Cleaning Silver

Have you ever wondered how to keep your Silver Forge pieces at their sparkling best? Well, the first place to start is with a silver polishing cloth. These are available at most jewellers, and provide a soft and gentle way to clean your silver.

What if your piece is quite tarnished? This happens to me quite a lot. (Perhaps it’s a touch of ‘the shoemaker’s children are never shod?’) Here’s what silver repairer and restorer Jeffrey Harman has to say about tarnish:

“Tarnish, in regards to silver, is a thin layer of corrosion that forms from a chemical reaction on the surface of an object. This layer consists mainly of black silver sulfide caused by the silver’s reaction with sulfur-containing compounds such as hydrogen sulfide in the air. Tarnish appears as a yellow, gray, or black film on objects. After tarnish forms, the corrosion process slows as the silver sulfide layer thickens.

Any sulfur-containing compound with the sulfur in a reduced oxidation state (e.g., hydrogen sulfide, sulfur, carbonyl sulfide) will cause silver to tarnish. Moisture also plays a role. The higher the relative humidity, the faster silver tarnishes (if sulfur-containing compounds are present). However, even if there is no moisture in the air but it is contaminated with hydrogen sulfide, the silver will still tarnish because there is a direct reaction (water not involved) between the silver and the hydrogen sulfide. So it is not good enough to remove only the moisture because the silver will still tarnish if there is hydrogen sulfide present (or other tarnishing gases). Clean silver will form tarnish more quickly than will tarnished silver.”

A note to say that humans have sulfur in our bodies, which contributes to our jewellery tarnishing!

If you have a plain silver piece, or some of my Czech glass earrings, you can use the old-fashioned method of lining a bowl with tin-foil, placing the pieces in the bowl and sprinkling some bi-carb soda on them, then covering them with boiling water. This really works – just make sure your pieces are all touching the tin-foil.

WARNING: A very few pairs of the Czech glass beads in my earrings (like the pairs below) do NOT like to be cleaned this way – if you’re in any doubt, email me and I can tell you if it’s safe or not.

Hagerty’s Silver Foam was recommended to me by my goldsmithing teachers, and I use that as my next stop.

Easy to use, it will clean your piece in no time, with a minimum of fuss!

There are other methods employed to clean silver, some of which you can read about on  Jeffrey Harman‘s most excellent website, but these three are the ones that I stick with.

A note about gemstones – some gemstones do not take kindly to cleaning methods – check before you clean a gemstone piece. There’s a handy guide to gemstone cleaning from the International Gem Society here.

Lastly, if you have a Silver Forge piece that needs some TLC and you’re not wanting to take on the task, please contact me – I’d be happy to help restore it to its former glory!

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