How to Clean Silver-Plated Jewelry
Written by Anna Currell
January 18, 2023
Figuring out the best way to clean your jewelry can feel confusing, especially because every metal is different. There are also a lot of mixed messages about what you should and shouldn’t do when cleaning your jewelry at home. While having your jewelry professionally cleaned is always the best option, there are a few good ways to clean your jewelry on your own between trips to the jeweler. Let’s take a look at how to clean silver-plated jewelry in particular.
What is Silver-Plated Jewelry?
Silver-plated jewelry is made from a base metal covered with a thin layer of silver on top. The difference between sterling silver and silver-plated jewelry is that sterling silver is 100% pure silver, whereas silver-plated jewelry is just coated in silver. This makes silver-plated jewelry a more affordable option for people who love the look of silver jewelry but don’t feel comfortable springing for pure silver pieces.
How is silver-plated jewelry made?
Silver-plated jewelry is made through a process called electroplating. A jeweler will place a piece of jewelry made from any base metal into a vat containing a silver ion solution. The vat is connected to a power source, which runs an electric current through the solution that causes the silver ions to adhere to the surface of the jewelry. The longer the piece of jewelry remains in the electrically charged vat, the thicker the silver plating layer will be.
How do I know if my jewelry is silver-plated?
Many pieces of jewelry have stamps on them to indicate the type of metal used, and many silver-plated pieces of jewelry will be labeled with the letters “SP” for silver plated or “EP” for electroplated. If your jewelry doesn’t have a stamp, you can get it tested by a professional jeweler. Metal testing is simple and relatively inexpensive, so it's a great option if you want to learn more about what your jewelry is made of.
How to Clean Silver-Plated Jewelry at Home
Here are some tips for how you can get your silver-plated jewelry sparkling at home between professional cleanings:
Polish it with a soft cloth
Using a soft cloth to gently wipe down your silver-plated jewelry is a great everyday practice. It will prevent residue from soaps, lotions, and everyday bacteria from accumulating; allowing this buildup to go unchecked can lead to tarnishing and wear away the silver plating from your jewelry over time. Polishing your jewelry with a soft cloth daily can clear away that buildup and keep your jewelry shiny and clean for longer.
Use mild soap and water
If your silver-plated jewelry is extra dirty (as in, maybe it took a tumble in the mud) you can use a soft brush with mild soap and water. Make sure to use your soft cloth to dry the jewelry well when you’re done, making sure no suds are left behind.
Avoid chemical products
Every jewelry cleaning product is made differently; since you never really know what’s in those soaps it’s always safer to avoid any chemical or cleaning products you’re unsure about as they could damage your jewelry.
How to Care for Silver-Plated Jewelry
Taking the time to care for your jewelry in the short term will help you avoid major repairs in the long term. Here’s how to care for your silver-plated jewelry:
Keep your jewelry dry
Be sure to take off your silver-plated jewelry before getting in the shower, ocean, or swimming pool. Water erodes metal; since the silver layer on a silver-plated piece of jewelry is quite thin, extended exposure to water can break down the silver layer. If your silver-plated jewelry does get a little wet (when washing your hands, for example) be sure to dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth.
Take off your jewelry before risky activities
Take off your silver-plated jewelry before going to the gym, cooking, or doing any other activity that could scratch it. A professional jeweler can often buff out scratches and restore your piece if it gets damaged, but it’s always best to avoid wearing your jewelry during any risky activities.
Get your jewelry rhodium plated
For more luster and durability, you can always apply an extra metal layer on top of your piece’s existing silver plating. Rhodium plating is a great option because rhodium is a very durable metal, but it has the same shiny look as silver.
Store your silver-plated jewelry safely
Keep your jewelry in a safe place when you’re not wearing it. Find somewhere it won’t get scratched by other jewelry or hard surfaces; using a ring dish where it’s going to bump up against other jewelry, for example, is probably not a good idea. Try a velvet lined jewelry box with individual sections for each piece or use a soft jewelry pouch instead.
Get your jewelry professionally cleaned
When you’re able, it’s always a good idea to have an expert jeweler tend to your silver-plated jewelry with their arsenal of specialty tools and techniques. They can polish and steam clean your jewelry to make it sparkle again, and you’ll feel confident knowing that your jewelry is well taken care of by the people who know best. To give your silver-plated jewelry the best cleaning out there, mail it in to Quick Jewelry Repairs for a jewelry spa treatment. Our expertly trained and highly experienced jewelers will be delighted to make your silver-plated jewelry sparkle again.