Silver is a beautiful metal. Its looks, feel and sheen can enhance even the most glamorous wearer, but what do we know about it, and do we know how to make it look great at all times?
Silver naturally occurs in the earth’s crust and is usually found along with copper, gold, lead or zinc. As far as we can tell, it has been mined and treasured since around 4,000 BC. It has the chemical symbol Ag from the Latin word Argentium, meaning white and shiny.
Pure silver — i.e. better than 99.9% purity — is structurally weak, soft and is not good for making jewellery. To make it stronger we add other metals, mostly copper, until it becomes suitable for making jewellery. Thus, the international standard of sterling silver, or 925 silver, was derived. As the name suggests, 925 silver is 92.5% pure silver.
Most jewellers use this 925 sterling silver and Footprints and Whispers only provide jewellery to this standard for their memorial jewellery. There are many other lesser mixtures sold on the open market right down to base metals coated in silver, otherwise known as ‘silver-plated’.
Silver of all grades needs a little TLC if it is to look its very best, and there may be a couple of issues for some wearers.
Firstly, it is a reactive metal and is not hypoallergenic, meaning a very small percentage of people are allergic to it. In fact, the very few people who appear allergic are likely to be reacting to the very small traces of nickel in 925 silver.
Sometimes this allergy can begin to show years after wearing a treasured piece of silver jewellery. So, for this very small group of people we recommend that you look at Footprints and Whispers sensational titanium or zirconium memorial jewellery, which is 100% hypoallergenic.
The second issue is that silver, of any grade, will tarnish in time. This tarnish time can be quite short or it could take years to develop. It is not so much related to the grade of silver as it is environment in which the silver lives.
Every person has a different body chemistry often, but not entirely, related to diet. Some people are more prone to glowing — N.B. it is said that horses sweat, gentlemen perspire and ladies glow! Quite simply, the more you ‘glow’ with your silver jewellery on then the quicker it will tarnish. It follows that if you live in an area of high humidity, high temperature or high pollution your silver will tarnish faster.
Other chemicals can hasten the tarnishing of silver. For example, many perfumes and hair sprays can really speed up tarnish. If your memorial jewellery is an occasional piece, get yourself ready and put your silver on last thing before you go out.
Most of our memorial jewellery is worn constantly, and for those circumstances there is only one solution: regular cleaning! It is not onerous if you clean it once a week with a specialist silver cloth. It only takes a couple of minutes and your silver will always look fabulous.
You can easily clean silver if it has become too tarnished by using a silver cleaning fluid and then drying with a soft dry cloth.
If you give your memorial jewellery 1% of the TLC it gives you it will always look amazing.