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Author Topic:   Tarnish

Posts: 2022
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 12-26-2018 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was mentioned to me that one of the major causes of tarnish was just the number of pollutants in the air and that before 1700 silver did not tarnish.
I think the only pollutant that matters to silver is sulfur. It could be with the increase in heating with coal in the 1700s a major increase in sulfur and sulfur compounds were released into the atmosphere. Maybe as the use of coal decreases the tarnishing of silver will be slower.

[This message has been edited by ahwt (edited 12-26-2018).]

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Scott Martin
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Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 12-26-2018 03:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    ....and that before 1700 silver did not tarnish.

I just don't think so ... I suspect there was a lot less sulfur in the air before coal became a major fuel source but I also believe anytime organic fuels are burned there is some quantity of airborne sulfur produced.

When animals/microflora bacteria consume dietary sulfur-containing amino acids found in plant life they produce flatulence which then into the air contains sulfur.

Also egg yolks have a lot of sulfur. Depending on where ground water is sourced it also contains sulfur.

I suspect there are many sources for airborne of our chemistry or EPA members might be able to speak with a more experienced/scientific view.

All types of coal also contain sulfur, which, when burned, releases toxic air pollution. Sulfur content is determined by the conditions under which the coal is formed. Low-sulfur coal deposits develop in freshwater environments; high-sulfur deposits come from brackish swamps or marine-influenced environments [1].

In the United States, the sulfur content of coal varies along geographic lines, with most—though not all— eastern coal containing high levels of sulfur, and western coal containing much less.

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Registered: Dec 2006

iconnumber posted 12-26-2018 09:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for seaduck     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The 1700s comment intrigued me, because I wondered about that very thing while I was polishing an 18th c cann. If silver tarnished easily and quickly back then, would it have been so prized? Or, put another way, how was it polished in 'olden' times?

I believe that sulfur is a leading culprit, but I also suspect, like Scott, that it is found more commonly than we think. I assume it's a by-product of natural gas -- I've noticed that club trophies in cases near a gas fireplace tarnish more quickly than those farther away.

I have no idea if there is more sulfur in sea air, but I once saw a silverplated pitcher tarnish over the course of an afternoon spent on a seaside deck.

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Registered: Jul 2003

iconnumber posted 12-27-2018 07:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I moved from a home that had oil heat to one that was heated with natural gas, I noticed that my silver tarnished a lot faster.

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Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 12-27-2018 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The process of silver developing the patina that most enjoy seems very mysterious. Sterling seems to age differently than silver plate so the addition of copper may make a difference. Several websites say tarnish is a result of the copper in silver reacting with sulfur. Copper may react to sulfur, but silver plate also tarnishes and it has no copper in it. So silver also reacts to sulfur.
Old Sheffield Plate (OSP) has sterling on the outside, but it seems to me that 250 year old OSP looks different than 250 year old sterling as the blueish tinge on OSP seems more intense. Some writers suggest that is the copper base for OSP that makes the difference.
One site on the internet said that while silver is very reluctant to join with oxygen that it does happen very slowly and after several hundred years this reaction adds to the patina. This same site said that the reaction can be hastened by heat in an atmosphere having high concentration of oxygen.

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Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 12-27-2018 03:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some things that tarnish silver and aren't fossil fuels:

-Garlic, onions, and the gases they release when chopped, cooked, etc
-Fumes arising from wetlands
-Salt and sea air
-Cow farts

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Posts: 856
Registered: Nov 2003

iconnumber posted 12-28-2018 10:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asheland     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I collect bullion bars alongside coins and antique silver, the bars are .999 and some are .9999 fine. They tarnish similarly to sterling, perhaps a little slower...

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