Caring for Oxidized Sterling Silver Jewelry

oxidized sterling silver cuff bracelets

Oxidized silver jewelry is a special case when it comes to care and cleaning because the wrong products or techniques can remove the beautiful patina which will completely change the look of your jewelry.

Below you can see the difference between a ring with an oxidized patina compared to one without. Both are beautiful, but if you’ve specifically purchased an item with a patina (or have vintage jewelry that has developed a beautiful patina over time), you don’t want to accidentally remove it when cleaning.

Oxidized vs unoxidized sterling silver rings

An oxidized patina is essentially the speeding-up of a natural process that happens to silver over time (i.e. tarnish taken to its most extreme in a matter of minutes instead of years). Since most commercial jewelry cleaners are specifically formulated to remove tarnish, using a commercial jewelry cleaner on your oxidized silver jewelry can remove its beautiful patina. For this reason I recommend never using commercial jewelry cleaners on your oxidized or vintage sterling jewelry.

For items that are worn on a daily basis, especially rings, I find that special cleaning is usually unnecessary. However, if you have items that sometimes sit in your jewelry box for a while, or have been exposed to some chemical (chlorine is a common culprit) that caused them to tarnish in an undesirable way, there are several ways you can remove the unwanted tarnish while still preserving the beautiful patina you love:

  1. Simple Soap and Water. This should be your first plan of attack. Using a solution of water and a mild dish soap, gently rub the jewelry between your fingers and pat dry with a soft, non-abrasive cloth.

  2. Baking Soda and Water. If the soap doesn’t give you the finish you’re looking for you can get great results using a paste of baking soda and water. Use your thumb to rub the paste on the jewelry, focusing on the raised portions rather than the crevices (where you want the patina to remain). Rinse with warm water and pat dry with a soft cloth.

  3. Pre-loaded Jewelry Cleaning Cloths such a Sunshine (I’m not an affiliate, this is a product that I use and recommend). For a nice, shiny finish on the surfaces of your silver jewelry, polish with one of these cleansing cloths pre-loaded with a specially formulated tarnish-removing compound.

  4. Green Scotch-Brite Pads (again, not an affiliate, I use this product in my own studio). If you prefer for your silver to have a matte or satin finish rather than shiny, I recommend “polishing” instead with one of these kitchen scouring pads that can be found in the dishwashing section of most grocery stores. They beautifully remove tarnish from the surface of the silver, preserve the patina in the recesses, and leave a gorgeous, soft satin finish to the metal.

men's hammered and oxidized silver ring

As always, if you have any questions about the care of your oxidized silver jewelry (whether I made it or not), feel free to send me a note!