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How to Clean Your Silver Jewelry

The majority of Western-style jewelry includes silver. This brightly shining metal has become synonymous with the west, stemming from the great silver boom of Colorado in the late 1800s. Since that time, many a cowgirl (and boy) have worn pieces of silver jewelry. But many is also the piece of silver which becomes tarnished over time, and in need of a good cleaning.

You may think it is difficult to keep your silver clean, but it isn’t. You do not have to take your items to a jeweler when there are do-it-yourself methods which can work just as well. As a soft metal, silver becomes stained with tarnish over time. Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion which accumulates on some metals. This happens through long-term exposure to our everyday atmosphere and by coming into contact with other substances, such as oil and dirt from skin.

Some everyday household products work well for cleansing your silver. These methods
offer an inexpensive and less toxic or harsh approach to cleaning your jewelry. Plain toothpaste (without any special additives like a whitener), can be used to gently remove tarnish. The easiest way is to use a soft chamois or polishing cloth with a dab of toothpaste. Gently rub your silver jewelry and watch how the tarnish will transfer to the cloth.

A Caution Tip: Watch for scratching, start on the underside or back of your jewelry. If the toothpaste has an abrasive, it could scratch.

A salt and aluminum foil bath will also clean your silver jewelry. Check out this Wiki-How tutorial for making this cleansing solution. It is best to use a bowl for this method, as opposed to a sink. Stainless steel in particular can damage silver. Salt is a gentle cleanser, ideal for soft metals. When you include some bits of aluminum foil in a salt-water bath, a chemical reaction occurs to tarnished silver, returning accumulated silver sulfide (the tarnish) back into simply silver. Baking soda can be used instead of salt as well.

A Caution Tip: If your silver jewelry includes gemstones, a salt bath may be too abrasive. For these more delicate pieces, I do recommend having them cleaned by a jeweler.

There are also silver polishes and “dips” on the market. While these can work, be sure to follow directions carefully, as they can also be damaging. In particular, silver dips contain a variety of harsh chemicals, which will damage silver if exposed to it for too long. Whatever method you use to clean your silver jewelry, be sure to give it a good final rinse in warm water, dry thoroughly and store your silver away from other items.

A Caution Tip: Many substances are damaging to silver, including paint, stainless steel and rubber. Do NOT wear rubber gloves when cleaning your silver. Nitrile gloves, which are latex and rubber free, are a great substitute, and available at pharmacies everywhere, or online.

If you love Western-Style jewelry like I do, I invite you to check out our products, West Coast Cowgirl, where you will find a wide variety of jewelry options, including a lot of silver, from classic motifs, to more modern cowgirl bling. Whether you are looking for a gift for that special someone or ready to treat yourself to something new, products are added regularly so be sure to check back often.