Sunday, 30 January 2011

An Ounce Of Prevention...

I get a lot of emails from clients asking how to look after their silver jewellery. As we all know, silver is liable to tarnishing, and sometimes at an alarming rate. I once hung a bunch of silver necklaces over a nail I’d hammered into a freshly-painted wall, and the next thing I knew, they’d gone almost black.

Palm Cluster Earrings by Angie Boothroyd.
Sterling silver, 18 and 22 carat golds.
Prevention is the real key; let your precious silver jewellery anywhere near anything smelly (like newly applied paint or other household chemicals) and it is bound to oxidise almost immediately. Perfume will do the same thing, as will the less delightful smells of the home – so don’t keep your jewellery in the bathroom. Sulphur is the arch enemy.

No matter how careful you are, though, silver will tarnish. Because the jewellery I produce tends to be textured, it is not advisable to use polishing wadding on it – Silvo, for example – as its abrasive action will wear away the delicate surface textures. What I use instead is a liquid silver dip. There are several brands on the market; I use Goddard’s but I think they’re all pretty much the same. Instructions: Put the jewellery in the jar. Wait between five seconds and five minutes for the tarnish to lift. Take the jewellery out of the jar and rinse. This is safe to use on mixed gold and silver jewellery as well; I've been cleaning my pieces this way for years.

If you prefer a more homespun approach, there is a bit of a trick you can perform if you can get hold of a sheet of magnesium. When I was working at Electrum Gallery we had a crumbly old cardboard box with “Maggie Pan” written on it. Inside was a plastic tray and a sheet of magnesium that fit inside it. You would put the metal in the tray and fill with hot water, with a bit of washing up liquid. Then you’d place the jewellery on the magnesium sheet and leave it for a few minutes. Through an electrolytic process the tarnish would be magically removed. Apparently something similar can be done using aluminium foil and baking soda in boiling water. (If you enjoy watching paint dry then you might also get a kick out of this video!)

Look after your jewellery and it should last you a lifetime. Choose your jewellery wisely and it will be worth looking after!

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