Silver bead in a bag with anti-tarnish tabs

Preventing Sterling Silver from Oxidizing

Sterling silver is a wonderful metal for jewelry.  Silver’s bright luster will enhance any outfit beautifully.  Patinas can be added for striking contrast.  It is also a much more affordable option than gold making it quite collectable and perfect for gifts.  However, keeping silver at its very brightest can take a little extra care.  In previous posts I have given reasons why I do not use platings and I provided some tips for polishing.  There are links to these posts at the end of this article for those who would like to read them.  Why not store your jewelry in a manner that will prevent or minimize tarnishing and spend far less time polishing?

Let’s start by looking at silver’s greatest offenders.  Heat and humidity are high on the list.  Storing your sterling jewelry in an area that is likely to be very hot and humid will certainly have you reaching for your polishing cloth much more often.  Sulphur/ sulphides will turn silver black in a matter of seconds.  Those of you who frequent the Greenbrier or other spas that offer sulphur baths will do well to remove your silver before settling in for a relaxing soak!  

There are also a few items you can place in your jewelry box keep silver fresh.  3M makes a product called anti tarnish tabs, similar products have also hit the market over the last several years.  Anti-tarnish tabs are small paper squares that can be placed in a plastic baggie with your silver.  They work by removing sulphides from the air and will prevent tarnishing, however they will not diminish tarnish on a piece that has already oxidized.  These tabs do work best when fresh and I highly recommend wiping finger prints and skin oils off of your jewelry items before storing them.  Anti-tarnish tabs can touch the silver they are being stored with and are very safe to use.

A turned camphor vase with a eucalyptus lid by artisan Jeni Benos
Camphor is a beautifully colored and fragrant wood. I turned this vase in camphor and crafted the lid from eucalyptus. A camphor block in your jewelry box can keep your silver bright, but it is highly toxic to ingest so be sure to keep it away from pets and small children.


A block of camphor wood in your jewelry box will also preserve your sterling, however it cannot touch the metal.  Also, please be aware that CAMPOR IS HIGHLY TOXIC TO YOUR PETS AND SMALL CHILDREN!   Camphor has a wonderful intoxicating odor much like eucalyptus and is the main ingredient in medicated sports creams. Questions concerning Camphor’s toxicity to animals often come up when watching elderly pets suffer with arthritis.  Never use medicated creams on your pets or let them lick them off of you, and do not allow your pets to get a hold of any camphor blocks or oils.  Camphor is toxic for anyone to ingest however the risk of ingestion is primarily a factor for infants, small children and pets.      

As far as polishing goes, that’s a whole different topic, but I will take a moment to tell you about an ionic cleaner I purchased within the last year or so.  There is a company based in North Carolina that makes an ionic cleaner called a Speedbright.  It is a wonderful product and made in the USA.  This cleaning system works through electrolysis and uses a nontoxic solution to lift oxidization from your jewelry.  To be clear this is not an ultrasonic cleaner, which does nothing to clean tarnished jewelry and works through sound waves.  Ionic cleaners work through electrolysis and use the same principal as the recipe I outline in the blog below, but with a bit more power.  I have been very happy with mine.  Speedbrights come in a variety of sizes with lower prince points for smaller personal units.

A tabby cat sitting next to a Speed Bright ionic jewelry cleaner.
An ionic cleaner like this Speed Bright cleans through electrolysis. It uses a non toxic cleaning solution and is safe for most gemstone.

If you would like to read about some of my recommendations for cleaning silver please feel free to follow the link below.   As a side note, my current recommendation for chains would be to start with Tarn-X, neutralize with some baking soda in water, and finish with a dip in the Speedbright.   

The article below discusses several methods of polishing and also describes the reason I do not rhodium plate my work.  Although the plating will not tarnish, it will wear off eventually and I prefer to make jewelry that will last a lifetime!

Enjoy your silver and I hope some of these ideas will help you keep your sterling silver jewelry at it’s finest luster with minimal effort!  

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