header image close up of a pink dahlia flower with text Materials and Care

Materials and Care

Silver Types

Most of the pieces I make are available in Sterling Silver or Argentium Silver, and some are available in Fine Silver. So, what’s the difference? 

Sterling Silver (.925 purity) is the type familiar to most people: a durable alloy of silver and copper that gradually tarnishes with exposure to air and moisture, darkening any area that isn’t regularly polished and creating an antique look over time. 

Argentium Silver (.940 purity) is a relatively new alloy with a higher percentage of pure silver, less copper, and the inclusion of germanium. It is not only brighter and less prone to scratching than Sterling, it’s also tarnish resistant, has enhanced hypoallergenic and antibacterial qualities, and is more friendly to the environment due to the strictly regulated manufacturing process that favors use of recycled metals and the reduced need for chemical treatments combatting firestain (a common issue in the production of Sterling). For more information about this see the official Argentium website.

Fine Silver (.999 purity) has the highest percentage of pure silver, the brightest finish, greatest tarnish resistance, and the most hypoallergenic properties. It is also softer than the Sterling and Argentium alloys, and therefore more prone to scratching, bending or denting if used in high-contact pieces (such as rings or bracelets). Because of this, I only use Fine Silver in thicker gauges to balance the beauty and delicate nature, and in pieces that have a lower opportunity for damage (such as earrings or pendants). 

Ethical Sourcing

All of the Silver I use at Joy Garden comes from companies that are SCS Certified Responsible Sources, dedicated to environmental responsibility (including using recycled and American mined silver) and fair labor conditions at all points of the supply chain. For more information about what this means, see the SCS certification website. 

Jewelry Care

When it comes to maintaining the beauty of your jewelry (particularly when it comes to Sterling Silver, which is most prone to tarnish), an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. The three basic components of this are proper storage, regular cleaning, and gentle polishing.

The best storage protects from exposure to air and moisture. There are many ways to accomplish this, such as using specially lined jewelry boxes or sealed containers with anti-tarnish strips. I personally store my jewelry in a box between layers of anti-tarnish cloth, a cotton flannel treated to block sulfur, salts, gasses and other elements in the air that react with the silver and alloyed metals. This has the added benefit of also protecting from scratches, which can happen when jewelry is clattering around in a jumbled container.

To clean your silver and semi-precious gemstone jewelry (such as amethyst, citrine, peridot or garnet) and remove any oils or traces of skincare products, gently wash after wearing with warm water and dish soap, using a soft-bristled toothbrush if necessary, then wipe dry with a soft cloth. An exception to this would be if your jewelry contains porous gemstones (such as amber, agate, opal or pearl) which can lose their luster if exposed to warm water and/or soap. If in doubt about what category your stones fall under, do a web search on caring for your gemstone before cleaning. Avoid exposure to sulfurous water, chlorine or bleach – if this happens, clean and polish your jewelry right away.

Wiping your jewelry down regularly with jewelry polishing cloths will remove any tarnish that does occur before it has a chance to build up, ensuring constant shine. To avoid damaging delicate connections, prong settings, and chain links, take special care to apply only the gentlest pressure during the polishing process. Larger areas can withstand more pressure, but be certain the cloth you’re using is pristine to avoid scratching. 

If your silver does become heavily tarnished, many people swear by a process wherein the silver is placed in a pan lined with aluminum foil, then covered with a mixture of very hot water and baking soda (about 1 tablespoon per cup of water—some people also add an equal amount of salt), which creates a chemical reaction that draws the black sulfides from the silver to the foil. Before using this method, be sure to check whether any gemstones involved are in the porous category, as discussed in the section on cleaning. After soaking the jewelry for 15-30 minutes, check to see if the tarnish is completely removed (if not, you can change out the water and repeat), and then be sure to rinse and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.