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Author Topic:   Cleaning Mixed Metals?

Posts: 1507
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 12-15-2007 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello all,

I was wondering if Ulysses or anyone else would have any advice on the proper care of mixed metals objects. I know the Newark Museum owns a fabulous Eugene Soligny designed Tiffany silver plate inlaid with various other metals, patinated to provide a pleasing contrast. Well, I recently obatined an item in a similar style, except primarily bronze with inlaid silver. I know the bronze should have a dark patina, but the silver should be shiny. How does one polish the silver bits without shining the bronze? How does / did the Newark Museum clean the Tiffany plate? As I recall from one of your earlier posts, the plate was pretty dingy when you first saw it.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!


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Posts: 966
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 12-16-2007 03:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Haven't tried this but maybe getting some painters tape which is low adhesive to tape around the silver portions?

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Posts: 728
Registered: Jul 2003

iconnumber posted 12-16-2007 06:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have used a Qtip dipped in silver cleaner to clean a silver overlay on bronze, but I will admit I couldn't get the silver to full shine. It made me too nervous and I didn't have the patience!

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Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 01-19-2008 07:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sorry to be so tardy about responding! Fact is, our silver plate by Tiffany does not have any patination on the copper--at least none that we could determine (in spite of what the Sotheby's catalogue said when we bought it). We clean everything with calcium carbonate powder and isopropyl alcohol anyway, so for that we just worked around the copper.

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Clive E Taylor

Posts: 450
Registered: Jul 2000

iconnumber posted 01-19-2008 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Clive E Taylor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The whole matter of copper and bronze patination is something of a nightmare. Whether the beautiful patina on a item is supposed to be there - sculture, Japanese tsuba etc being favourite subjects for misguided cleaning with brasso polish , or is merely corrosion which should be cleaned. Coppper buckles were originally meant to be shiny, but often are intentionally left patinated - to my mind wrongly. But then I'm paradoxically very keen to avoid the excessive mechanical cleaning of old silver that removes the mellow greyish patination, but will cheeerfully remove the bloom from old pewter to give it back it's intended shine.
It's a fraught subject.

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Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 01-29-2008 06:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My guess, based on some experience. Find an artist to paint lacquer on the parts you don't want to polish. This is much trickier than it sounds, so someone who knows how to wield a paint brush is needed. Then use a gentle polish, like Hagerty's spray to quickly polish the silver. Then remove the lacquer. Best I can come up with.

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Posts: 1970
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 01-29-2008 06:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How do you safely remove the lacquer?

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Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 01-30-2008 09:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We really need a metals conservator's input here. For our Tiffany mixed metals dish, we found that the color of the copper was merely oxidation, and not original (or at least, not a chemical patina). So our approach, using chalk power and isopropyl alcohol, was to clean the silver, gold and niello, and to LIGHTLY clean the copper, to leave a light brownish color. Then we lacquered the whole piece so that it can be displayed without tarnishing. Lacquering is a tricky proposition, and not something one can really do at home. Chemical patinas (such as, I think, shakudo on copper) are fragile, enameled finishes (such as the red finish on copper by LaPierre, I think) are less fragile.

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Posts: 935
Registered: Nov 2003

iconnumber posted 01-29-2014 04:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for asheland     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recently got a mixed metals piece by Gorham. I shined the silver and left the copper and brass as found. Q-tips, silver polish and patience are needed! It actually looks good now.

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Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 01-30-2014 09:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
the secret in metal polishing is not to leave residue ...

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