Which is Best to Keep Sterling Silver Pieces?

by Helen Mace.

Which is Best to Keep Sterling Silver Pieces?  - Discussion on Jewelry Making Journal

Within a plastic bag with an anti-tarnish strip?


Wrapped in acid-free paper and then placed within a plastic bag with an anti-tarnish strip?

In addition, the item will be placed in a jewellery safe gift box with flocking inside.

When buyers buy an item ready for a present ahead of time I want to ensure the sterling silver item will have remained as tarnish free as possible when it is ultimately received as a gift.

Guidance on the best way to ensure this happens would be very much appreciated.

Helen Mace

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  • Katie VanPatten says:

    Hi Helen –

    I have had extremely good quality control while storing my sterling (some for five years and counting). I begin with heavy duty zip plastic bags from Rio Grande. They are not an anti tarnish zip bag just regular and they come in multiple sizes. The trick is to get the heaviest thickness – they are more expensive but worth every penny. I sort items with like at the time of purchase, mark down the price per each item and place them in an appropriate sized zip bag (the smaller the better) along with a one inch square tarnish strip – also from Rio Grande. I then sort these smaller bags into groups of like items again – eyepins in one, clasps in another – and place the groups into gallon sized zip locks. So far, I have never had tarnish on any piece that I’ve packaged in this manner. I only change the tarnish strip when I use an item – some have never been changed wince the purchase date.

    I also believe that the climate you live in (I’m in Michigan, which does have humid summers but also dry winters) and the temperature and humidity that you set your thermostat with can affect the amount of tarnish you have to work with. In the winter, because we have boiler heat which is much more stable than forced air, our humidity and thermostat never vary at all. With forced air, the house has to drop in temperature before the furnace will kick on and raise it again. This cycle is repeated over and over. In the summer, we have a variable cycle unit which both filters the air of impurities and humidity. We keep it on the lowest humidity setting at all times and this allows us to be more comfortable in a higher temperature. Most homes do not have these systems, but a dehumidifier can work wonders in a room.

    Opening windows not only lets in fresh air but also varying humidity levels and this affects the interior of the home also. I also play the piano and in order to keep it in tune for longer periods, we never open the windows. You can also see the effect of varying humidity levels on doors that swell and don’t quite shut at certain times and wood floors with gaps that open and close. If you see anything like this happening within your household, the humidity is probably too variable.

    Hope these suggestions help!

    Trout Lily Creek

  • Colin Lansdell says:

    I store my silver with a few sticks of blackboard chalk – it absorbs any nasties in the air. I often give a stick to q customer that makes a purchase.

    From Norwich, UK

  • Laura Carder says:

    I agree with using the anti-tarnish 3M strips from Rio, but you should also make sure your silver pieces are clean and free from fingerprints before bagging as well.
    I know when I have received things from James Avery, it is wrapped in acid-free tissue then stored in a piece of anti-tarnish cloth.

  • Judith says:

    Aloha Helen,

    Silver pieces may also be stored in plastic bags with silica gel; some of these packets of silica gel are “rechargeable,” that is, they may be dried out in the oven or microwave (very carefully!) and reused when they become saturated with moisture.

    Katie makes excellent points re: climate. Heat and humidity are inversely related. When the temperature goes up, humidity goes down. Knowing your local conditions and your storage abilities are important to prevent tarnish. Being an archivist and living in a usually humid climate presents challenges for all materials from paper to metals. Understanding the basics helps a lot, but we are fortunate that there are many options. And I especially liked hearing about the use of chalk from Colin. It makes perfect sense!

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