If you’ve ordered from me before, you know that all of my jewelry items (with the exception of keychains, sorry) come with a polishing cloth and instructions on how to use that cloth. I mean, it’s fairly simple… rub the item with the cloth when it’s dirty, but I figured it would be good to cover that a bit more in depth.
All jewelry items get dirty, and all of them show it in different ways. Sterling silver, copper, brass, sometimes pewter will start to turn yellow or black. Stainless steel will show every fingerprint or skin mark from anyone who has or has thought about touching it. I love stainless steel as a heavier weight alternative to more expensive metals like sterling or gold, but my sweet baby Castiel does it show fingerprints like a mofo.
One of the most common misconceptions out there is that sterling silver doesn’t tarnish. I have seen debates in groups about how “high quality” sterling absolutely will not turn and how anyone who says otherwise is lying. First of all, sterling silver can not be put into quality categories. Sterling is .925 pure silver across the board. Meaning that 92.5% of sterling is silver and 7.5% of that is other metal, namely copper. Sterling is bonded with copper to beef up the weight and make it more durable. 100% pure silver, or fine silver is super pliable and very easy to break. The low copper content of sterling is what causes it to tarnish, and to cause reactions in those who are sensitive to copper. The copper can also rise to the surface when heated (like in soldering) and cause what is known as firescale. The rate at which sterling (and copper and brass) will tarnish depends wholly on the body chemistry of the wearer and certain environmental factors, such as:
Humidity - The more moisture in the air, the faster any tarnish prone metals will turn. When taking off your items, it’s recommended to store them in a clean, dry, airtight container like a ziplock bag, Tupperware, etc. Using an anti-tarnish strip with silver, copper, and brass will also help prevent tarnish. Make sure to change the strip out every now and then, though.
Perfumes, body sprays, makeup, lotions, etc. - The chemicals in each will react to metals differently and can cause tarnish, and in some cases, erode metal over time. When I say over time, I do not mean spritzing your necklace with perfume over days or weeks will cause it to crumble… we’re talking decades of constant exposure, but why subject your items to that sort of strain? Just avoid it when possible to keep things looking brand new.
Body Chemistry - I’m sure you know someone who can tarnish silver just by thinking about it. It’s all about the body chemistry of the individual reacting to the metal. Body chemistry can change at any time. I used to be able to wear any type of metal without issue, but after I had my first son, any type of base metal earrings (copper, brass) turn my ears black and make them bleed. Fun, right? It’s one of the reasons 98% of my earrings have sterling silver or surgical grade stainless steel posts.
”But, Jennnnnnnnnn, how come that sterling silver necklace from BIG MEGA CHAIN JEWELRY STORE doesn’t tarnish?!” Well, that would be because most mass produced sterling has been plated with Rhodium, which prevents the piece from tarnishing. This does create some confusion but rest assured real sterling DOES tarnish. “Buuuuuuut, if they plate it to make it easier, why don’t you?” Well, because myself and most other handmade jewelry makers don’t have access to the tools or chemicals needed to plate. Some will send higher value pieces out to be plated, such as wedding rings, but the expense doesn’t make sense for personalized name necklaces and such.
There are a few different cloths that I send depending on the item you order.
Blue cloths are my standard. They provide a gentle polish and clean and I use them for most everything.
Yellow cloths are slightly more abrasive and are good for chains, copper, pewter, etc. They do coat the metal to help stave off tarnish for a bit, so there might be a bit of a tacky residue left over… sort of like when you dust a shelf with pledge and it feels almost sticky.
Pink cloths for items with brushed finishes. The darker pink side of the cloth will clean the piece but leave the finish in tact, while the light pink side will buff and smooth.
A White cloth is sent with items that are oxidized, but don’t have a brushed finish. I don’t send these with aluminum as it tends to leave a white residue.
Microfiber cloths are sent with plated stainless items. These are usually gray, but the color may vary depending on what my supplier has in stock. The microfiber cloth does not contain any sort of abrasive or polishing agent, so they are great for removing fingerprints without harming the plating underneath.
I do not recommend using any commercial cleaners on personalized pieces. Not only can they take the darkening out of letters, but they generally “clean” by eating the top layer of the metal off.
As always, if I forgot something or you have questions, comment below!