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Buying and Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry

October 20th, 2011 Jewelry

Clean Sterling Silver Often

For the best looking sterling silver jewelry, clean it often. Frequent cleaning will ensure that jewelry stays shiny and prevent tarnish from marring the silver. Tarnish happens when silver reacts to the sulfur or hydrogen sulfide found in the natural air. There are a variety of silver polishes available for use in cleansing sterling silver jewelry, however, look for those specifically aimed at preventing tarnish build up. These polishes are usually found at hardware or craft stores, although more and more jewelry stores are beginning to carry formulas specifically for sterling silver jewelry. Tarnish is best removed as soon as you see signs of it -- don’t wait, because it might be too late to salvage your sterling silver jewelry after the build-up sets in.

Do Research Before Buying Sterling Silver Online

Shopping for jewelry online is common in today’s society. However, it is important to do your research before actually making a purchase. Moreover, when it comes to jewelry like sterling silver, you want to protect yourself during the purchasing process, particularly if the piece is expensive.

Always check the company’s reputation by reading any customer reviews and looking on the Better Business Bureau web site. Look for the markings on the web site or the jewelry itself to indicate that it really is sterling silver. If you do not see the marks of authenticity, inquire about them to the company before making your purchase. Ask how the sterling silver jewelry is currently stored and by what method it will be shipped to your home.

When you piece arrives, check it for damage incurred during transit and if you are unhappy for any reason, be sure the company has a fair return policy. Taking the risk of buying sterling silver online can pay off if you are diligent in find a reputable jewelry company to deal with.

Look for Labels Identifying Sterling Silver

When shopping for sterling silver, pay attention to the labeling of the jewelry. Only sterling silver made of 92.5 percent silver can be labeled silver, solid silver or sterling silver. If you are purchasing a piece with this information on it, then it has been made with according to the standards set forth by the U.S. government.

Additionally, pieces with a silver plate or silver coating must be labeled accordingly as well. Jewelry that contains the markings “925” and “.925” or “92.5” also means the jewelry is genuine sterling silver. These markings are particularly important if you want to invest in a quality sterling silver product. If you cannot readily identify the markings, ask the seller if they have any certificates or information proving the authenticity of the silver.

Men Setting Sterling Silver Trends

Sterling silver jewelry is no longer just a women's market. In recent years, the shiny metal has become increasingly visible and popular with men. Many trendsetting male athletes and movie stars have worn sterling silver pieces in the press or on the red carpet. This has set the trend for men everywhere to pick up on the many qualities of sterling silver jewelry.

From necklaces and matching pendants (usually encrusted with diamonds) to bracelets and cufflinks to chunky rings, sterling silver jewelry has the appearance of elegance and class similar to platinum, a more expensive, rare metal. In fact, sterling silver has become a popular choice for men's wedding bands because of the durability and high shine this metal provides. It continues to be trendy because most pieces fall with a midrange price bracket and are usually easier to care for than most other metals.

Pay Close Attention When Shopping for Sterling Silver Jewelry

When shopping for sterling silver, pay close attention to detail. Pieces should have no visible blemishes or imperfections in the silver. Look at each piece of sterling silver very closely and make sure that all of the clasps and catches work properly.

When you are purchasing sterling silver chains, lay them flat to make sure any links do not kink up or bend. If it is dull or scratched, the jewelry is not worth the investment and likely not made with a significant amount of pure silver. Do not hesitate to try the jewelry on, if the seller will allow it. Just like a piece of furniture or clothing, you need to make sure the silver looks good on you and can be easily put on or taken off.

Plating Process Extends Life of Sterling Silver Jewelry

The finish on sterling silver jewelry varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Many jewelers plate sterling silver with an overlay of fine silver, a process known as flashing. In most instances, a flashed piece of sterling silver jewelry contains a nickel or copper plater between the two pieces of silver.

The reason that most manufacturers plate sterling silver is to maintain the bright color of the jewelry, which is often lost during firescale, or the soldering of posts and findings in place. The plating process gives sterling silver jewelry an extended life and a brighter shine. Keep in mind, though, the plated sterling silver jewelry cannot be machine-buffed or re-sized without going through the plating process again.

Sterling Silver Imitations Make Fun Costume Jewelry

Jewelry doesn't always have to expensive or real to look great. Costumer jewelry can be a fun, inexpensive way to dress up outfits with style and pizazz. For example, cubic zirconia has the appearance of a bright, shiny diamond without looking like cheap, fake imitations. The same can be said for rhodium electroplated sterling silver jewelry. Shiny, fashionable and cost-effective, this jewelry can temporarily stand in for the real thing if you are looking for a way to experiment with different jewelry options.

Many companies look for designs that mock both current trends and classic pieces. This kind of silver can be found in everything from chunky rings to necklaces, bracelets and more. Just remember when it comes to storage, keep costume jewelry separate from fine jewelry. Save the fake stuff for fun outings and reserve your finer pieces for special occasions.

Sterling Silver Popular Among Jewelry Metals

Sterling silver’s popularity does not just extend to jewelry -- it can be found in flatware, armor and more. Most people associate sterling silver with jewelry because it creates incredible pieces. Sterling silver jewelry is a popular metal because it is very affordable and is a good alternative to white gold or platinum jewelry.

Perhaps the best aspect of sterling silver is that it is incredibly reflective. This means when it is correctly polished, it boasts a higher sheen than any other metal. While sterling silver does take a bit more maintenance than other metals to make it gleam brightly, it is rather easy to maintain the shine whenever you wear it.

Sterling Silver Sets Standard for Silver Jewelry

When it comes to silver jewelry, sterling silver is the standard for high-end, quality pieces. It boasts strength and durability. However, above all else, it’s made of 90 percent pure silver, which means that unlike jewelry with silver plating, it won’t wear down over time. Similar to gold, pure silver is very soft and malleable.

And like gold, other metals are usually mixed with it to create a better jewelry product. The most common, and preferred mix is that of sterling silver, which is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Though other metals can replace copper, it has been shown to be the best pair with pure silver to create the stunning sterling silver mix. The best part is that, with proper care, true sterling silver jewelry can and will last a lifetime.

Tarnish-proof Cloth and Air Tight Bags Best for Sterling Silver Storage

For those who are diligent about storing their sterling silver jewelry, keep pieces in Ziploc bags. Jewelry experts say that by wrapping jewelry in a tarnish-proof cloth and leaving it in an airtight bag reduces the chances that your jewelry will be scratched or develop tarnish over time.

Sterling silver jewelry is scratch-resistant, but certainly not scratch-proof, so leaving it loose in a jewelry box is definitely a bad idea. Do not store it with other metals for the same reason.

Also, do not store sterling silver jewelry directly on any wood surfaces. Wood contains certain acids, which can adversely affect the finish of your jewelry. The worst offender is oak. If you care for it properly, fabulous sterling silver jewelry can be worn many times without having to go through a long cleaning or caring process.

Tips to Make Sterling Silver Last

Sterling silver jewelry, while durable and tough, is very susceptible to the same scratches and damage that other jewelry is. To avoid damage to sterling silver pieces, store them in a separate area from other jewelry.

The optimal storage method involves using a cloth pouch or keeping sterling silver in a completely separate area of your jewelry box. To make it last longer, avoid exposing sterling silver to any household chemicals, especially bleach or ammonia. Take off sterling silver jewelry when swimming in a pool because the chlorine can damage your jewelry.

Where Can I Find a Bargain on Sterling Silver?

If you really want to find a sterling silver bargain, frequent flea markets or second hand stores. Pieces found this way usually need some cleaning and polishing, but are usually quality silver. This is also the best way to get a sterling silver bargain.

Unless it is on sale, finding sterling silver bargains is unusual. A red flag should go up anytime someone is offering to sell you an authentic sterling silver piece at an unusually low price. The saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” applies here. Sometimes scam artists will try to sell you a piece touted a sterling silver that is actually a mix of far less superior metals.

If you do not have a lot of money to spend, but would like to purchase sterling silver jewelry, visiting an antique store or second-hand boutique is your best option.

Why Does Sterling Silver Begin to Look Aged Over Time?

One of the unique aspects of sterling silver is how it changes over time. This is why so many antique pieces are made of sterling silver. Over the years, sterling silver develops what’s called a patina, which is the aged, appreciated look seen on most sterling silver antiques.

The black oxidation usually builds up in the fine details of the jewelry. This will eventually happen to all sterling silver jewelry, even with careful polishing and cleaning. If you do not like this look, you may have to replace jewelry as it ages. The appearance of the patina does not take away from the value of the jewelry -- it simply gives it an antique style.