How to Clean and Store Jewelry

One of the questions that always arises: how do I keep my jewelry clean and tarnish-free? Since you’ve made the investment in a piece of good jewelry, you want to be sure it will stay just as beautiful for its entire life.

If your jewelry collection consists mostly of sterling silver, you’re probably familiar with the patina of tarnish, or oxidation, that builds up on your jewelry over time. Sterling silver tarnishes because it contains a small amount of copper which, in response to moisture and other chemicals (oxygen and sulfur dioxide) in its surroundings, produces oxides that coat the surface of the metal and make it appear darker. If you keep your jewelry in a jewelry box or out on your vanity, you’ll see this patina develop more quickly.

One way to slow tarnish and keep your silver shiny for longer is to store it in an airtight container. Little plastic baggies or boxes with fitted lids are your best bet; keeping it stored away from moist environments (like your bathroom countertop) will also help prevent oxidation.

The good news is that if your sterling silver does tarnish, it’s easy to remove that fine layer of oxides by using a special jewelry cleaning cloth. These are usually made of cotton impregnated with a very fine abrasive compound which basically exfoliates away the layer of oxides and reveals the shiny, clean silver underneath.

Gold vermeil jewelry reacts similarly to sterling silver in that it can develop tarnish over time. You can use a polishing cloth to clean vermeil jewelry, but because vermeil consists of a layer of gold plated over sterling silver, repeated use of an abrasive cloth will eventually wear away that layer of gold and reduce the lifespan of your jewelry. Keep your gold vermeil jewelry stored the same way as suggested above for silver, and use polishing cloths sparingly.

Solid gold jewelry (made of karat gold, which includes alloys like 14k and 22k gold) is extremely resistant to tarnish. This is because most gold alloys used in jewelry contain a much smaller percentage of oxidizing agents like copper. Even though solid gold jewelry won’t tarnish, you still want to protect this precious metal from becoming scratched or dulled while in storage. It’s best to store individual pieces in soft fabric baggies or in a jewelry box where each piece can have a compartment to itself.


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