Silver is a relatively soft metal that will show signs of wear. Silver jewellery will show scratches, and soften some of its lines with wear. To reduce incidental scratching, store your jewellery in a lined jewellery box or soft cloth or plastic bag. General cleaning of jewellery should be done with mild dish detergent and a soft cloth or very soft brush. Rinse well to remove traces of detergent and air dry or pat dry with a soft cloth (don’t rub with paper towel).
Tarnish is the disfiguration of a silver surface usually due to a reaction with sulphur-containing gases in the air. The reaction is accentuated by moisture in the air and occurs more quickly on Sterling (925) than on fine (999) silver, because the copper content of Sterling reacts even faster. Therefore, the best way to prevent tarnishing is storage in low-humidity conditions (e.g. sealed bag with silica gel), preferably with an absorbent to remove sulphur compounds (e.g. activated charcoal strips).
Tarnish may be removed by polishing, dipping or electrochemical means. Please avoid using any polish not specifically formulated for silver. In general they would be too abrasive and leave scratches. Use only soft cloth, disposable makeup pads, or cotton balls to apply silver polish. Rinse well. Some silver polishes also contain tarnish inhibitors that help to reduce the frequency of polishing. Jeffrey Herman is a silver conservator and has amassed a lot of information and advice on polishing silver. Check out his website for comparisons of abrasiveness of silver polishes and videos on good polishing technique [http://www.hermansilver.com/care.htm].
A patina on a metal surface is a change in colour produced by thin layer of chemically altered metal. For silver, tarnish is a patina. But this reaction (or similar ones) is also employed deliberately to increase contrast where the silver surface has texture - darken the recesses and polish the highlights. When polishing such pieces, the patina in the recesses may be removed (especially if you are using a dip) leaving a piece with little or no contrast. If polishing changes the appearance of your piece, please contact me.
Pearls and gemstones
Gemstones have a wide range of hardness. Diamond, ruby, sapphire, cubic zirconium, topaz, and spinel lie at the higher end of the range. Garnet, agate, peridot, labradorite, moonstone. lapis lazuli, and charoite are in the middle range. Rhodochrosite, azurite, malachite and pearl fall into the lower range.
Because all polishes are abrasive to some degree, it is advisable to avoid contact with set stones, beads and pearls. Even the fine scratches produced by good-quality silver polishes will eventually dull the appearance of gemstones, particularly those in the middle and low ranges. Pearls are even more susceptible to scratching and to damage by chemical dips.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me about any issues with care of your jewellery pieces. We both want your jewellery to bring joy for a long time.