A Guide to Cleaning Silver Jewelry

  • May 08
A Guide to Cleaning Silver Jewelry

What is sterling silver? What about silver plate? You might be confused by the different types of silver in the market and how to care for this versatile metal. Use this guide to silver jewelry to learn the differences and how to properly care and clean for silver.

Silver has been used for jewelry making for thousands of years. Like gold, it reflects light and its malleability makes it ideal for forming into rings, earrings, necklaces and more. Silver’s popularity has only expanded, especially as the price of gold and platinum has increased. Silver offers you a more economical, but still very beautiful, option. It is frequently used for statement pieces, such as bold chains, earrings and cuffs, and looks beautiful with set stones, such as turquoise, amber, aquamarine and topaz.

While pure silver is very reflective and beautiful, it is also soft, which means it tends to lose shape over time and with wear. Therefore, like with gold, silver is often alloyed with other metals to provide strength which improves its function in a piece of jewelry.

Here’s a rundown of six different varieties of silver, along with details on how best to care for your silver jewelry!


Fine Silver

Fine silver must contain 99.9 percent silver, and thus is stamped with 999 to identify its composition. Fine silver is rarely used in jewelry because of its softness. When it is used, it is usually hammered or brushed to help mask evidence of wear over time.


Britannia Silver

Britannia silver contains 95.8 percent pure silver which is alloyed with copper. This variety of silver, usually stamped with 958 to identify its composition, is most frequently used in housewares and some coins. It is rarely used for silver jewelry.


Sterling Silver

Sterling silver contains 92.5 percent pure silver alloyed with another metal, usually copper. The most popular silver used in jewelry, sterling silver offers better durability while maintaining the metal’s beautiful shine. The addition of the alloyed metal also makes the jewelry more tarnish resistant; and, sometimes gold and platinum are used to increase tarnish resistance. Sterling silver is stamped 925 to indicate its composition.


Coin Silver

Coin silver, as the name suggests, is most commonly used for coinage, though it is sometimes used in fashion jewelry. Also known as 900 silver, coin silver is comprised of 90 percent silver with 10 percent copper.


Sterling Silver Plated

Although silver is not as expensive as gold or platinum, jewelry manufacturers will use silver plating to get the shine and beauty of a solid silver piece while using less of the metal to reduce the cost. One form of silver plating, electroplating bonds atoms of silver to a base metal using electricity. This thin coating of silver is reasonably durable but will wear over time. These pieces may be marked with SP, EPS or EP.


Sterling Silver Filled

The other form of plating, filled or rolled silver, is comprised of a thin layer of silver bonded to a base metal using heating or pressing of the silver to create a bond. Filled silver pieces have a thicker layer of silver, though this limits its use in more delicate pieces. These pieces may be marked with an SF or FS denoting silver fill or filled silver and they may also show the silver thickness such as 1/20 to 1/10.

Guide to Care and Cleaning of Silver Jewelry

There are two approaches to cleaning silver jewelry: removal of oils and grime and removal of tarnish.

When you are cleaning silver pieces with set stones, you can remove oils and grime by soaking the piece in the Gem Glow Delicate Jewelry Cleaner. this is a safe method to keep from damaging the set stones, while gently cleaning the silver as well. If needed, use the brush tool to give the stones a quick scrub. Don’t forget step two: polishing! The Gem Glow Gold & Silver Polishing Cloth is ideal to polish all metals including silver. Buff and wipe with the untreated outer cloth to remove any grime, oils, and fingerprints. An untreated polishing cloth can safely shine silver and gems of any composition.

You can also clean sterling silver jewelry that also includes stones or other metals with the Jewelry Cleaning Stick or individually packaged Jewelry Care Wipes.

For tarnished silver without set stones or designer antiquing, use the Gem Glow Silver Jewelry Cleaner designed for tarnish removal. This formulation is safe for tarnish removal on silver pieces such as silver filled, silver plated, or even fine silver.

Our silver cleaner is designed to clean without the need to scrub. Immerse the silver in the cleaner for one minute, then rinse, and blot dry. Finish cleaning with a buffing from the untreated layer of a polishing cloth.

Rubbing a piece with a treated polishing cloth also removes tarnish, then finish your cleaning with a buffing from a soft cloth or the untreated portion of a polishing cloth for a beautiful luster.

To keep your silver jewelry shining, wear it frequently which helps to prevent tarnish. Also, store your silver jewelry in a treated pouch or place anti-tarnish strips in your jewelry box.

To learn about tarnish, removing tarnish, and preventing tarnish read our blog post 5 Things to Know About Tarnish.