Looking after your sterling silver jewellery
I have been asked a few times about how to care for the jewellery pieces which I make, when to take them off, how to store and so on, so for this blog post I thought that I would address the main issues with looking after your sterling silver jewellery, to keep it looking brand new for a lifetime.
I am focusing solely on the sterling silver aspect of the jewellery which I sell and that is because the fused glass components of the jewellery need no special care to keep them at their best - other than the fact that the best way to clean them (if necessary) is to simply use a damp cloth to wipe and then dry with a microfibre cloth (or similar) to make sure that you do not leave any water marks. If you wear your glass jewellery in the shower or bath that should keep them clean enough and the glass can always simply be cleaned with a cloth if it is just to restore the sparkle and lustre to the piece/s.
I wear one of my pendants daily (barring special occasions) and have done for the past two or three years and have never needed to clean or polish the glass, so rest assured that this will only be needed on quite the rare occasion!
The first thing to bear in mind with sterling silver (as with fine silver, gold etc) is that it is quite soft, relatively speaking. This means that something the thickness of an earwire for example, can be easily bent and manipulated by hand by applying pressure; and so this should be considered when wearing the pieces. Daily wear on a necklace, bracelet or pair of earrings will not cause any issue, but this is the main reason why personally I would recommend taking any earrings out (both stud and drop) before going to bed. As I am sure that you can imagine tossing and turning at night combined with the fact that most people sleep on their side, thereby putting weight onto the earpin/earwire, could potentially cause some bending/deforming of the silver, through no fault of the earrings themselves. Not to mention the fact that it can be rather uncomfortable to lie on a scroll back on a pair of studs! Very occasionally I receive a pair of studs back to fix, where the post has been severely bent and I can only assume that it has either happened like this, or to be honest more likely that the stud has slipped onto the floor/sofa and then has been sat or trodden on, which will of course cause the pin to bend.
The other main issue with sterling silver is the fact that it does have the potential to tarnish (turn black). In my experience the best way to stop this from happening is to wear the jewellery! I have a sterling silver ring that I have not removed in twenty years and it still has that lovely white/pale silver look to it, and is as bright and shiny as if I had just purchased it. Of course with most jewellery pieces, people do like to swap them and so when storing the best thing to do with your silver jewellery is to keep it out of direct sunlight and in a dry environment. A jewellery box, drawer, or in the case of my jewellery the box it came in are ideal storage places as long as they are not in an area which is prone to damp. Wrapping in acid free tissue paper is also another commonly used alternative.
If your jewellery does begin to tarnish slightly, it is not an issue unless it is left to get much worse. Faintly tarnished silver can often be cleaned up simply with water and a cloth. If you find that this does not remove the tarnish, there are many home remedies which can be used, depending of course on what other materials your jewellery is made out of. For any RD Glass pieces of jewellery the one which I would recommend is by using a solution with hot water, salt and aluminium foil, as described here. I have not yet tested any with baking soda so this would be at your own risk!
If you have a lot of silver jewellery you may want to purchase a silver cleaning cloth. I have a cleaning cloth which I use if I have had pieces back from a gallery which have been sitting in the window for a while and a little tarnish is starting to develop. The cloths are very cheap, will last a long, long time and I have found that they will remove any light or mild tarnish without difficulty. The slight downside with these, is that it is very tricky to polish any tarnish in intricate areas or between links in chains with them, but for anything you can easily access with a cloth, they are ideal.
For pieces which are very heavily tarnished you may want to use a silver polish or take them to be professionally cleaned. Most silver polishes will effectively remove the outer tarnished layer and often will then leave a protective coating to resist future tarnishing too.
I hope that these tips and suggestions will help to keep your sterling silver jewellery looking at its best for a lifetime!