Sterling obtains its character over time through a process of patination or oxidation. Some patina is desirable, while most will also agree that a black piece of sterling is unattractive. So how do you achieve a good balance?
· Start by simply cleaning the piece with a soft untreated cloth. It is amazing how much better a piece will look after a going over with an old cotton T-shirt. If the piece still isn't as bright as you would like, invest in a SUNSHINE CLOTH. These special cloths are dense and soft, and are impregnated with dry silver polish. Bear in mind though, each time you polish, you are actually removing microscopic particles of metal, so use a light touch.
· CAREFUL: some sterling silver jewelry has applied black patina that the designer deliberately placed on the piece in order to achieve an interesting contrast. If you use a sunshine cloth on the applied patina, you will remove it forever and greatly devalue the piece. For many, the bright look of polished silver is a stunning sight. But for others, a too highly polished piece is devalued because only time can create the character that gives a piece its vintage or antique appearance. It is definitely a matter of personal taste, but be aware that these differences can make or break the value of a desirable piece of sterling.
· Paste silver polish is not recommended because of the difficulty in removing it from the crevices. Dips are too harsh and will strip the piece entirely of its character by making it evenly bright without contrast. Today, there is no need for paste polish or dipping with the advent of the sunshine cloth. Sunshine cloths are easy to use, though be sure to change out your Sunshine cloth when it gets dirty (filled with silver particles). The dirt particles are abrasive and will end up doing more harm than good.
· ONE MORE TIP: Don’t use a Sunshine cloth on sterling vermeil (gold over sterling), or the gold wash will likely be entirely removed.
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