Keeping sterling silver jewelry clean is often considered difficult enough for pieces you frequently wear. However, pieces that are not worn for extended periods of time can corrode and tarnish as well. Thus, silver jewelry storage is a critical component for preventing corrosion and tarnish. By following a few simple rules, you can save yourself hours of cleaning and keep your sterling silver jewelry bright and beautiful for years.
Understanding Why Sterling Silver Jewelry Tarnishes
The tarnish on sterling silver jewelry is the result of oxidative reactions with sulfur, such as Hydrogen Sulfide, in the air and environment (the nickel or copper alloy in most sterling silver also undergoes its own oxidative reactions). The corrosion of silver combined with sulfur creates the darkening referred to as tarnish. Therefore, you must insure your jewelry is clean and dry before storage; since any moisture, dirt, oils or other residual chemicals will accelerate the tarnishing.
Containers for Silver Storage
A container that locks out air is preferable, since reducing contact with air will slow corrosion. The most common household items with this function are zip lock bags, or any other air tight bag with non-abrasive surfaces, such as those made of polyethylene or Mylar. Avoid polyvinyl plastic bags however, as they have chemical compounds that promote tarnishing. If you’re willing to spend extra, jewelry stores carry specialized bags and boxes that help prevent tarnishing. When storing, it’s best to keep jewelry in separate bags, away from other hard items that may scratch your jewelry’s surface.
Places to Store Sterling Silver Jewelry
Avoid excessively humid areas, areas with direct sunlight, and other places where jewelry could rub up against other items. Do not store jewelry directly on chemically treated surfaces, such as wooden counter tops, since they contain chemicals that may promote tarnishing of your sterling silver.
Other Tools that Help Prevent Tarnish on Sterling Silver Jewelry
1) Chalk – An old remedy for preventing tarnish, just store chalk in your jewelry box or container and it will naturally absorb chemical residues in the air.
2) Anti-Tarnish Strips – Sold in many places, these strips are usually made from non-toxic materials that absorb tarnish causing agents.
3) Anti-Tarnish cloths – Similar to the strips, these cloths are either chemically treated or saturated with traces of silver; both absorb sulfur and other corrosive chemicals in the air.
4) Silica Packs – Those little packs you find in medicine bottles and shoe boxes among other places. Highly useful in absorbing moisture in the air, toss them in your jewelry containers instead of the trash; you’ll be preventing tarnish and recycling as well.