March 07, 2023
Howdy! Sometimes I receive an email or text about how to clean a piece of OSJ. So, let’s discuss. (Side note: If you’re lucky enough to have oxidized versions of OSJ then move along, you won’t need to know how to keep it nice and shiny.) First I’ll tell you why silver oxidizes, then give you a few ideas to keep it from oxidizing and removing it when/if it happens.
In my work, I use fine silver (99.9% pure) and sterling silver (92.5% pure) as well as a variety of types of gold which you can read about in one of my previous journal entries HERE. The real question about sterling silver is what the heck is the other 7.5%?? Normally, it’s copper. Pure silver is extremely malleable, or bendy, adding in a bit of copper provides the metal with strength and hardness. However, that’s where the tarnish comes into play.
Why Silver Tarnishes
Quick list of things that cause sterling silver to tarnish: oxygen, hydrogen sulfide (small component of our actual air), sulfur (rotten egg smell in Florida water or hot springs all over), acids (some face creams, trace amounts in tissues and paper), acids (also include your personal pH based on the water you drink and the food you eat!), chlorine (pools, shower water, cleaning the toilet) and general moisture (live in the South or East Coast anyone??)
How to Keep Silver from Tarnishing
Crapperdoodles. That’s quite a list of regular day to day things working against you and your silver jewelry. What can you do to keep your jewelry from tarnishing?? So. First idea’s an easy hack. You know the silicate packs that come in shoes, vitamins or virtually any packaged and shipped goods these days? They say “Do Not Eat” on them. They’re perfect to place in your jewelry box or in the side pocket of your purse where you store your jewelry during travel or at the gym.
I also recommend the sexy- Ziploc bag protocol for long term storage. Craft stores have different sizes if you need tidy (be sure to look for a brand that is made with post-consumer waste like the green line bags). There are jewelry boxes with anti-tarnish ju ju worked into the liner. I’ve had a couple for nearly 30 years, and it works like a champ!! In a pinch you can store a pre-1981 penny or six with your jewelry. The copper will tarnish first.
Hmmmmm… what if you have an acidic personality, I mean, I have an acidic personality, I mean physical personage (I am definitely guilty of tarnishing silver I’m wearing!!)? How do you clean your darn silver stuff once it’s gotten to tarnishing??
How to Clean your Silver Jewelry
First level of cleaning when your silver jewelry is just a bit dull and just not its shiny self anynmore—a bit of soap and water. Or Windex. Use your fingers to do a little massage, then rinse and (IMPORTANT) dry. This will remove any surface grime and light dulling.
You can dip your silver into a commercial cleaner (available at drug stores, jewelry counters and online), but beware the stones. Most of these have a tiny brush wedged into the basket you can use to get into small places. Don’t dip your turquoise or other semi-precious stones or pearls, they are porous and can be harmed in these solutions. I recommend some home remedies that are easy to mix up and not as bad for the environment as commercial cleaners.
A couple of home remedies include corn starch and vinegar. First recipe is to combine 3-parts water and 1-part cornstarch to create a paste. Using a damp cloth or old toothbrush, apply the paste to the silver and let the paste dry. Use the clean and dry toothbrush or a microfiber cloth to rub off. If you need to get more residue off, a quick rinse in water and be sure to dry your piece.
Second recipe uses vinegar, water, and baking soda. Mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar with 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a bowl of lukewarm water. Try quick dips with stones, or just submerge the un-stoned parts. I like to use an old toothbrush for a good scrub with this recipe. So satisfying.
Quick travel tip and for any OSJ pieces that are woven: toothpaste and toothbrush. Rinse and dry.
If you have any other questions – contact me!
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