What is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is a metal mixture of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals (often copper). Pure silver is a very soft metal, so mixing it with another metal produces a stronger product.
How does sterling silver differ from silver plated?
Silver plated items are made from a very thin coating of pure silver over other metals. When the coating of silver flakes or scrapes off, the base metal underneath is revealed. Sterling silver, which contains much more silver, is an alloy (mixture) so it is bonded much more tightly to the other metals and does not flake off. Since it is a mixture instead of a coating, it will be a consistent color throughout the piece. So if it were to get scratched, the underlying color would be the same color as the outer layer and would be much less noticable than a scratch on a silver plated piece.
What is tarnish and how do I take care of it?
Pure silver is not susceptible to tarnish. However, the copper that is contained in sterling silver may react to the oxygen in the air and cause sterling silver to tarnish. Perfumes, hair sprays, and profuse sweating can also cause a quicker formation of tarnish. Tarnish can easily be removed with a specially treated polishing cloth (such as the Sunshine cloths available at Aquablue) and the sterling will look brand new again.
Chains may require a little more work to clean with a polishing cloth. A sterling silver cleaning dip (available at the jewelry counter at retailers such as Target) works very well to clean the nooks and crannies of sterling chains. However, any stones or pieces of the jewelry that have been stamped and then oxidized (darkened) should NEVER be dipped! The stones may be ruined and the darkened areas of stamped pieces will not be dark anymore if these areas are dipped in silver cleaner. Clean those areas of the piece with a Sunshine cloth only!
Can I prevent tarnish from forming?
You won't necessarily be able to prevent tarnish from forming, but there are a few ways you can significantly delay the formation of tarnish.
The best way is to wear your sterling silver jewelry frequently. The oils in your skin will "clean" the sterling silver every time you wear a piece.
The second best way to delay tarnishing is to store sterling silver in an airtight container, preferably with an anti-tarnish strip (a specially formulated material that absorbs moisture). Anti-tarnish strips are available at Aquablue and are included with every sterling silver jewelry purchase.
While it may not look as pretty, plastic zip-top bags are the best container to use to store your jewelry. A jewelry box with a tight-fitting lid is also a good option.
I store my jewelry in a kraft jewelry box (like your jewelry purchase from Aquablue comes in) and wear the jewelry frequently. I have not had any of my personal jewelry, which I've had for up to a year, tarnish at all. In fact, it is incredibly shiny with this limited very limited amount of care.
What is gold-filled jewelry?
Gold-filled jewelry is a great, less expensive option to 14K gold jewelry. A thick layer of gold is bonded to a base metal (such as sterling silver). The entire outer layer of gold-filled jewelry is 14K gold, so the appearance is the same as a 14K gold piece at a fraction of the cost.
Gold-filled jewelry is 5% 14K gold by weight. This is up to 100 times the amount of gold as in gold plated jewelry. Because the gold is bonded to the base metal, it will not flake off or peel off as gold plated jewelry will.
How do I care for gold-filled jewelry?
Gold-filled jewelry can be wiped periodically with a soft cloth to remove any accumulation of dirt, perspiration, chlorine, etc. If there is a build-up of dirt in hard to wipe off areas, you may clean the jewelry with a jewelry cleaner (available at Aquablue) and allow to air dry.
What is fine silver jewelry?
Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver compared to 92.5% silver in sterling silver. Pure silver is a soft metal, which is why sterling silver is so commonly used as an alternative to fine silver. Fine silver is too soft to be used in most weight-bearing applications such as chains or clasps, but it is very nice for other applications such as charms. Fine silver is found in the bands and charms of the China Cat jewelry collection at Aquablue.
How do I care for fine silver?
Fine silver is not susceptible to tarnish, but may scratch more easily than sterling silver since it is softer. Store fine silver pieces in softly lined containers (such as a velvet lined jewelry box) and in separate compartments/bags from other jewelry to avoid scratches. Wipe periodically with a soft cloth to remove any accumulations of dirt, perspiration, etc.