Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. Copper improves the hardness of the metal without affecting the color. The copper provides durability and strength since 100% pure silver is too soft. The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metals value. Instead the price of the silver item is affected by the labor involved in making the item, the skill of the craftsperson and the intricacy of the design.
A yellowish alloy of copper and zinc, sometimes including small amounts of other metals, but usually 67 percent copper and 33 percent zinc.
Cleaning Plain Silver Jewellery
To clean plain silver jewellery we recommend using a soft cloth and warm water with a mild detergent (washing up liquid rinse jewellery in water after cleaning and dry with a soft cloth.)
Do not do this if your jewellery is strung on silk or cotton as these will stretch.
We do not recommend the use of silver dips.
Polish metals gently with a soft jewellery polishing cloth.
Gold can generally be cared for in the same way. Both methods above work well, but make sure that you are not too enthusiastic cleaning plated items, as your vigorous rubbing may wear away the metal coating. Solid items should withstand more vigorous treatment.
Cleaning gem set silver/Gold Plated jewellery
Follow instructions above as for plain silver jewellery.
To restore the sparkle back to gem stones use a soft toothbrush and clean the back of stones where dirt can accumulate. This will allow the light to pass through the stones restoring the sparkle.
Gem stones such as Opal, Coral, Pearls or Turquoise should not be immersed in water. These gem stones are soft and porous and can be easily scratched. Simply use a soft damp cloth to clean the stones.
Mother of Pearl and shell should never be immersed in water because adhesive is used to fix the MOP/shell to the silver. Simply clean with the silver polishing cloth only.
Do not use Chemical Cleaners
Many stones will be adversely affected by harsh chemical cleaners. Many will discolour and some may eventually break apart. The stones which are particularly vulnerable include Amber, Aquamarine, Coral, Emerald, Jade, Lapis, Malachite, Opal, Pearls, Shell and Turquoise. If in doubt, simply don’t put in any chemicals.
Light Sensitive Stones
Many stones will bleach in strong light if left exposed for long periods of time. They will lose their bright colour and eventually become drab and unattractive. The stones which are vulnerable to sunlight include Amethyst, Ametrine, Aquamarine, Aventurine, Beryl, Celestite, Chrysoprase, Citrine, Hiddenite, Kunzite, Rose and Smoky Quartz, Fluorite and Topaz.
Cleaning Copper and Brass
Surprisingly, copper and brass are also very simple to care for. While they do tarnish more quickly than silver, they can be restored to their original shine very easily. Methods for cleaning and shining copper and brass jewellery are outlined below:
Commercial copper/brass cleaner. Again, be sure that any stones in the jewellery can withstand the chemicals in the cleaner and if in doubt do not use it.
Ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce or Vinegar. As unlikely as it sounds, the acetic acid in these substances will shine up copper and brass very nicely. Apply them carefully with a toothbrush or soft cloth, leave on for a couple of minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Avoid getting these products on the same types of stones which should not be exposed to chemical cleaners.
Combination of water, lemon or lime juice and salt. Add a few drops of lemon or lime juice to a container of water, then add a teaspoon of salt and stir gently. Place the jewellery in the solution for a few minutes, then remove and rinse thoroughly. If needed, the dip in the solution can be repeated. Again, this method should not be used with gemstones or pearls that cannot be cleaned with chemical cleaners.
Disclaimer: Whilst the information given above is provided in good faith, we do not recommend you do anything unless you are personally certain that no harm will come to your jewellery as a result of cleaning. We do not take any responsibility for damage which ensues from your actions.