Actually, all jewelry tarnishes eventually. Gold, brass, copper, and even fine silver or 100% pure silver will eventually tarnish over time. In fact the only metal that doesn't tarnish is metal which is coated with a thin layer of some type of coating protecting its outer layer from attracting oil or dirt to stick to it (which is actually one of the main factors which causes tarnishing)
So, lets get right to it- here are a few basic and easy tips on how to clean sterling silver and also on how to prevent it from tarnishing in the first place, because prevention is the main step in keeping jewelry clean and sparkling for years to come! :)
1. Do not wear your jewelry all the time.
Unless its a wedding ring, I do not recommend wearing any one piece of jewelry day and night. Natural body oil, sweat, and jewelry rubbing against skin and other objects from the outside world will quickly break down the composition of any metal, especially soft metal like sterling silver and if its fine jewelry, such as a ring with a stone setting, daily wear and tear can actually loosen stone settings and eventually breakdown the metal that much quicker.
2. Keep your jewelry dry as much as possible.
I highly recommend that you do not wear your jewelry in the shower or pool or in any wet environment. Wearing jewelry in the shower or pool or while working out is a bad idea for several reasons. Shower water (at least here in the US) has so many added chemicals like fluoride, chlorine and other chemicals which will quickly contribute to the break down of the composition of sterling silver or any metal.
Pro tip: Speaking of fluoride, never use toothpaste with fluoride to clean jewelry. The fluoride from toothpaste will actually damage the metal and toothbrushes tend to actually scratch the surface of metal leaving fine grooves for dirt to seep into.
3.When not in use, store it away!
Keep your dry, clean jewelry in an airtight protective plastic bag, preferably with a ziploc style closure. Storing your jewelry in an air tight protective plastic bag is best as this will provide ample protection against airborne elements like carbon, dust, dirt, skin, dander, and other elements which create tarnish. Without storing your jewelry away, these elements will eventually be attracted to your jewelry and stick to it causing a layer of film or dirt which will tarnish your jewelry.
4. When it does eventually tarnish, here are a few tips on how to clean and polish it!
I recommend polishing jewelry with a polishing cloth specifically made for sterling silver jewelry. That will remove the tarnish and then polish the piece of jewelry back to its original luster. In my shop I carry polishing cloths specifically made for silver here.
If the jewelry is fine or has small crevices which may be too delicate to polish with a cloth, you can soak your jewelry in a gentle solution of 1 part gentle liquid dish detergent with 5 parts lukewarm water. Let your jewelry soak for 20 minutes or longer until the tarnish starts to loosen and disappear. Then rinse with cold water and if necessary use a q-tip to gently polish any hard to reach crevices.
*Never use a toothbrush because sterling silver is a soft metal and this will actually scratch the surface of sterling silver.
*Never soak jewelry which was assembled with glue or epoxy as the glue may dissolve.
On the left is a necklace with tarnish and on the right is one that has been cleaned in a dish detergent solution.
Storing your sterling silver jewelry in these protective polybags once they are clean and dry is another great way to keep it clean, tarnish free and shiny when not in use.
Have any tips of your own on how you clean your sterling silver jewelry? I would love to hear your tips in the comments below.