Friday, November 22, 2013

Cleaning Tarnish From Sterling Silver Jewelry: Experiment

We all have sterling silver pieces of jewelry that are sitting in a jewelry box or drawer, and look less than sparkling and bright!  Tarnish happens to ALL sterling silver, especially when left exposed to the air (as opposed to sealed in an airtight bag).

I always love to use a polishing cloth that is specifically for sterling jewelry---it's a soft flannel cloth that has been treated with a gentle cleaner that removes tarnish like magic!  There are liquid jars of cleaner, but those are some sort of acid and can ruin pearls or certain "soft" gems and are very harsh, so I don't recommend those.

But what about using products at home?  How about something cheap and natural?  I've read about using hot water, baking soda, salt and aluminum foil to remove tarnish for YEARS.  Does it really work?  I tried it today, and here's what happened:

(1)  I lined a foil pan with another sheet of aluminum foil.  The silver pieces have to touch the foil for this to work, I read.

(2) I gathered some baking soda and plain salt, and heated up some water until it was steaming.

(3) I chose a couple of tarnished Sterling Silver items from my jewelry box.  I found a box chain, a sterling heart, and a really intricate pendant that is sterling with a lot of granulation, plus rice pearls and a blue topaz gemstone in the center.

(4)  I put the pieces in the tray so they touched the foil, added about 2 tablespoons each of baking soda and salt, added steaming water until the jewelry was submerged, and waited about 5 minutes.

(5) After 5 minutes, I turned the jewelry over so both sides would touch the foil, and added a little more hot water.  And I waited another 4 minutes.

(6) I took the jewelry out of the pan and used a microfiber cloth (a VERY green one!) and rubbed the pieces.

The heart looked beautiful!  And the chain was completely tarnish-free and really sparkled!


...except for the intricate pendant!  The tarnish was not gone on either side, and was a really weird grey color.  I repeated this whole process with just the pendant, but it still came out tarnished and dull.  It almost looked worse than when I started.  Perhaps the granulation and pearls kept the pendant from touching the foil, and that was the problem?

(7) So I got my Sterling polishing cloth and rubbed the pendant, and it immediately looked brighter and better!

After spending about 15 minutes polishing the pendant (which seemed to take FOREVER), it now looks a lot better!  It has a matte finish, and I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the baking soda/water/foil experiment fail.

SO----I would say that using baking soda and salt, foil and steaming water, really DOES work for chains and shiny silver jewelry!  It only took a couple of minutes, and the results were very impressive---especially on the chain, which has a lot of little tiny links that could never be polished by hand!  The matte silver intricate pendant didn't work, though---but polished up nicely with a sterling cloth! 

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