Pure silver is too soft and can
easily become damaged or scratched. It is therefore most commonly
combined with copper to create a more durable alloy.
Sterling silver is the most popular alloy containing 92.5% silver
and 7.5% copper. While this small percentage of added copper
does not affect the silver color, it greatly improves its durability
Also to note, is that this addition of copper has little effect
on the jewelry's value. Rather it is more directly related to
the labor and time involved in the making, and the intricacy
of a particular piece.
Sterling silver can be identified by a "quality" or "fineness"
marking stamp or engraving which is required by law. Generally
you would notice the ".925" mark (denoting 92.5%) on smaller
objects such as jewelry. Larger items, such as flatware, trays,
and tea sets, might be stamped or engraved with "sterling" or
"sterling silver," etc., as well as the manufacturer's logo
To keep your jewelry free of tarnish, frequent cleaning in a
simple dilute solution of mild dishwashing liquid and water
is best. Rinse and dry thoroughly and store in a dry container.
The presence of moisture can act as a catalyst and will promote
tarnish. If possible, store your jewelry in a zip-loc plastic
bag with anti-tarnish paper.
Light tarnish or oxidation film can be removed with silver polishing
cloths available at major supermarkets, hardware stores or jewelry
Heavy tarnishing will require the use of commercially available
polishing creams, or dip liquids. Do use care with these, limiting
the exposure of gemstones to silver cleaners as they may contain
chemicals that can harm certain gemstones. Always rinse and
dry jewelry thoroughly with a soft cloth making sure no residual
While cream and dip liquid polishes will most likely remove
tarnish and oxidation from your jewelry, they will almost certainly
remove any decorative oxidation designs and patinas as well.
Therefore it is best to keep these items free of tarnish through
proper storage and the use of cleaning cloths.