Do you have some old sterling silver jewellery that you just don’t wear anymore because it’s got too dull or black looking?

Maybe it’s set with semi-precious stones and you don’t want to use harsh chemicals like silver dip to clean it. But a silver cloth only shines the surfaces, not the intricate parts of silver jewellery.

How do you get rid of all that tarnish caused by silver’s exposure to the air and make it lovely and bright again?

I thought I’d share a tip I picked up a few months ago to bring up your silver beautifully without using any harsh chemicals at all. In fact it uses something you eat!

You will need:

  • aluminium foil
  • a ceramic or glass mug or bowl 
  • just-boiled water
  • some tweezers
  • table salt

Method:

  • Line the mug with the foil, shiny side up.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the mug.
  • Add the hot water and ensure it has all dissolved.
  • Add the jewellery using the tweezers, making sure each piece has direct contact with the foil.
  • You might want to pull the jewellery in and out of the water a few times to circulate the salty water.
  • Take out the jewellery and rinse in cooler water before drying with a soft cloth to futher bring up the shine.

You should see an instantaneous difference, as soon as the jewellery touches the foil, it’s like magic! I have also found that it brings up stones beautifully too.

The water may turn a slight yellow colour and you may also notice a strange smell of brussel sprouts!

Before you blame the dog – it’s actually the chemical reaction whereby the hydrogen sulfide (tarnish) binds more readily to the aluminium than the silver, due to a  small electric current produced by the foil and silver. So the smell is basically some form of sulphur being released.

I have read that adding a similar quantity of baking soda to the water as well will speed up the reaction, and make it more effective, but I have had amazing effects just using the above method. Perhaps you could report back if you try it?

Warning:

Do not use this method on softer more porous stones like turquoise, opals or pyrites. I have, however, used it successfully on pearls BUT if they are dyed, do not leave them in the water for more than a couple of minutes to prevent the dye coming out.

Do not use this method on any oxidized, French polished or antique effect silver, as it will remove or damage the antique effect.

I have used it successfully on jewellery containing agate, chalcedony, peridot, tourmaline, garnet, all quartz’s, prehnite, labradorite, iolite and kyanite.

Do not actually eat or drink the solution that you made, dispose of it down the sink! (this is in the spirit of ‘objects seen in a mirror may appear further away than they actually are’)

To keep your newly cleaned silver nice and shiny, invest in some zip lock bags to seal them from the air.
Another way to keep your silver jewellery looking amazing, is to wear it often!

Happy Cleaning :)

Rachel x

21st January 2011

Rachel Lucie Johns

Hi! I'm Rachel, a jewellery designer-maker & nature photographer. My work is inspired by the gorgeous countryside around West Yorkshire & Art Deco design. This blog is where I share my creative life and inspiration. find out more ...

3 Comments

  1. Reply

    eNVe

    21st January 2011

    well I agree.. chemistry is a miracle to me! or pure magic!

  2. Reply

    Rachel Lucie Johns

    20th January 2011

    it's a miracle, I tell you!

    (ok, so it's just chemistry, but seems like a miracle to me)

  3. Reply

    eNVe

    20th January 2011

    WOW! who knew?? I'm going to try this with all my old jewelry! Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

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