By Hailey Konnath,

It’s pretty, shiny, and durable, but most of all it’s special. It’s your silver jewelry. Whether it’s a watch, a locket, a pair of earrings, or an old wedding ring, you love your jewelry, and you want it to stay in good shape. After all, you plan to pass it down to a family member someday, and it needs to look as good as it does now.

Although most people store their precious pieces in jewelry boxes or cabinets at home until the time comes to gift it to a younger relative, a self storage unit may be a better option for preserving silver jewelry over time. Why? Well, most storage facilities have units with climate control, which can keep your jewelry from tarnishing.

Because silver jewelry is susceptible to tarnishing at a faster rate than other metals, it’s important to store it in a place that’s cool and dry—like a climate-controlled storage unit. Climate control allows you to set a consistent temperature inside your storage unit in order to protect your items from damage caused by external temperature changes. Humidity can be managed, too, which is especially helpful for people storing silver jewelry since too much moisture can speed up the tarnishing process.

“For pretty much anything important to you, you should keep it in a climate-controlled unit,” says Kevin James, assistant manager at Proguard Self Storage in Houston, Texas.

So climate control is obviously a must when you move silver jewelry into a storage unit. But what other steps should you take to protect your silver jewelry in self storage?

Clean and Polish Your Silver Jewelry Before Storing

“The big thing is having clean pieces,” says Kim Rodencal, a goldsmith with Expert Jewelry Repair & Design in Appleton, Wisc. “[Cleaning] prolongs the life of that shiny finish.”

Rodencal says washing is an important step to storing any silver jewelry. Because silver is a delicate metal prone to tarnishing when not given the necessary care, it’s crucial to get anything harmful removed from your silver before storing. Sulfur compounds in the air—as well as moisture, salt, body oils, soaps, lotions, hairsprays, makeup, and detergents—can cause discoloration to silver.

Never cut corners when it comes to cleaning your special silver pieces. High water temperatures and rough washing from a dishwasher or careless hands can change the color or even cause damage to your jewelry.

The best way to clean your jewelry is with an anti-tarnish solution or warm salt water. Avoid using rubber gloves when washing jewelry, too, as the rubber is known to cause corrosion to silver. Nitrile or cotton gloves are more acceptable options.

If your jewelry has any tarnish on its surface after cleaning, use a soft microfiber or cotton cloth with silver polish. Never use toothpaste or baking soda to polish jewelry, as both could scratch the surface. Bleach and acetone are also hazardous to silver and can ruin the jewelry’s surface. After you’ve washed and polished your silver jewelry, rinse it well, and use a soft cloth to dry it.

Find Good Wrapping and Storage Containers

Once your silver is washed for storage, it’s wise to wrap each individual piece of silver jewelry in anti-tarnish fabric or acid-free tissue paper (If you’re on a budget, flannel is a cost-friendly option to protect your silver). After you’ve wrapped everything, put your jewelry in sealed bags or plastic containers. Rodencal says you can use regular Ziploc bags, as well as anti-tarnish or anti-rust bags.

If sealed bags or plastic containers aren’t big enough for your collection, you can use a jewelry chest. James says people with large quantities of jewelry often use anti-tarnish silver chests. These have several compartments (which is good for various jewelry sizes), and they’re usually lined with treated felt or anti-tarnish cloth, which protects jewelry in storage.

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