How to Clean Sterling Silver Beads

How to Clean Sterling Silver Beads

Tarnished silver abandoned in the jewelry box? The brilliance and versatility of sterling silver beads make them a wildly popular addition to many jewelry pieces. Unfortunately, exposure to air can lead to the tarnishing of silver jewelry, making items appear dirty or discolored. Luckily, however, you can give these pieces a fresh start, easily cleaning sterling silver beads and jewelry with these tips and tricks…

Electrolyte Method for Resilient Pieces

The electrolyte method is easy and science-backed, helping you avoid endless polishing and possible abrasions on ornate or engraved pieces. It reverses the chemical reaction that causes tarnishing. To clean with the electrolyte method, you will need a dish or bowl, aluminum foil, 1 cup boiling water, and 1 tablespoon baking soda. Line the dish with foil, dull side down. Place the jewelry in the dish, making certain it touches the foil. This ensures the silver sulfide atoms tarnishing the piece will transfer to the aluminum foil. (They will also cause a ‘rotten egg’ smell as they lift, so do not be alarmed.) Mix the baking soda with the boiling water, then pour the solution onto your jewelry in the dish. Let sit for 2-10 minutes to remove tarnish, then rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth.

Silver Cleaning for ‘Delicates’

Like your favorite cashmere sweater, some pieces are more delicate than others, requiring more careful cleaning. This includes jewelry held together with glue, porous stone beads (gemstones like opal, turquoise, onyx, and carnelian), as well as clear gemstones such as Swarovski crystal beads and pendants, Cloisonné beads, watches, and antiques. For these more delicate jewels, try one of the following methods:

  • Simple Soap & Water
    This simple and safe method should be the first cleaning method you attempt on silver jewelry.
  • Baking Soda & Water
    Make a paste of baking soda and water, polishing your silver beads gently with a pea-sized amount on a polishing cloth. For etched or detailed items such as silver fancy beads and corrugated beads, be sure to use a thinner paste. A soft-bristle brush can help on cracks/crevices. Run carefully under warm water when done and dry with a clean cloth.
  • White Vinegar & Baking Soda
    This combination works better for items with heavier tarnish, applied in the same manner as the baking soda method, however it should NOT be used with soft gemstones, which can etch and scratch. Make a solution of ½-cup vinegar to 2-tablespoons vinegar for polishing. Expect it to fizz and bubble. Rinse well and pat dry.

The Easiest Tarnish Prevention

Many avoid wearing their sterling silver jewelry, saving it for special occasions. While silver can be effected by chlorinated pool water and sunlight, however, surprisingly, the oils from your skin can help your jewelry keep its shine. Thus, wearing silver jewelry often is the easiest tarnish prevention. When its not being worn, reduce oxidation by simply sealing each piece into a small craft bag separately. This also prevents scratching and tangling.

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