How Long Does Sterling Silver Last

Sterling silver is among the most common metals that rings are made from. It comes right after gold and is a timeless symbol of appreciation, love, and companionship.

Giving and receiving rings is always special, so it’s only natural you want them to last a long time. The good news is that sterling silver is pretty long-lasting, but it does require proper care.

What’s even better is that you can restore its good looks even if you’ve neglected it a bit. Take a few minutes to learn more about this in the article below.

What is Sterling Silver?

What is Sterling Silver
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Are you sure the ring you have is made from sterling silver? There are many alloys that all look somewhat similar at first glance, especially when new.

For this reason, it’s always best to ask the one who gifted it to you if possible. If not, it’s time for some investigation.

Sterling silver is an alloy that contains 92.5% of silver and 7.5% copper or another metal. The minimum millesimal fineness of sterling silver is 925.

This is precisely the number you should look for somewhere on your jewelry piece. Necklaces and bracelets usually have that stamp somewhere on the clasp. Rings have it on the inside.

How Long Does Sterling Silver Last?

Rings made from sterling silver can last between 20 to 30 years if you maintain them properly. They can last even longer (forever) if you only wear them occasionally and store them correctly.

Because it lasts such a long time, sterling silver pieces are ideal for passing down to your kids and grandkids. But, this is only possible if you take good care of it.

This jewelry is relatively easy to take care of, but you should know a few things beforehand. Here are some of the most important terms you might want to learn:

  • Purity – refers to the purity of the metal, taking into consideration the malleability and how fast it will rust or tarnish. Jewelry that is .850 will require less care than jewelry that’s .875 due to purity. The .875 ring will bend easier and rust quicker. It’s crucial to know how pure your piece is so that you can determine the type of care it requires.
  • To Oxidize – a silversmith will allow parts of your ring to oxidize if they want to darken those parts for effect. It’s a term used to describe the design. However, these parts will most likely lose shine and clarity faster after excessive cleaning. For this reason, knowing if the ring has been oxidized helps to care for it the right way.

What is Tarnish?

Tarnish is another crucial term that requires a few more words. However, it’s commonly used, so you probably came across it by this time.

Oxidation is a chemical process that happens when you expose metals to the air. It can produce a series of outcomes, with tarnish being the most common.

The silver alloy and latent sulfur in the air combine and create a chemical reaction. This chemical reaction then creates black silver sulfide.

This black trace is a thin layer of silver sulfide, otherwise referred to as tarnish. It looks different on various silver pieces, so your sterling silver platter might develop a brownish patina while a locket might develop discolored spots.

How Long Does it Take to Tarnish?

It’s difficult to tell how long it takes for your piece to develop tarnish. It usually depends on air exposure and how much you expose it to chemicals and skin’s natural oils.

When showering or doing the dishes, the jewelry you wear is likely to tarnish faster than if you took it off before these activities.

It takes years for sterling silver to tarnish in a controlled environment. But, it can also take only a few months without proper care and preventative steps.

Tips on How to make it Last Longer

Sterling Silver lifetime.
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As mentioned, sterling silver can last for years, but only if properly used and maintained. If not, it’ll tarnish and corrode, making it difficult to restore its good looks.

Luckily, this is easy to avoid with only a few simple steps. It might look a bit overwhelming at first, but all of these things will quickly become your habit after only a few weeks.

1. Keep it Dry

Pure water is unlikely to damage sterling silver, but that doesn’t serve for much because most water we’re exposed to isn’t purified.

Whatever is contaminating the water can quickly tarnish your silver, making it look dull. For this reason, it’s best to avoid water altogether.

If you have silver jewelry, it’s always advised to remove it before taking a shower. An occasional splash of water probably won’t do much harm, but make sure to dry it once you’re done.

The same goes for swimming in the pool. Chlorine is harsh and frequent exposure to it will definitely cause damage, so take the time to rinse and clean it once you’re done swimming.

Hot tubs can be even worse for your sterling silver jewelry because they combine chlorine and heat. You should also avoid hot springs due to sulfur.

2. Store it Properly

Everything requires proper care, including sterling silver. It needs proper storage and maintenance to preserve its good looks over the years.

Don’t just leave it out there on your nightstand or in the drawer. Throwing your ring in the purse might not do much harm one time, but remember not to use this as regular storage.

Store your sterling silver individual, air-tight bags that have anti-tarnish properties. These are designed to keep the air out, helping to preserve brilliance and shininess.

When storing the jewelry, make sure to unhook and unclasp everything. Also, don’t store everything together in the same bag because things will get tangled and scratched.

Silica gel packets have additional anti-tarnish protection, so throw one in each of the bags for extra care. Make sure to pack them properly when traveling as well.

3. Take it Off

We already said you should take your silver jewelry off before showering and swimming. But, there’s more. You should also take it off when doing other things, mainly household chores.

Taking it all off before doing certain things might seem annoying, but it’s vital for the longevity of your sterling silver.

You should remove your silver each time you use any cleaning supplies. This means doing the dishes, laundry, washing the windows, etc.

It’s also best if you removed it when going to the gym. Sweat might speed up tarnishing, and you can also scuff the pieces easily when lifting weights.

Preparing and cooking foods with sulfur (eggs) is also when you want to remove the jewelry. Even if you’re not sure something is harmful to your silver, it’s best to be safe. In other words, if something doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t.

4. Put it on Last

Through generations, women are known to save the jewelry for last. This means showering, putting on lotion and makeup, and spraying perfume should all come before putting on jewelry.

Silver is durable and pretty resistant, but extensive exposure to all these things might result in damage. Chemicals in your shower gel and perfume will cause it to tarnish much sooner than it normally would.

Plus, putting on clothes over all your sterling silver can result in scratches. You can even break it this way.

For this reason, it’s always best to leave this for when you’re ready to leave the house.

5. Polish it

Sterling silver will get dirty regardless of how much you care for it. First of all, it’s probably not even that dirty if you wore and stored it properly.

With regular cleaning, you’ll find it’s quite easy to maintain silver shiny and polished. All you need is a special jewelry cloth or a microfiber cloth that doesn’t have any lint.

Stay away from using toilet paper or paper towels. These can scuff your silver, although they don’t seem as harsh.

Go up and down the piece to clean it, applying minimal pressure and avoiding circular motion. Use different parts so that you don’t spread the dirt and tarnish.

Is your silver intentionally oxidized? If so, avoid those parts because you can actually ruin the whole design by rubbing it.

If you need more detailing, you can even use a Q-tip, but try not to apply too much pressure. Have a professional do an occasional cleaning and polishing to keep the pieces shiny and tarnish-free.

In Conclusion

Sterling silver is a favorite of many people because of its shiny appearance and longevity. It can last a long time, keeping the same shiny appearance due to the amount of silver.

However, it requires special care and maintenance, or you might get disappointed. In other words, failing to take proper care of sterling silver (jewelry, silverware) will result in tarnish and rust sooner than you think.

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