Sterling silver contains anywhere between 92.5 and 94 percent pure silver; the rest of sterling silver consists of stronger metals, including zinc, copper and nickel. Pure silver is soft and pliable, while sterling silver is strong, less prone to tarnishing and usually less expensive. Clean, care for and store your sterling silver and gemstone jewelry correctly to prevent scratches or damage to the metal or stone.
Create a mixture of 3 cups lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon mild dish soap in a small bowl. Stir the water to incorporate the soap. Dampen the corner of a lint-free cloth and clean the sterling silver only -- not the gemstone -- using gentle back-and-forth motions. Rinse the piece under a lukewarm tap and dry the metal with a separate, lint-free cloth. Set the soapy water aside.
Dampen the corner of a soft, cotton towel with cream silver polish. Gently wipe down the sterling silver only with the cream polish, paying attention to use gentle, back-and-forth motions. Avoid using circles to polish and remove any tarnish, as this can leave behind tiny scratches. Allow the product to sit according to the package directions -- usually only one or two minutes. Remove the polish and restore the sterling silver's shine by wiping down the metal with a lint-free cloth, using gentle, back-and-forth motions.
Dampen a soft toothbrush with the soapy water and gently scrub the gemstone. Pay attention to remove any lotion, dirt or debris that collected in the setting's corners and behind the gemstone.
Rinse the gemstone by dampening the corner of a lint-free cloth with plain water. Avoid getting any soap or water on the clean, polished sterling silver.
Store the sterling silver jewelry alone in a separate drawer or compartment of your jewelry case or inside a velvet sachet. Never store the piece with other jewelry, as this can cause scratches on the sterling silver or gemstone.
- Wrap the sterling silver piece inside a piece of tarnish-resistant paper, which is available at jewelry stores, if storing the jewelry for an extended time.
- Prevent tarnish by storing the jewelry in a cool, dry location. Remove a sterling silver ring before washing your hands.
Residing in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Jaimie Zinski has been writing since 2009. Specializing in pop culture, film and television, her work appears on Star Reviews and various other websites. Zinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in history at the University of Wisconsin.