When properly cared for, sterling silver jewelry like Pandora will look great for years to come. Here are some tips and products that I’ve found to help clean your precious Pandora pieces, and to protect them from the effects of tarnish and oxidation (when you don’t want it).
What causes silver to tarnish?
Sterling silver starts off bright and shiny, but as it’s used and enjoyed it will eventually start tarnishing; the surface will turn a slight yellow, and if not cleaned it the piece will gradually shift from yellow to a black. This discoloration is the result of oxidation and is caused primarily by two things: contact with sulfur compounds, and moisture.
Technically hydrogen sulfide causes the reaction, and it’s found in lots of everyday objects like wool, rubber, and foods like eggs and onions. Excessive exposure to items containing hydrogen sulfide will accelerate the tarnishing process so if you’re working with these things be sure to take off your Pandora jewelry first! The second cause of tarnishing is moisture — exposure to excessive moisture will hasten the oxidation process just like sulfur, except that it’s a lot more difficult to completely avoid moisture. Proper storage will help minimize this while you’re not wearing your Pandora jewelry, but the simple act of wearing your bracelet or necklace means that your pieces are slowly tarnish.
But don’t worry, tarnishing is a natural effect and is not permanently harmful to the silver. In fact, Pandora actually uses this as a detailing technique on many of their sterling silver pieces!
How to clean your silver Pandora jewelry
It’s pretty easy to clean off the tarnishing that occurs as part of everyday wear and there are variety of tools and techniques you can use. First, and most importantly:
Never use chemical jewelry cleaners!
Some jewelry stores sell bottles of liquid chemical cleaner that’s supposedly designed for deep cleaning all kinds of jewelry, including sterling silver and gold. While this may sound like what you need, these chemical cleaners are often too harsh and not designed for handmade, delicate detailed pieces like Pandora jewelry. Often a bath in these cleaners does TOO good of a job, and all of the fine detailing on your charms that was done with oxidation effects is now gone! It’s a safer bet to stay clear of these powerful liquid cleaners and stick with other methods.
Using a silver cloth
A silver cloth is a great and easy tool for helping you get that tarnish off your Pandora pieces. These silver cloths are soft polishing cloths that contain a mild chemical that helps remove oxidation from the silver surfaces. No water or special handling is needed; you simply rub the silver piece with a clean section of the cloth and watch as all the tarnish gets cleaned right up. These are great for spot cleaning since you can quickly clean up a piece without having to use water, towels, or other tools.
The only downside to silver cloths is that it get used up pretty quickly — once a section of it is “dirtied” with tarnish from cleaning, it can’t really be reused again. While Pandora says that you can keep using the clothes even after it’s completely dirty, I’ve not found it to be as effective. Washing the cloth will remove the tarnish and make it look new, but the cleaning chemical that was in the silver cloth is removed as well :(.
Silver cloths can be found at jewelry and department stores under a variety of brands, but I found that the Pandora branded one that they sell in the concept stores works particularly well and only costs $5 USD. It seems to do a better job of removing the oxidation from the small nooks and crannies of the charms, and it’s what the Pandora sales ladies use in the store to keep their collection looking brilliant.
Using warm soapy water with a toothbrush
If you don’t have specialized products on hand, you can always use simple warm soapy water to clean up your Pandora pieces. This technique is actually recommended by Pandora for basic cleaning — add a drop of mild liquid soap or dish detergent to a bowl of warm water, and use a soft bristled toothbrush dipped in the water to gently scrub your silver pieces.
The warm water and soap helps loosen up the tarnish and any other organic bits while the soft bristles of the brush (make sure it’s a soft toothbrush!) scrub them out without scratching the silver. It can take a little more elbow grease than some of the other methods but it works, and everyone should have some soap and warm water nearby :). For very tarnished and dirty pieces, Pandora recommends soaking the piece in the warm soapy water for a few minutes before tackling it with your soft bristled toothbrush.
Be careful to wrap your pearls to keep them from getting wet. Pearls are made from organic materials (i.e. in an oyster!) and can eventually erode (after decades). Because of this you’ll want to keep from exposing pearls to water, lotions, perfumes, etc.
What about wood and Murano glass beads?
Wooden Pandora and Murano glass beads are beautiful mixed material pieces that require a little bit of extra care when cleaning. These beads have either sterling silver or 14k gold end caps that can be cleaned using the techniques noted above, but their wooden and glass midsections should be addressed separately.
For wooden beads, don’t rub them with any silver-specific products like cleaning creams or silver cloths — these are designed only for the silver parts of the piece and may damage the wood. You can use warm soapy water to lightly clean the surface, but you should dry them with a towel immediately afterwards. Never soak the wooden beads in water, as the moisture can cause the wood to swell and damage the piece! After cleaning with warm soapy water a good tip I got was to give them a light polish with olive oil (just a dab) to help moisturize the wood and protect it from moisture.
As for the glass Murano beads, you should also try to avoid the glass surfaces with any silver-specific cleaning products. Warm soapy water works great on the glass to help take off any dirt or other debris that may have got on them.
How to clean cameo charms
Cameos are another type of special material charm that Pandora produces. Cameo charms currently only come in sterling silver and feature a fine portrait or engraving detail that’s inlaid into the silver piece. These inlays are traditionally made from hard natural materials like stone, layered glass, or even seashells — these materials are durable, but they still need light maintenance from time to time to keep them looking great.
Like the wood and glass pieces, you should avoid cleaning the non-metal pieces with silver-specific products like creams or silver cloths. Pandora recommends using a soft brush or cloth to brush away any debris on them, and cleaning them with warm soapy water as necessary. You should dry them immediately afterwards, and never soak them in water as it could damage the delicate inlay. Pandora also recommends oiling the Cameo details about once a year using a mineral oil (not olive oil as that will contribute to the yellowing), to maintain the surface of the cameo.
Cleaning leather bracelets
While these are technically not silver pieces, they do have silver (or 14k gold) clasps so I thought I would cover them just to be thorough :). Just like the other mixed material Pandora pieces, you should take extra care when cleaning a leather Pandora bracelet. Never clean the leather portions using silver cleaning products, and because leather is very porous, you should also avoid soaking it in water. Wiping it down with a damp cloth is usually sufficient, and if you get dirt or other stains on the bracelet you should try and wipe it off immediately before it gets a chance to get absorbed into the leather.
Healthy leather is generally oiled or conditioned, which helps it resist stains and keeps it soft and supple. Pandora recommends regularly applying a leather conditioner and essential oils to help keep it looking and feeling great.
How to store your Pandora jewelry
When you’re not wearing your Pandora bracelets and necklaces you should keep them in a safe and secure place, like in your bedroom. Some of the more delicate pieces like the Murano glass beads could break if they fall from a counter top or table on to a hard surface. Don’t keep your jewelry in the bathroom because all of the moisture from your shower and sinks will make your sterling silver pieces tarnish extra quickly.
Jewelry boxes are great places to keep your Pandora jewelry, but you should keep in mind that a lot of these containers don’t do anything to protect your sterling silver pieces from tarnishing and oxidation.
Pandora boxes are not anti-tarnish
Pandora stores sometimes give out the big bracelet box (not usually though, so I would ask if you want one) and it’s tempting to store your bracelets in them because it shows off your bracelet and it’s easy. But these boxes are not anti-tarnish and can make your bracelet tarnish even faster because it is not sealed and allows moisture to leak in and then traps it. My Pandora sales ladies have told me not to store my bracelets in these boxes so if you do store your bracelets in them, add some silica gel packets or put them in an anti-tarnish pouch first to help prevent tarnishing.
The silica gel packets come with a lot of packaged items nowadays — I’m sure you’ve seen them, they’re the small little packets that fall out when you open boxes and say DO NOT EAT on them :). These packets absorb moisture out of the air and help slow down the oxidation process that occurs on the silver surface. If you save them when buying other products they’re free, common, and could do a lot to keep your charms nice and shiny! If you don’t have a few of these lying around you can also get them for pretty cheap online; they’re also called desiccant packs and can be found on Amazon. Make sure you buy the little ones that can fit inside your boxes!
Pandora also sells a travel size jewelry box (RRP $30USD, a great deal!) that Leann showed in the video; it comes in purple and brownish green color with 3 levels to keep your bracelets and charms all in one place. I’ve also seen a variety of other Pandora jewelry boxes (either as promos or for retailers) and none of these are anti-tarnish because they’re not sealed, so unless it says it has anti-tarnish materials lining the box I would not trust it to keep your jewelry tarnish-free.
Pandora has their own branded anti-tarnish pouches, but these are not widely available so it may be difficult to track them down. While the Pandora ones are hard to find, there are quite a few other good products on the market to help prevent tarnishing and keep your silver shiny. Leann bought a whole bunch of anti-tarnish jewelry pouches and she even found a store that sells hand made anti-tarnish jewelry pouches (they’re so cute! I am totally getting one), which work by having embedded silver particles in the fabric. The silver in the pouch then attracts the tarnish so that your jewelry inside the pouch won’t get dull. I’ve been using them for a while and they’ve worked quite well — like I wrote earlier, if you want to keep your bracelet in the box, I’d put it in a pouch first.
Plastic Zip Lock bags work too
If you don’t want to buy another product, a good old zip lock bag works just fine as well! Make sure to squeeze out as much of the air as you can before you close it, as that removes any moisture and keeps it from coming back in, nice and simple. Ziplock bags are made from a durable plastic (polyethylene) that does not react with the silver; don’t use bags from made from polyvinyl like garbage bags, however, as these contain sulfur which will speed up the oxidation process.