Caring for Your Silver
Some chemical cleaners say they are safe for certain gemstones such as diamonds and rubies as these are very hard stones on the Moh's Scale, other stones are very soft and even cleaners that claim to be mild can damage them such as malachite and opals. My advice is to NEVER use a chemical cleaner ever but particularly if you are unsure if it will damage your stones. Solid silver pieces that have no gemstones or crystals can be placed in a chemical jewelry cleaner, however, these cleaners will stipe any patina that was intentionally placed on your jewelry they leave behind residues that not only stain cloths but are unhealthy when in contact with your skin. Below you will find several different ways of polishing your jewelry and maintaining it.
Tip: Polish your jewelry before it is heavily tarnished to avoid having to go through drastic measures to get it clean again.
Dish Soap & a Soft Brush
One of the simplest ways to clean your jewelry that is lightly tarnished is with a soft toothbrush or cotton ball and a dish detergent; Dawn or preferably a naturally derived soap. Simply scrub your jewelry lightly under warm water until the tarnish comes off and it is shiny once more. Most transparent stones are safe but softer stones like Malachite and Opal can be damaged if you are not careful. However, simply avoiding bushing them is usually enough precaution. For heavier tarnish you may have to use a little elbow grease.
When in doubt, use a polishing cloth. It is more time consuming but it is safe for every type of stone. Simply rub your jewelry until it shines like it did when you first bought it. They are typically good at removing tougher tarnish. They do contain polishing compounds so look for one with as fine an abrasive as possible. You can find these cloths almost everywhere. Connoisseurs makes a disposable dry wipe that I find very handy. It works the same as other jewelry cloths. I use mine until they are falling apart. They are also very inexpensive.
They can leave some compound behind which can stain cloths. I recommend washing it with dish soap after to remove the compound.
Maintaining Your Jewelry
After you take your jewelry off for the night it is a good habit to wipe the oils that transfer to it from your skin off. This can be done with a soft cloth or your polishing cloths. Always place it back in your jewelry box; this slows the tarnishing process some.
You can find these handy anti-tarnish strips all over the internet. They help reduce sulfur gases in enclosed areas. Cut them to size and place either in the jewelry box drawer or put each piece of jewelry in its own box or bag and place a piece of stick inside. "They" say the strip needs to be replaced after 6 months; however, I have some silver beads and jewelry in plastic containers with a piece of strip that are still nice and bright after years. I recommend keeping an eye on it and replace it when you feel it is necessary.
Baking Soda & Foil
You find this method all over the internet. I will admit that if I have to choose between a liquid chemical cleaner and this; I would chose this for the lack of harsh chemicals. However, the reaction that occurs has a similar result on your jewelry as a chemical cleaner. It will strip your jewelry of any patinas and it will develop a white-ish look. Avoid it if you can.
Generally, toothpaste is too abrasive and will scratch your jewelry so it no longer has that same bright shine. It is best to avoid any harsh abrasives such as: baking soda, salt, Scotch Brite, ect.