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Author Topic:   Silver Care (Polishing/Cleaning)

Posts: 63
Registered: Sep 99

iconnumber posted 06-20-2001 08:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for lisa     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am fairly new to the silver world, but would like to know more about taking care of the flatware collection I am building. I have a number of reference books on flatware patterns and their orgins, etc, but I would like to know about the preservation of what I have. If anyone knows of a book (maybe a website) that might educate me on this, I would surely appreciate any info.

I prefer the pieces to have some oxidation to them and not just look totally shiny. How is that achieved? If I was in the right place, I'd even like to take a class on this (if there was one).

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Scott Martin
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Posts: 11520
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 06-20-2001 09:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regarding the care of silver, I could go into much detail about cleaning and polishing silver . . . You might want to take a look at our book The Guide to Evaluating Gold & Silver Objects

The basics:

  • Whenever possible, avoid polishing silverplate. Silver plate is a thin coating of pure silver on a base metal (i.e., copper). Pure silver is much softer that Sterling and polishing will remove some silver eventually revealing the base metal.

  • When silver or silverplate is tarnished polishing is the only effective way to remove the tarnish. Before polishing always begin by first washing with a mild soap and pure fresh water (i.e. distilled water). If you use tap water please be certain it doesn't contain sulphur or salts. Towel dry.

    There are many different silver polishes to select from. Pick a polish that doesn't contain rouge (they are usually a pinkish color) since the rouge is abrasive and will remove silver along with the tarnish.

  • Once polished, you can keep silver looking great by making sure the silver doesn't come in contact with sulphur. For example, egg yolks contain sulphur. And make sure you wash your silver on a regular schedule. How often depends on where you live and the time of year. There is sulphur in the air and the more sulphur there is, the more often washing will be required. With the proper schedule of simple washing and drying you may never have to polish your silver or silver plate again.

PS. The "dips" (i.e., Tarn-X) are good for a quick clean but don't really do a thorough job of getting the surface clean. Usually after several cleanings with a "dip" the silver begins to look greyish and you will end up polishing again. The dips also remove the "good tarnish" that provides the shadows and contrast that make your silver pattern stand out. My advice, is to use "dips" sparingly and they are best used on vermeil (gold wash).

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Posts: 9
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 07-30-2004 11:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bellaluca     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have heard of a silver cleaning technique that involves aluminum foil in a sink of warm water and equal parts of salt and calgon. It cleans the tarnish off I think by ph altering and then you just buff....any comments, is it harmful??

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Posts: 304
Registered: Apr 2002

iconnumber posted 07-30-2004 10:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arg(um)entum     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The aluminium foil and soda method seems to be quite popular in Europe - you should have no trouble finding a number of websites giving their version of it.

I have tried it, but being no expert my view of it may be of limited value. Still, for what it's worth: I believe it is useful as part of the major cleaning of something very badly tarnished - it will reduce most of the tarnish on exposed surfaces back to silver. BUT you still need to do two things:
1) use another method for cleaning recesses and corners, that could be ordinary elbowgrease based polishing or a 'dip' carefully applied
2) all areas still need to be polished, but since some of the tarnish has been 'reduced' the amount of mechanical polishing is less than without the 'aluminum/soda' treatment and therefore, I believe, less silver winds up being abraded.

That's my subjective assessment based on limited personal trials.

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Posts: 327
Registered: Mar 2000

iconnumber posted 07-31-2004 07:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
also... DON'T USE SALT... Salt eats silver.....


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Posts: 17
Registered: Jul 99

iconnumber posted 08-01-2004 01:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Vi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lisa, I'm sure you already have more responses than you wanted. However, I'd like to caution you concerning Tarn-X and aluminum foil. I do not believe they are safe or satisfactory. At the very least, using them often alters the color of silver to an unsatisfactory grayish/white which is not what you want your silver to look like. It also does not polish...only removes tarnish.

The traditional hand polishing with a quality silver polish is the best way to care for your silver. Old-fashioned hand polishing will offer you the patina and beautiful color silver should have.

I find that antique siverplate can also be handpolished a few times a year without much danger of loosing the plating. Enjoy your silver.

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