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How to Clean Silver-Plated Jewelry

Sherry GeeMarch 4, 2010

Overview

All silver-plated jewelry tarnishes at some point, as the chemicals from daily wear and the exposed layer of silver react with air to change the color of a piece. Silver-plated jewelry--generally found in period or antique items but also in contemporary jewelrycontemporary jewelry--has a very thin layer of silver that covers a non-precious base metal. Because the coating is so thin on the base, cleaning needs to be careful but complete to keep up an item's shine.

Light Cleaning

Step 1: Mix 1 tsp. mild liquid dish soap with lukewarm water in a small bowl.


Step 2: Dip a soft cloth in the soapy water, then gently scrub your jewelry while keeping it submerged in the bowl. Concentrate on any grooves or ridges the piece may have. Don't scrub too hard, though, or you risk scratching the item. Clean the jewelry for no longer than 10 minutes, then rinse and dry it with a clean, lint-free cloth.


Clean your silver-plated jewelry frequently--at least once every two weeks to a month with this method--to maintain its shine. This technique works on rings, earrings or larger pieces such as RedEnvelope's family locket necklace or silver-plated pet locket (see Resources). Don't forget to remove any elements that shouldn't get wet, such as the photos in a locket.

Deeper Cleaning

Step 1: Line the bottom of a small bowl with a piece of aluminum foil.


Step 2: Add the salt and baking soda to the bowl, then add enough hot water so that your jewelry piece will be covered. Mix the solution so the powders dissolve.


Step 3: Add the jewelry to the bowl, and let it sit, ensuring that the jewelry touches the aluminum foil. Black and yellow flakes will begin to break off or float up in the water as the sulfur (what darkens the jewelry) separates from the silver and is attracted to the aluminum in the bowl.


Step 4: Remove the piece after 10 minutes, or when you see that the tarnish or dirt seems to have mostly disappeared.


Step 5: Rinse the jewelry under lukewarm water, then dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. This method should be done every two months or whenever your piece needs a deeper cleaning.

Materials Needed

  • Small bowl
  • Soft cloths
  • Mild liquid dish soap
  • Aluminum foil
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. salt

Tips

Humidity encourages tarnishing, so always store silver-plated jewelry in a cool, dry place. RedEnvelope's cloth-lined, leather jewelry boxes or stylish stacking boxes will keep items dry in separate compartments while also helping to avoid scratches. Do not use polishing cloths or other cleaning agents such as pastes or jewelry cleaners on silver-plated items. They can scratch the piece or cause more harm.Letting an item sit for too long in water could cause corrosion of delicate parts on some jewelry. Always take off your silver-plated jewelry before swimming, showering or cleaning. The water and chemicals used during these activities could cause the item to tarnish more quickly.

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