Silver tarnishes easily when exposed to air and moisture, but there are many other sources that cause a chemical reaction in the silver. That includes people: I’m sure you know several people whose silver jewellery turns dark after a day of wearing, and others whose silver shines even brighter after that same day! It’s also a relatively soft material that scratches and dents faster than you might like, and vintage silver items are no different. Storing and handling silver always should come with the protection of your items in mind. So here are 4 tips to start storing your silver jewellery in an optimal way!
1) Keep your pieces separate Store each piece individually and make sure it does not rub against other items. This can be achieved in the simplest way by just wrapping them in acid-free tissue paper, anti-tarnish paper or soft cloth (but not wool). Larger items, such as complete sets of fibulas for example, can be wrapped in bubble plastic, again taking care that the individual fibulas are kept from direct contact.
2) Make sure your pieces are clean and dry before storing them If you wear your vintage jewellery, make sure it is clean and dry before you store your items away. Sweat and skin contact can damage silver in the long run, so wipe them off and make sure they are dry before storing them. The same goes for when they have just been cleaned: wait until they are completely dry before storing them, or better, have a professional clean them instead. More about cleaning silver is here.
3) Keep your pieces locked away from air Store them in an airtight box or individual zip pouches. Zip pouches come in many sizes: choose the size that fits your piece snugly, but gives it room to move a little. Wrap your pieces in acid free paper before putting them into a zip pouch: the pouch itself may contain abrasive materials that could scratch your silver. Airtight boxes don’t have to be anything fancy, but can simply be the type of box you store food in (refridgerator boxes, but also cookiejars work well – make sure they have no rubber bands, though). Adding silica gel (those little packages that come with new shoes, handbags and other leather products) or activated charcoal will absorb moisture and keep your silver from tarnishing. Avoid direct contact of these materials with your silver, though: make sure the packaging is not damaged.
4) … and what not to use Do not wrap your silver in pages torn from newspapers or magazines: both the ink and the paper will harm it. The same goes for the use of rubber bands (no bundling bracelets together using rubber bands, please) Those rustic looking, uncoated wooden boxes that make for excellent atmospheric photos are not as fantastic for storing silver, either, unless it is packaged in zip pouches. That also applies to wooden chests of drawers, cabinets and cupboards: avoid direct contact, and even then, check regularly. Wool also contains agents that may react with silver: that explains why silver elements on a woolen headdress for example turn dark every so often.
Taking care to store your silver properly will go a long way in helping you enjoy your collection for years to come!
More tips on organizing your collection of silver jewellery? Find them all here!
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Learn more about silver tarnishing and how to avoid it here
Sigrid van Roode
Sigrid van Roode is an archeologist, ethnographer and jewellery historian. She considers jewellery heritage and a historic source. She has authored several books on jewellery from North Africa and Southwest Asia, and on archaeological jewellery. Sigrid has lectured for the Society of Jewellery Historians, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, among many others. She curates exhibitions and teaches online courses on jewellery from North Africa & Southwest Asia.