Cleaning your jewellery can be a headache if you don’t have professional jewellery equipment, but it doesn’t have to be! We’ve compiled a list of tips on what works and what doesn’t.
*Disclaimer: We’re not affiliated in any way to products or providers mentioned in this blog. It’s not our intention to promote anything, we are just giving our personal opinion based on what works for us.
What is silver tarnish:
Silver tarnishes because of hydrogen sulphide in different things that come into contact with the silver. The copper (present in sterling silver) and silver oxidize and this chemical reaction leaves jewellery with a blackened appearance. Sometimes this appearance is desired as it can give an aged or antique look.
Things to keep in mind:
Before you attempt any of the following cleaning methods, please check for the following:
- Is the jewellery you want to clean costume jewellery? In other words, not made of any of the precious metals (silver, gold, platinum) and containing fake stones or glass. Some costume jewellery might look like precious metal as it has been plated, try to look for a stamp to indicate the metal (925 – silver, 325 – 9ct gold, 750 – 18ct gold, plat – platinum) Our tips don’t apply to costume jewellery and we’re not sure how to clean it (a polishing cloth is the safest). In our opinion, don’t buy it ;)
- Are there any stones/pearls that have been glued in the piece you want to clean? This is not always evident to the naked eye, but often stones like marcasites, pearls or glass gems are glued in a piece (especially in costume jewellery). In this case avoid hot water or chemicals that might dissolve the glue. Again the best option is a good polishing cloth.
- Sunlight liquid and ammonia. The best and easiest do-it-yourself cleaning method is a mixture of these two common household items and warm water. Use 1 Tbsp. Sunlight liquid and 1 tsp. Jeyes scrubs cloudy ammonia and mix it with warm water; leave your jewellery in the mixture for 5 - 10min (depending on how tarnished and dirty it is); scrub the piece with a soft toothbrush to reach all the nooks and crannies. This method is safe for nearly all jewellery (except costume or glued). The mixture can be used again and again, so leave it in a glass jar with a lid and just heat it in the microwave the next time you want to use it.
- Anti-tarnish silver foam – we use Excellent Anti-Tarnish Silver Foam by Town Talk Polish Co. Ltd. This product consists of a pinky/reddish substance that is applied to the jewellery piece by rubbing it with a sponge (included with product). The liquid creates a type of foam that works well to remove tarnish.
Polishing cloth. We suggest the one’s sold at Spilhaus. This is a very safe way to clean jewellery – even costume or glued pieces.
Shammy leather for Pearls. Pearls are quite delicate and porous, therefore harsh chemicals should be avoided. A shammy leather, used to clean cars, are ideal to clean them.
- Professional jeweller. If you’re unsure or worried you might damage your jewellery, most professional jewellers offer jewellery-cleaning services at a small fee. It’s a good idea to get your prised possessions, like engagement rings or family heirlooms, cleaned professionally.
- Jewellery storage. Ideally, you should store your silver jewellery in a low-humidity environment. Try placing a container of activated charcoal or a piece of chalk in the storage area to minimise tarnish.
We did some further research and came across a few websites stating that aluminium foil and baking soda works well to clean tarnished silver, so we did a little experiment to test the theory.
Step 1: Fold the aluminium foil into a bowl shape or mould it around an actual bowl to hold water.
Step 2: Place the jewellery on the foil and sprinkle with baking soda so that each piece is mildly coated. (You can also add salt to help the cleaning process, but we used only baking soda.)
Step 3: Boil a few cups of water and gently pour this onto the jewellery with baking soda on them.
Step 4: Leave heavily tarnished silver pieces in the solution for about 5-10 min. Otherwise remove the pieces when they appear clean.
Step 5: Rinse the silver in water and gently buff it dry with a soft towel.
As you can see in the pictures below it worked surprisingly well to remove tarnish. The piece isn’t completely clean or polished, but it definitely removed most of the black, tarnished layer.
Why does it work:
The baking soda/aluminium combo pulls sulphur off the silver by a small electrolytic current set up by the water (and salt, if added). Both silver and aluminium likes to accept sulphur, but aluminium does so faster and will pull atoms of sulphur off the tarnished item as long as the electrolytic current remains. The heat of the water is just a catalyst and makes the reaction occur faster.
What to avoid?
Silver dips. Silver dips, although they tend to have the desired effect and leave your jewellery looking good, contain corrosive chemicals harmful to your jewellery. The liquid eats away at soldier joints and can result in your piece falling apart. These products should definitely be avoided.
Toothpaste. Easy to come by as everyone has some in their house, but toothpaste contain abrasive elements harmful to jewellery.
Please let us know what you think in the comment section below or feel free to email us with any questions or custom made jewellery at firstname.lastname@example.org.