Last Updated on September 13, 2016
Sterling silver cremation jewelry is an increasingly popular keepsake idea for those who have lost a loved one. An elegant and meaningful way to ‘keep him close to your heart,’ each cremation jewelry piece holds a tiny amount of cremated remains (ashes) as an heirloom memorial and tribute.
Looking for cremation jewelry filling instructions? Here is our guide on how to fill our cremation jewelry. The guide at that link is for our collection of cremation memorial jewelry (which always include a ‘fill kit’), but will work for most memorial jewelry pieces that hold cremated remains.
Sterling silver is quite pure, at over 92% silver (generally listed as 93%). To compare, sterling silver consists of 93% silver and 7% copper, while the traditional 14 karat gold consists of 58% gold and 42% silver and copper.
One valued and attractive attribute of this metal is the way that it ages. Sterling silver patinas in such a beautiful way that jewellers often design pieces to emphasize the patina by incorporating recesses protected from the natural polishing of everyday wear. Some even go so far as to pre-oxidize the surface, adding a lovely initial patina.
Our collection of memorial cremation jewelry includes many sterling silver pieces. We have a variety of necklaces, rings, and even bracelets made in the USA from premium sterling silver. So one of the most common questions we get is about how to care for sterling silver cremation jewelry. Here is a brief guide.
Sterling Silver Cremation Jewelry Care
WEAR YOUR JEWELRY
The first and best step to prevent your cremation jewelry from tarnishing is to wear it. This works because the natural oils in your skin will work on the sterling silver to ‘clean’ it and keep the piece looking shiny and new.
DON’T WEAR YOUR JEWELRY
That is, don’t wear it when you are using household chemicals such as cleaning supplies. Even soap and perspiration will affect the sterling silver, so it’s a good idea to take off the cremation jewelry when cleaning, washing dishes, bathing, swimming, or working out. Cleaning chemicals, sweat, rubber (such as rubber gloves), chlorine pool water, or anything that contains sulfur (eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, coconut, dairy products, onions, latex, wool, etc.), will cause corrosion and tarnish your jewelry.
PUT IT ON LAST
Other substances that will cause your sterling silver cremation jewelry to tarnish include cosmetics, lotions, perfumes, and all varieties of sprays (hairspray, sunscreen, insect repellant). So always put your jewelry on last!
STORE IT CORRECTLY
To store your jewelry when not wearing, put each piece individually inside an air-tight plastic bag such as a Ziploc. The airtight plastic will prevent the air from tarnishing the metal, and separate storage will keep the jewelry pieces from scratching each other.
If you prefer to keep your jewelry stored in a more traditional jewelry box or case, ensure that the storage area has low humidity. Consider placing a piece of chalk or a silica gel packet into the jewelry storage area to keep out moisture. (These are the little white bags you find in shoe boxes, IKEA-style furniture, and other household goods.)
Regular light polishing will keep your cremation jewelry looking beautiful. Silver polishing cloths are designed especially for this task. Other non-abrasive cloths will also work; these include microfiber, lint-free flannel, or any other cloth recommended for jewelry or eyeglasses. Be sure to avoid paper towels, as these contain rougher types of fibers which can damage or scratch the sterling silver.
To polish, use long, smooth strokes that go back and forth along with the grain of the silver, frequently changing sections on your polishing cloth to avoid returning the tarnish to the jewelry piece. Do not go against the grain or in circles, as this may scratch the surface.
GET A PROFESSIONAL WHEN NEEDED
If your jewelry begins to get more seriously tarnished, so that a regular polishing does not restore the shine, we recommend going to a professional. While there are many DIY techniques to remove tarnish and restore your jewelry’s natural beauty, the online instructions can be hit-and-miss and can sometimes do more damage than good. Your loved one’s memorial keepsake is worth the extra cost and effort of getting professional jewelry cleaning done.
BLACK DUST ABRASION
Because sterling silver is a copper-silver alloy, it is somewhat softer than most gold alloys. This means that it is more likely to be abraded to black dust by movement between the jewelry and the skin or clothing.
Sterling silver has a pronounced tendency to tarnish. The tarnish may turn the cremation jewelry black, though this can be rubbed off by normal wear on the skin or clothing.
A few people, especially those with moist skin, may find that sterling silver stains their skin green due to the copper element of the alloy. If this occurs to you, the best course of action is to polish the jewelry frequently and use and absorbent, non-abrasive powder on moist skin areas that are exposed to the jewelry.
SOAP BUILDUP ON MEMORIAL RINGS
Soaps, detergents, wax, polish, cosmetic creams and other products may build up under a memorial ring, causing a mild type of dermatitis. To prevent this, you should remove all rings before using soap or detergent, and clean the rings frequently.
COMMERCIAL SILVER CLEANERS
We do not recommend using commercial silver cleaning products. These types of cleaners are generally a little too aggressive, and remove some of the valued finish and patina. This may provide a temporary shine, but you will wind up needing to clean your sterling silver cremation jewelry more often as the exterior breaks down.