How do I polish my jewelry?


September 01, 2017

Let's chat about keeping your ESN Artisan Jewelry beautiful. 

What is tarnish and why does it happen on silver?

Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that happens when copper in silver reacts with air. There is copper in silver? To be considered sterling silver, silver must contain 92.5% silver. The other 7.5% is copper which is what usually causes silver to tarnish. This is the primary reason that I use Argentium silver instead of regular silver. Argentium silver is a higher quality alloy that has 93.5% silver in it and the 6.5% is made up of germanium (another element on the periodic table) and trace amounts of copper. Argentium is less likely to tarnish and does not turn black like ignored pieces of regular silver do.

But I've found that other things can also cause silver to tarnish. Sometimes an old wood drawer can give off fumes that cause pieces to turn dark. Lotions (calamine or some sunscreens) can hasten tarnishing as well as contact with salt, latex, chlorine, and perfumes. Sometimes, our bodies themselves cause silver to tarnish based on what we ingest. For example, sulfur-containing foods (eggs, onions, kale, wine- eek!!) or medicines (some antibiotics, cortisone creams, migraine medications) may tarnish your jewelry. Shampoos or soaps with sulfites can affect your jewelry as well.               

                                

What's a gal to do?!

Wear your jewelry! I've found that wearing your pieces is the best way to keep them from tarnishing. I never need to polish my silver bangle stack because I wear them every day. But sometimes you have to break out the silver polish and polish! Often, I hear from people who try to use a jewelry dip to polish their silver. I even had a friend bring a piece of jewelry by my house recently and ask me to polish it. She had been using a dip like this one:

A jewelry dip can be used to get dirt off the back of a stone in a ring, but you must be very careful to not use any harsh abrasives to scrub stones. However, jewelry dips do absolutely nothing to take tarnish off of silver. Nada. Zip. I don't even own a jar.

Polish effectively

Because child labor existed in our house in the 1970s, I have a long history of polishing silver. But that doesn't mean I knew how to effectively use silver polish to make things bright and shiny. In fact, in my zeal as a new bride to keep a silver biscuit box pretty, I polished off the silver coating in a few spots to reveal the brass underneath. Today, I love my Wright's silver polish from the grocery store:

I tried another common brand and had some weird reaction with a silver bowl that turned every slight crack black. Not the result I wanted! So I'm pretty loyal to Wright's. And they aren't paying me for this post! As a child, I would wet the included polish sponge and make a big bubbly foam. That doesn't work. These days, I don't wet the polish but instead use the polish itself to gently wipe the tarnish off. Don't be OCD like me and rinse the tarnish off the sponge every few minutes, because once you get the sponge wet, it doesn't clean as well. If you have no more polish on the sponge, it's not going to get the tarnish off. You have to use the polish itself to clean. Then rinse in water and you're finished! What about polish wipes? I have used them to start polishing a larger item to get the first layers of tarnish off, but I haven't had success in really getting pieces bright and shiny.

I've read of products/recipes that call for creating a solution with hot water and baking soda or dish detergent. This can work, however, it will take ALL the tarnish off your piece. A little bit of tarnish is desirable because it gives decorative silver depth. Think about silverware. Part of the beauty in a family heirloom piece of silver is the patina that develops over time. Some of that patina comes from the tarnish in the crevices that a sponge misses. 

Hopefully, these tips will help you keep your pieces bright and shiny! Personally, I wouldn't try other hacks using ketchup, vodka, or toothpaste (too abrasive!), but I might have to try using beer to brighten gold. Just because!



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