We don’t recommend over polishing old pieces as you are actually removing the age and revealing the silver underneath,
so if it’s really quite old and valuable don’t polish it. You can in some cases destroy it’s value.

Having said that, if you are happy with it’s age, and don’t plan to resell it
then you can carefully use a dry “silver polishing cloth” on it,

DO NOT USE A LIQUID CLEANER!

These are too unforgiving and don’t know when to stop.

You have control over the cloth, you can stop, or do more, though a highlight is enough, we like to retain some of the age.

All pure metals are too soft and need hardening by the addition of a little of another metal, creating an alloy.

For instance;
bronze is an alloy of copper with a little tin,
brass is copper with a little zinc,
silver usually has some copper added.

So 100% silver is too soft, Sterling Silver is 92.5% (925 parts per 1,000) and 7.5% usually copper.

Customers new to silver, all too often ask

“Is it Pure Silver?”

“No, it’s Sterling, Pure Silver is too soft.”

Tribal Silver is made from “Coin Silver”, which is melted down coins, whatever their value is now transferred to the jewellery.
Often the coins themselves are incorporated, both retaining their value and adding ready made decorative units.

This 18th Century Austrian Maria Theresa Thaler, (pictured) found in Ethiopia, is now highly collectable, yet was melted down for centuries
to make Tribal Jewellery all through Islam and North Africa.
Millions of copies were made by the British for trade, up until WW1.
Magnificent necklaces are also found that incorporate this coin directly into larger pieces,
the novelty of the Empress’ portrait, and the double headed Austrian eagle on the reverse,
were both appealing visually and also talismanically. Ironically she’s now remembered as Marie Antoinette’s mother.

For nomads this represents portable/wearable banking.
In a disaster, invasion or migration your wealth is worn with you.
For women, this is often their only personal wealth, a dowry that does not belong to their husbands,
added to in good seasons and drawn on in times of need.

In some countries the coins were pure silver, others of lesser silver content,
generally though Tribal Silver is considered to range from 70% silver content
any where up to Sterling (92.5%) even in rare cases Pure.

I think Sterling pieces generally are new, made for export/tourists, however their purchase supports living craftsmen,
giving them reason to keep producing Traditional techniques and designs, rather than Modern Hybrids.

These should also therefore be supported, if there is to be any continuance of their culture,
besieged as it is by the West and the Modern!.

Just yesterday I had to repair a delightful pair of Uzbek silver, turquoise, red coral and pearl earrings,
that had literally dissolved in a dip solution.
Their owner had innocently followed the instructions given on “Antiques Roadshow” for “cleaning silver, just mix up….”
maybe for cutlery, trays or serviette rings, but certainly NOT for finely made Tribal Pieces,
especially ones with pearls (which can dissolve) and tiny Turquoises (that all fell out!)

The brew seemed so harmless, but was so strong it turned the solder brittle, and attached pieces of silver also fell off!

So, if you can, just restrict yourself to a gentle rub with a dry SILVER POLISHING CLOTH
(that’s what they’re called you’ll find them in the Supermarket, just next to those lovely dips and liquid cleaners!)

But always protect Pearls, cover them with a clean dry thumb, if you’re polishing the silver.
Polish around them, as the oxide you rub off, will stain the Pearls if it comes in contact with them!