Q. What is the best way to clean and keep my sterling silver jewelry and beads looking fresh and new? Does a silver polishing cloth work?
A. Silver darkens because of oxidization, which is caused by exposure to oxygen. So, the most effective way to keep your silver bright and shiny is to keep it in an airtight bag or box. Of course, this is impossible while we are actually wearing the silver so we need to touch it up now and then.
One of the easiest ways to maintain your silver is with a silver polishing cloth that has polishing compound embedded in the material. It is generally safe for stones, is an effective cleaner, and is easy to use. Just rub the cloth over the silver surface to remove oxidization. Remember not to wash your polishing cloth; you don’t want to remove the polishing compound. Over time, it will darken and eventually need replacement but it lasts a lot longer than you might think.
We use and sell Sunshine Polishing Cloths at Mana Beads. If you are trying to clean a silver chain that has no beads or stones involved, you can also use liquid silver cleaners – the kind most people use for flatware. These are much more chemically abrasive and may damage stones, glass, wood, etc. Liquid cleaners will also remove any wanted oxidization – the darkened, recessed areas that help define a pattern or design – so avoid the liquids on these types of silver jewelry as well.
What about a piece with lots of silver components as well as other materials? It might be a real pain in the neck to hand-rub every bit of silver. Unfortunately, there are not many options once the silver has badly tarnished. The best solution is preventative maintenance. That means storing your jewelry properly in between uses, and occasionally touching up the silver with a cloth.
from The Bead Scoop Vol.I Issue 1 Jun 2007