Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

Warren Feld
10 min readApr 14, 2020


It always amazes me about how many people (studies show that 25% of the population) think that when their sterling silver jewelry turns black, it’s Dead and they throw it out. So, especially if you are selling your stuff, you always need to educate people about cleaning sterling silver.

Sterling Silver tarnishes from the interaction of silver and sulfides in the air. First the tarnish will take on a golden hue, and eventually, it will turn the piece black. This is a natural process.

Higher sulfide levels are associated with humidity and/or pollution. Remember, the more humid the climate, the faster sterling will tarnish. On a summer day in Miami, Florida, all you have to do is walk out the door and the sterling starts turning black very quickly.

Sterling Silver will polish up by rubbing or buffing it with a soft cotton cloth. The best cloth to use is a piece of denim. Yes, rub it on your pants.

Jewelry stores either sell or give away what is called a Rouge Cloth. This is a little bit gimmicky, in that what is taking the tarnish off is the rubbing, not the rouge. In most cases, denim works better. Both denim and the rouge cloth are 100% cotton. Denim has ridges on it. The rouge cloth is smooth.

The ridges of the denim get inside the links on chains. The ridges get into the crevices in your jewelry. The rouge cloth is terrible for chains. However, if you want the crevices in your jewelry to remain black, the rouge cloth, which is a smooth surface, will work better.

You might also invest in what is called a Sunshine Cloth. Many bead stores and jewelry stores sell these. The Sunshine Cloth has a chemical in it that eats the tarnish but does not harm gemstones. And that’s its greatest selling point — it does not harm gemstones.



Warren Feld

Beading and jewelry making have been wonderful adventures, from custom work, production work, and teaching. *Design is about the ability to make smart choices.