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An eco-friendly way to clean silver jewelry

I make many of my jewelry pieces in sterling or silver-plated silver, like the Petiole earrings pictured above. Over years of wearing my own designs and others', I have found that some silver tone jewelry will darken over time through exposure to humidity, chemicals like perfume or even just particles in the air. Sometimes this adds to the piece and sometimes you want a return the original bright sheen.

So, how to best to clean silver jewelry? A long time ago, I tried chemical baths and other mass-market products sold to clean jewelry. I found both chemicals and polishing cloths to be too abrasive, sometimes even stripping a delicate plating. Plus, I wasn't happy with the environmental impact of disposing of harsh chemicals and too numerous not-very-biodegradable polishing cloths.

So here are my tips.

First, prevention! To preserve the beauty of your new jewelry, store delicate pieces in a jewelry box or other closed container, and avoid direct contact with strong chemicals like cleaning products or perfume. This will help reduce tarnish from oxidation.

If and when tarnish or darkening that you don't like develops, there's an environmentally-friendly way to make it disappear.

Here's the secret: most silver tarnish can be magnetized away! All you need is some aluminum foil, baking soda and hot water. Then just follow these simple steps:

  1. Line a bowl or baking pan (one just big enough to fit the jewelry you're cleaning) with a sheet of aluminum 
  2. Carefully lay your jewelry out flat on the aluminum. Keep pieces apart to avoid tangling, especially necklaces or other pieces with chains.
  3. Powder thickly with about a ¼-inch (1 cm) layer of baking soda.
  4. Pour 1-2 inches (3-5 cm) of just-boiled water into the bowl or pan – only as much as you need to cover your pieces of jewelry.
  5. Watch: you'll see a natural chemical reaction occur that magnetizes most of the tarnish onto the aluminum. Your jewelry will visibly brighten.
  6. Soak for 5-15 minutes, depending on the degree of tarnish.
  7. Put a stopper in your sink and lightly rinse your jewelry pieces, rubbing their edges to remove any soda crystals that may have formed.
  8. Gently pat dry and lay out flat on a towel or cloth to finish drying.
  9. Rinse the used baking soda down the drain (it's biodegradable and non-polluting) and let the aluminum foil dry before crumpling it and adding it to your aluminum recycling.
  10. If all tarnish hasn’t been removed, repeat the ten steps.

Please note that this method is intended for silver, and is not well-suited to gold, brass or porous materials like coral.

Over the years, I have used this process dozens of times. It is gloriously low-cost and low-effort while being kind to your jewelry and the environment. Hope you have good luck with it.

In the meantime, check out more of the InfinEight jewelry collections!

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