How to clean fine silver

The easiest way to keep your fine silver from tarnishing is to wear it often. If you only wear the piece occasionally, it should be stored away from light and air. Simple plastic zip-lock bags help to prevent oxidation. Sunlight accelerates oxidation and can dull the finish. The most important “don’t” is don’t wear your silver jewelry when swimming, especially in chlorinated water.  Chlorine can turn silver black.

Should your fine silver jewelry become tarnished, cleaning it can be accomplished in several ways. One is to use a polishing cloth, available at most jewelry stores. Some people use commercial pastes, but those are abrasive and can damage the surface of the silver. Another method which is less labor intensive, but limited to pieces that are all silver, requires the following ingredients:

  • glass bowl
  • aluminum foil
  • baking soda
  • boiling water

Directions: Line the glass bowl with aluminum foil; place the silver jewelry in the bowl and add one tablespoon baking soda. Pour boiling water into the bowl until the jewelry is covered. This process creates an electrolytic reaction between the aluminum and the baking soda, in which the tarnish on the silver is transferred to the foil. Wait for between five and fifteen minutes, then check the piece. It should be clean and shiny. Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of baking soda, pat dry, and then allow to air dry thoroughly.

This method cannot be used for pieces that contain gemstones, (especially turquoise), wood, or other materials that could be harmed by the boiling water. Additionally, it is not as effective at cleaning sterling silver because the other elements in sterling do not respond as well.

If you have any questions about the safety of cleaning your jewelry, please email Linda at for further advice.