Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Clean Silver Jewellery (Tips 4)

How to Clean Silver Jewellery

The  4th in my series on Jewellery Care looks at cleaning silver.

Sterling silver, fine silver and Italian silver and many silver plated items will take on a darker patina with time. This is caused by sulphuric compounds in air. It can be beautiful in its own right. However, sometimes it can look very brown and dirty, but it is possible to brighten it up again.

Pre-oxidised silver is deliberately given an accelerated patina that gives it a beautiful, vintage look.  It is very handy if you don’t want to worry about cleaning tarnish. It generally doesn’t need cleaning, other than to wipe with a piece of kitchen paper or uncoated, soft felt cloth to remove oils, cosmetics and grime.  It is not usually recommended to attempt to restore this silver to a shiny state. I tried it once as an experiment and ended up with a dull, matt and dirty looking piece of metal, which wasn’t very pretty.
Tibetan Silver Bail on Button Pendant

 Other darker silver metals such as Tibetan Silver (a zinc alloy), Mexican silver etc should not be cleaned with chemicals, acids, bread soda etc. These metals are darker by nature. A barely damp or soft dry cloth will remove grime.

If you want to keep your shiny silver bright as long as possible, there are several measures you can take. Click here: for tips on preventing tarnish on sterling silver and silver plate.

When the metal shows signs of oxidising, catch it early by using a soft, silver cleaning cloth. You can buy these at jewellery outlets and online.  If you haven’t cleaned a piece in some time, it will need more than this.

One of the gentlest ways to clean such silver is to wash in mild, soapy water. This is particularly recommended if you are cleaning stones, amber and pearls set in silver as they won’t withstand harsher cleaning methods. Gold should also be cleaned in this manner by the way. Afterwards, rinse,  pat dry with kitchen paper or a soft cloth and polish the silver with your silver polishing cloth.

Sometimes you need something stronger for resistant tarnish. Silver plate and silver-filled items will generally stand up to a quick bath in a solution of water, lemon and salt (as will natural copper.)  So should sterling silver, but it doesn’t always do the trick so test a tiny area first by dipping a cotton bud into the liquid and rubbing it on. Check for any side effects or if it actually works before subjecting the whole piece to the solution. Do not splash this acidic cleanser on stones, pearls etc. Glass, including seaglass, is fine and in fact, will gleam after the bath. Again, rinse well, dry and polish.

If you are sure the piece is sterling silver, you can use a bread soda (bicarbonate of soda) solution. I previously posted how to do this on the Etsy Ireland blog.  For full instructions click here

I hope this helps!

More in this series:
How to Care for Seaglass Jewellery
How to prevent tarnish
How to look after pearls
Quick tips for jewellery care


  1. thank you for sharing this information!:)

  2. Well I love the way that jeweler shows their unique craftsmanship and artistry with such a nice finishing. Even I have a name bracelet in my wardrobe

    jewelry cleaning tips