What is 925 Sterling Silver and How to Care for It

What is 925 Sterling Silver

925 sterling silver, commonly referred to as sterling silver or 925 silver, is a silver alloy. An alloy is a metal made of a combination of two or more metals. In our case, 925 sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals like nickel, copper, and zinc. Because of 925 sterling silver's multi-metal composition, it tarnishes over time as it's exposed to corrosive materials in our everyday lives. Some examples of these tarnish-causing materials are; sulfur and oxygen in the air, the industrial pollution in your area, chlorine in pools, bleach and fabrics, strong chemicals in abrasive soaps and skin cleansers, and more. The section below contains several ways to clean and care for your 925 sterling silver jewelry.


How to take care of your 925 Sterling Silver Jewelry

What does tarnish look like? Good Question


These are some examples of tarnished 925 sterling silver and what it can look like once that tarnish is removed. Tarnish can make your jewelry look dirty or darkened, but the good news is, it's rather easy to both prevent tarnishing and remove tarnish from your 925 sterling silver. 


Here are some ways to prevent and remove tarnish; 

*For 925 sterling silver jewelry plated in gold, rose gold, black rhodium, or any other type of plating, skip to the last two listed methods.

*If you see a red asterisks, read the sentence/s in red at the bottom of the method before trying it on your specific jewelry piece.

  • Wearing your jewelry regularly; One of the best ways to prevent tarnishing on your 925 sterling silver is by wearing it regularly. The natural oils in your skin actually help keep the jewelry clean and maintain its brilliance. Do keep skin cleansers, abrasive liquids or gels, and chemical-intense things away from your jewelry while you wear it. Also, moisture allows for tarnishing, so a good tip is to take your 925 sterling silver jewelry off before cleaning or doing household chores!
  • Soap and Warm Water; If you're uncertain whether your jewelry is tarnished or covered in grime, a good first step is washing it thoroughly with soap and warm water. Most soaps are okay for your 925 sterling silver jewelry, but avoid soaps with lemon, citric acid, perfumes, and dyes. Sometimes, "a thin layer of tarnish" is actually just dirt or dust and can easily be removed by a good handwash in your sink. If you don't want to use your hands, feel free to use the soft side of a sponge, but make sure you do not scrape or damage your 925 sterling silver jewelry. If, despite your efforts, a thin layer of tarnish remains on your jewelry even after the handwash, don't worry. Here's the best method for you to try next.
  • Toothpaste and Warm Water***; Using toothpaste and warm water has been a home jewelry cleaning method for ages, but here are some specifics you should know before trying it yourself. Before you begin reading, skip this step if you have heavily tarnished 925 sterling silver jewelry as this method works best (and only really works) on lightly tarnished pieces. Firstly, choose a plain, solid-colored toothpaste with no baking soda, tartar control, or whitening agents, as they can be too abrasive and scratch your 925 sterling silver jewelry. However, do not use gel toothpaste because it won't be abrasive enough to remove tarnish. Colgate Cavity Protection Fluoride Toothpaste is a toothpaste we recommend for your 925 sterling silver cleaning needs. For the actual cleaning part, make sure your 925 sterling silver is damp/wet by dipping it in water or using a spray bottle to spray it with water. Then apply your toothpaste onto the jewelry using the toothpaste tube or a soft-bristled toothbrush. Then, use your soft-bristled toothbrush to brush the 925 sterling silver piece and clean off the tarnish. Feel free to hold it in your hands as you clean it (I suggest wearing gloves), or clean it on a surface not prone to water damage. While cleaning your jewelry with the toothbrush it will darken as the tarnish leaves the jewelry and sticks to the toothbrush. Rinse your toothbrush as needed and continue cleaning your 925 sterling silver piece. For larger items like chains and bracelets, you can also take a soft cloth, like a household cleaning microfiber cloth, and run your toothpaste-covered jewelry piece through the cloth. Gently press on your jewelry as it passes through the folded cloth and watch as the tarnish comes off right before your eyes. Feel free to run your jewelry piece through the cloth up to 10 times to leave it with a brighter sheen. Please be aware that the cloth may become permanently stained as it effectively removes the tarnish. Once you finish cleaning your jewelry, wash it with soap and warm water to remove any remnants of toothpaste, dirt, fingerprints, etc. If this method does not remove the tarnish from your 925 sterling silver jewelry, here is the next best thing to try. ***Do not run your 925 sterling silver jewelry through a cloth if it is gold plated, rose gold plated, black rhodium plated, or any other plate as the abrasion may remove the plating. 
  • Silver Polishing Cloths***; Using a polishing cloth is one of the most efficient and easy methods to remove tarnish from your 925 sterling silver jewelry. Microfiber polishing cloths, available from most jewelers and jewelry supply shops, as well as all over the internet, are generally an inexpensive but effective way to remove tarnish. All you have to do is rub the cloth against the surface of your 925 sterling silver piece, and your jewelry's original shine will surface. As you remove the layer of tarnish from your jewelry piece, you will notice your microfiber polishing cloth becoming dirty with the tarnish. Try not to get it on your fingers, but if you do, you can easily wash it off with soap and warm water. Once finished, wash your jewelry in soap and warm water to remove all remnants of polish, dirt, fingerprints, etc. While a polishing cloth will work for most 925 sterling silver pieces, it won't work on pieces with inaccessible places. In that case, here are a few more methods of removing tarnish from your jewelry. *Do not use on gold plated, rose gold plated, black rhodium plated, or any plated 925 sterling silver pieces as it will remove the plating!
  • Chemical Cleaners***; I know we previously mentioned keeping your 925 sterling silver away from chemicals to prevent tarnishing, but some chemical cleaners are specifically designed to remove that tarnish from your jewelry. Those chemical cleaners are often silver polishing pastes or liquids. Wright's and Weiman have silver polish liquids and creams we highly recommend for removing tarnish from 925 sterling silver jewelry. Creams and cream-like liquids are generally buffed over the surface of your silver piece and do not get into the crevices not accessible by the human hand. For hard-to-reach areas, submerge your 925 sterling silver piece in a liquid solution that cleans it effortlessly. We highly recommend Goddard's Silver Dip due to its exceptional effectiveness within a remarkably short dipping time, surpassing other liquid solutions. The only downside to these chemical cleaners is that they are often messy and can expose you to unpleasant chemicals, so read the directions and warnings carefully. We highly recommend wearing gloves from beginning to finish when handling any chemical cleaner. Once you finish cleaning your jewelry, wash it in soap and warm water to remove all remnants of the polish, chemicals, dirt, etc. ***Do not use on pearls as it will damage them. Do not use on gold plated, rose gold plated, black rhodium plated, or any plated 925 sterling silver pieces as it can remove the plating!
    • Soap, Water, and a Soft Cloth or Toothbrush*; If your tarnished 925 sterling silver jewelry piece is plated in gold, rose gold, black rhodium, or any other type of plating, you've come to the first attempt method. Plating on jewelry is rather delicate and can be removed with chemicals or abrasion, so the tarnish cleaning methods differ from regular 925 sterling silver. The first method we recommend is a simple soap and warm water wash (refer to the soap and warm water method). If the tarnish does not come off after a soap and warm water wash, which it likely will not, move to the next step. Next, put some soap onto a soft cloth or toothbrush. Then, gently brush or rub your toothbrush/cloth against your tarnished piece of jewelry and attempt to remove the tarnish without damaging the plating. Feel free to use both, a toothbrush and a soft cloth, if necessary, to get into nooks and crannies. This step may take a while, so be gentle and watch as you are brushing/rubbing to make sure you have only removed the tarnish and not begun removing the plating. If this does not work on your plated 925 sterling silver pieces, move to the final listed method. 
    • Tinfoil and Baking Soda in a Bowl****; If you're attempting to remove tarnish from plated 925 sterling silver jewelry and you've already tried the previously listed method, then you're in the right place. This method will require a heat-safe bowl covered with tinfoil as the base. Add one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of salt to your tinfoil-lined bowl. Pour one cup of hot, but not boiling, water into the bowl and stir thoroughly to create your cleaning solution. Next, completely submerge your tarnished plated 925 sterling silver jewelry piece/s for ten minutes. Remove them, and feel free to use a soft cloth or soft toothbrush to buff off any remaining grime or tarnish that may have stuck to the pieces as you removed them from the water. Rinse your jewelry with water, and, if necessary, clean your gemstones with a soapy toothbrush. ***Do not submerge jewelry pieces with pearls, opals, turquoise, or other delicate gemstones in the baking soda mixture.