A few months ago, my daughter and her friend swapped sterling silver ‘best friend’ necklaces. You know the type – they each have half of a heart, on a thin silver chain. Over just a few weeks, my daughter’s necklace has gone from shiny to blackened, but her best friend’s half of the pendant is still gleaming away. The reason: One of them takes much better care of her necklace than the other. Here are some inside tips on the best way to keep your silver jewelry looking like new.

Sterling Silver Heart Name Necklace
1. Wear it often. The oils from your skin protect sterling silver and keep it looking shiny. It’s the easiest way to keep tarnish away.

2. Polish it early. When silver jewelry has just begun to tarnish, the tarnish is only a yellow-ish gold sheen over the silver. At this point, it’s easy to shine up again using only a soft cloth, without any creams or polish. This is good, because even the best silver polish is slightly abrasive and over time it will affect the surface of your silver items.

3. Gather the right tools. When you polish your silver jewelry, make sure to use a soft cloth and good quality silver polish (never use 'metal polish', which is designed for more robust metals and will destroy silver). In this area you really do get what you pay for. Cheap silver polish is not worth the money you save; your silver jewelry won’t get a brilliant shine, and it will re-tarnish much faster than if you invest in a good quality silver polish. Good silver polish lays down a protective film which prevents tarnish from forming, while some cheap silver polish preparations actually damage your silver jewelry by eroding the surface and stripping off the protective layer that the factory applied.

4. Never use a silver dip. Silver dips are chemical preparations which work by dissolving the tarnish, but they can also eat away at the surface of your rings or necklaces, loosen the settings of precious stones, and leave a dull sheen over the silver which no amount of rubbing with silver polish can remove. The damage caused by silver dips cannot be undone without spending a lot of time and money.

5. Store it well: Once you’ve brought your silver jewelry back to the brilliant shine it had when you bought it, make all your work worth while. Give your jewelry some respect by storing it carefully in a box that closes tightly (less air circulation decreases the rate of the oxidization which causes tarnish). Make sure that each item has its own space; you don’t want to find your favorite necklace scratched up by the sharp posts of your earrings. Anti-tarnish bags are a good solution for storing pieces that you wear less often. Most importantly, never wrap your silver jewelry in plastic wrap or plastic bags. It can cause permanent discoloration.

6. One last thing: If your silver jewelry is silver-plated, you might need to have it re-plated from time to time. Items that get a lot of wear, or that have been polished hard over the years, can simply lose their silver plating in parts. If this happens, you’ll need to have it professionally re-plated in order to return to the same look.