Ask Ellbee ~ Sterling Jewelry

72questionblueDear Ellbee,

Love your column!  I recently tried your sugar scrub treatment and it really worked!  🙂

I have a question for you, too. What can I do to keep my sterling silver jewelry tarnish-free?



Thank YOU, Paige.

The best way to keep your sterling from tarnishing is to wear it ~ and wear it often.

If you have a large silver wardrobe, rotate pieces regularly.  Natural oils on your skin will protect the precious metal and prevent both the silver and the alloy (most sterling compounds include a small percentage of copper) from oxidizing and discoloring.  Oils will also create a lovely, warm patina.

If, however, you desire a high shine, keep sterling clean with frequent polishing.  A simple silver jewellery cleaning cloth used as soon as you notice dulling will ensure pieces are shiny, bright and tarnish-free. 


Ellbee recommends Sunshine Polishing Cloths. Order them individually wrapped ~ and store them that way ~ to keep cleansing solvent fresh.

If jewellery is already tarnished, but not too far gone, the same cleaning cloth will do the trick.  You may have to go over the darker areas several times; however that extra bit of “elbow grease” should remove the discoloration nicely.

For items that are heavily tarnished, try soaking them in liquid cleaners ~ available at most popular retail stores.  Follow label instructions, noting product restrictions.  Be certain to rinse pieces well and DO dry thoroughly.  Water left on the article could possibly leave a permanent spot.

Stubborn corrosion may require a visit to your local jeweller, who should have a professional ultrasonic cleaner, a powerful jewellery steamer, a buffing wheel ~ and the necessary skills to use them.  The ultrasonic machine and steamer will remove debris and dirt, while the wheel is invaluable for removing tarnish, light scratches and coaxing out full shine potential.


Ellbee uses this Optima Ultrasonic unit to keep her silver jewellery shiny and bright.

If you yourself are a serious collector, you might consider investing in your own ultrasonic cleaner.  Warm water, a special soap mixture and tiny vibrations will shake loose debris and restore your favorite rings and things to their original splendor.  Be sure, however, to check the manufacturer’s recommendations, as paste-set gems, marcasite, turquoise and certain porous and softer stones cannot be submerged.

If your collection features softer gems, such as opals or pearls or emeralds, consider an ionic jewellery cleaner.  Positively charged ions bond with dirt and tarnish, then spin off to bond with the negatively charged container.  Quite ingenious, actually (Ellbee does love her science).


Ellbee uses this Speed Brite Ionic Cleaner to care for her more delicate sterling pieces.

Whether you chose to cultivate a natural patina or a radiant shine, always avoid spraying fragrances, hair lacquers and other aerosol products on or near your sterling pieces, as chemicals can attack the alloy and damage the silver.  Also, many propellants produce a sticky film, attracting additional dirt and debris.

Likewise, avoid wearing your sterling when using household cleaners or when swimming in chlorinated water.  Bleaches, ammonias and chlorine will compromise silver.

Beyond tarnish, remember to check your most-worn pieces often for faulty clasps, damaged links, loose stones and other issues ~ and have them promptly repaired.

Store your sterling treasures in a cotton- or felt-lined box, out of the open air.



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