To anneal sterling silver or copper, begin by turning off the lights so you can see the glow better. Use a large bushy flame to evenly heat the whole piece to an orange (not red) glow, and keep it at that color for 30-60 seconds. After you remove the flame, wait a couple seconds, then quickly quench (ideally in pickle to remove firescale, or in water if you don't yet have a pickle pot). Be careful to not overheat your piece, because even if you don't turn it into a puddle, there can still be undesirable side effects. Brass takes a little longer to fully anneal, so keep brass at that gentle glow for about 120 seconds.
Here are our torches that produce the largest, bushiest flame, plus pumice (which reflects heat and allows you to form a "nest" for various shaped items). more info
Which is best: Pumice, Solderite or a Fiber Blanket?
Many jewelers prefer the rotating pan of pumice, because it's easy to make a little "bowl" or "nest" the right size and shape to evenly heat almost any item. When annealing flat sheet, the shape of the pumice makes it easy to get your heat-resistant tweezers under the item to quickly quench it.
Hard solderite boards are also popular for annealing, but they are considered "2nd choice" to a pan of pumice. So if you only need to anneal occasionally, a hard solderite board is a great multi-purpose soldering and annealing tool.
A Kaowool fiber blanket is less common, but if you are annealing unusual shaped items that need extra support, this may be just what you need.
Why anneal? Bending, hammering, stretching and folding metal, work hardens it. A certain amount of work hardening to your sterling silver or copper wire or sheet can be good -- it helps keep a bracelet or ring from bending out of shape. But when your metal gets too hard, or becomes brittle, it's time to anneal.