is a beautiful, soft metal that is used to make various items of jewelry. It has steadily gained popularity since the 1700s. Because silver is too soft to stand alone, it is usually mixed with another metal. Sterling Silver is a product of these, yet carries a high amount of pure silver. For an item to be marked with a sterling silver stamp, it must contain at least 92.5 percent of real, pure silver. Caring for, storing and cleaning sterling silver jewelry is very important to keep up the beauty and extend the life of the piece. Many sterling silver jewelry pieces are passed down from generation, to generation, making family heirlooms.

Many cleaning methods are unsafe for the delicate nature of sterling silver. Another thing to consider as well, is if the piece has some precious or semi precious stones. Toothpaste and other abrasives are not safe for cleaning jewelry. Even though it will clean off tarnish and debris, it will scratch the delicate surface. Possibly, this will go unnoticed the first few times. However, it will not take long for it to show.

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry, Safely:

Sterling silver should first be cleaned with a soft, cotton cloth. This cloth should be clean and smooth and free of anything that will nab or grab. A coarse or nabbing cloth can scratch the product. Gently rub off any debris with the soft cloth in a gentle lengthwise motions. If there is a grain, move with the grain. Avoid using circular motions on any silver piece, smooth or grained, this can promote scratching.

For mild problems, such as makeup and smudges, mix a solution of a mild dish soap with some warm water. Mild dish soaps include those like Dove or Ivory brands. Gently clean the jewelry off, using gentle, lengthwise motions if necessary. Many times, just a short soak will do a lot of good. For stubborn spots, a very soft bristle brush can be used. It is recommended to use a soft bristle baby brush for this. Rinse the jewelry piece off thoroughly and lay it somewhere safe to dry. Once it is completely dried, gently polish it with a soft cloth. There are polishing cloths available for minor scratches. This will buff out light wear and scratches. However, do not use these on the stones, especially porous ones. Turquoise, a stone commonly found in sterling silver jewelry, is very easily damaged with cleaners and cleaning processes.

If a piece has not been worn for awhile and has quite a bit of tarnish on it, some silver paste cleaner might be necessary. Again, don't use these products on the stones, unless it is specified safe for use with porous stones. Apply the cleansers and use the soft cloth to gently remove any tarnish and debris. If the sterling silver jewelry has patterns or corners, use a soft bristle baby brush to get to those hard to reach places. Once the item is cleaned, use a clean soft cloth to remove any remaining silver cleaner. Because these types of cleansers does have a small amount of abrasive, it is only recommended to use them occasionally, when the piece is getting in rough shape.

For sterling silver that need new life, there are some chemical cleansers formulated especially for sterling silver. Of course, some products are not safe for stones, while others are. So be careful there! This product can be sponged on, gently cleaned and rinsed off.

Storing Sterling Silver Jewelry:

Whether it is a new favorite item or a family heirloom, proper storage makes all the difference. If the piece in question is worn quite often, this will keep the tarnishing process down to a minium. The oils within the human body, slows this process down. However, pieces that are stored in open air spaces, without being worn, are subject to an increase in the tarnish process. This is why it is important to properly store sterling silver while it is not in use. This will cut down on the maintenance and cleaning, thus protecting the beautiful piece from scratches and wear.

The best way to store pieces that are not worn often is by storing them individually in a bag made of polyethylene. The item needs to be completely dried when place in the bag, and the seal needs to be as airtight as possible. When placing the piece of jewelry in storage, in the bag, be sure to separate it from other items. Items that get shuffle and bumped about, are prone to get more scratches.

Never store any sterling silver product in with other metals. This can cause reactions and increase the tarnishing process. Woods can mar sterling silver, so it is very important to limit their contact and better to just avoid it all together.

When wearing sterling silver jewelry, avoid wearing several pieces that rub together. This increases the chances of scratches and wear. Plus if worn with other metals, it can cause a reaction. Makeup is one of the most common products that gets on and smudges up sterling silver. After wearing a piece of jewelry, check it for makeup marks and remove them with the soft cloth with gentle motions. If a piece losses it's luster and shine, there is a spray on polish available for this. It is kind of a pain to use if there are stones, because it can be damaging. After using the dish soap cleaning method, along with an extremely soft bristle brush, spray a bit of the silver polish on. If there is a stone of the piece, it's best to spray a soft cloth and apply it manually. This doesn't do as good of a job, but it doesn't ruin the stones either. After applying the polish, allow it to sit for a couple of minutes, then use a soft cloth to gently polish the sterling silver jewelry piece. Normal wear and scratches will always be there when it comes to sterling silver. However, this is not anything that ruins or diminishes the product. However, cleaning mishaps and storage disasters can take its toll on this beautiful, popular type of jewelry.