CLEANING STERLING SILVER JEWELRY
Commercial liquid silver cleaners
These solutions work well for Jewelry that is all Sterling Silver but could permanently damage soft gems such as pearls, opals, rubies, and turquoise. A small tub of silver cleaner can be purchased at any jewelry or department store for about $5-6. Quickly dip your jewelry in the basket provided, rinse with warm water, and dry thoroughly.
Do not use this type of cleaner on bali silver or antique finishes and always remember to read manufacturers instructions before use.
A delicate solution is available especially for pearl jewelry but from my experience, it does not tackle the tarnish on Sterling silver very well. For more on pearls, see tips on Caring for Pearl Jewelry.
Polishing cloths are perhaps the safest method but it can be quite tedious to get into all the nooks and crevices. Two cloths are usually included; one for tarnish removal and the other for polishing. Gently polish taking care not to damage your jewelry and be especially careful around settings that may come loose. Avoid polishing gems and pearls with the cloth.
A tumbler will make your Sterling Silver sparkle with lasting shine. Your tumbler, however must be dedicated exclusively for jewelry. One grain of grit left over from rock polishing could do a lot of damage to stones and silver.
To use a tumbler for jewelry, add stainless steel shot, hot water (just enough to cover), and a few drops of blue Dawn dishwashing detergent. Vibrate for 20 minutes (or longer in a rotary tumbler) and everything comes out sparking clean! Sometimes an extra cycle is required for really grimy stuff so give the tumbler a rinse and repeat.
Cream of Tartar
I used this as a last ditch resort on a damaged piece and it worked very well. However, the pearls in the piece did not survive and had to be replaced.
Dissolve 2 tsp of cream of tartar in boiling water and boil your sterling for 3-5 minutes. Use a stove-top safe glass pot and a wooden spoon. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.
Alternative methods: not all tried, may not be true
Toothpaste or Baking Soda with water
Since these substances are abrasive, I would not recommend rubbing in a circular motion as this could cause scratches. Test on an inconspicuous area to avoid damaging your jewelry. Also, avoid buildup in crevices by rinsing and drying thoroughly.
Avoid using on any gems and again rinse thoroughly.
Baking Soda and Aluminum foil
An experiment in reverse chemistry. Essentially what you are doing is transferring the “tarnish” to the aluminum.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil in a clean glass pan. Place your jewelry so they are not touching each other, sprinkle with bicarbonate of soda, and add hot water.
Drop two tablets into 8 ounces of water and add your jewelry. When the fizzing stops, rinse your jewelry and pat dry. If necessary, repeat.
MAKE YOUR JEWELRY LAST LONGER
Bathing, swimming, and sleeping with jewelry on is not recommended.
Preventing Tarnish on Sterling Silver Jewelry
Caring for Pearl Jewelry