Everyone has some silver in their accessory wardrobe and they should! It’s absolutely gorgeous! The shine, the richness, the feel…it’s just an incredible metal. But do you know what kind of silver you’re wearing? There are different kinds of silver and they all sort of get lumped together, unfortunately, into one category called “silver” or “sterling silver”.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to be overly technical here, but knowing the type of silver in your wonderful hands can help you care for it. So let’s start:
Sterling Silver: This type of silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. That copper alloy is the reason it tarnishes the way it does.
Fine Silver: Ok, so most of us are used to hearing this in connection with the “good” silverware brought out during the holidays, but there’s another way to use it. This type of silver is 99.9% pure silver. It’s incredible!! ….and it’s also pretty soft. Translation here? That means it’s easy to damage.
Argentium: This is one of my absolute faves to work with. While it’s still 92.5% silver, the alloy is now germanium instead of copper. This alloy makes it just a little harder and definitely more tarnish-resistant.
Palladium Sterling: This is a relatively new mix and I’m completely enamoured of it! It’s still 92.5% silver, but here’s where it gets fun: 4.5% of the alloy is copper and 3% is palladium. Palladium is whiter than silver and has an unbelievably decadent feel to it! I have a chain I made in this metal and I adore it!
Platinum Sterling: Another new “hybrid” in the sterling collection. This is 92.5% silver (see the pattern?), 6.5% copper, and 1% platinum. I’ve not worked with this one yet, but I’m definitely going to be trying it soon.
Silver Plated: This is the term used when a base metal (copper, brass, steel, etc.) receives an electroplated coating of silver. The coating is rather thin and with wear you will start to see the base metal come through.
Silver Filled: This is one that I’ve just recently noticed coming out. Again, a base metal is coated with silver, but there is much more silver around the outside. This adds to the weight and beauty of the piece while giving it more life.
Particularly with silver plated metals, you want to be sure to never use something too abrasive to clean. Besides scratching the beautiful finish of the silver, you will wear off little micro-layers and expose the base metal.
There are lots of commercial silver cleaners on the market, and in a pinch I’ll grab one, but it’s really not my method of choice. To clean my silver, I always choose either my tumbler or a handy-dandy mixture of water and baking soda.
As I stated previously, you can make your own tumbler out of pretty simple things you have around the house. It’s not really hard. Once you have your container, just add enough water to cover your item(s), a couple drops of Dawn blue dish detergent, settle in, and swirl, baby, swirl!!
My method of choice (after the tumbler) is always a watery paste of baking soda and water. It’s ridiculously simple, but it’s going to take a few more moments of your time. I promise, though, that it’s more than worth it! Make that diluted paste and just gently rub it into the item. That’s all you have to do. Be thorough, but be gentle. This is going to really clean that item up, I promise! After you’re through giving it a good washing this way, run it under warm water for a few moments. If it’s not the way you want it to look just yet, do it again.
After you get the metal where you want it, then gently roll it in a soft cloth to get off any excess water. Now, here’s the kicker: Put your blow dryer on cool and really let the air run around that item. There’s a very simple reason I say this. What happens when you leave water on metal? It rusts. That’s the last thing we want to happen! I’ve made that mistake a couple times and had to either try to wiggle out a ring or get into those tightly woven rings to get that awful stuff off. So, learn from my mistake and you’ll be ahead of the game!