By | January 26, 2020
how-best-to-clean-silver-jewelry

Clean silver jewelery HOW?

In movies of old, a common sight for wealthy households was that of the servants polishing and cleaning silver.  At one time, many years ago, a sign of affluence was the amount of silverware, silver candlesticks, silver tea services and silver platters that the home contained.  The drawback to owning items made from this lovely, shiny precious metal is that it tends to tarnish, or corrode, easily.  Continuous cleaning and polishing was needed to keep the items from oxidizing.

In modern day, we use the term “silverware” in a generic manner, as most of the flatware owned by the typical household is not pure silver.  Even so, because of the beauty of the metal, it is common for many people to have a true silver object in their home; perhaps a piece of hollowware or silver coins.  To retain the lovely appearance of the items, it is important to impede the process of tarnishing on them.

There are several types of silver. Jewelry and true silverware is commonly made of sterling silver, which is a combination of pure silver and copper in specific amounts. The amounts differ across the world, but standards in the United States require that at least 92.7% fine silver be included in the combination for the item to be categorized as silver.  The advantage of sterling silver over pure silver is its durability, as sterling is much stronger that the soft precious metal in pure form.  A higher amount of pure silver is used in Britannia silver, containing 95.8%. Another type is Argentium sterling silver, which includes the addition of a metalloid, germanium.

Cleaning silver is an inevitable task to retain its beautiful luster.  When exposed to the air, silver begins to corrode.  Tarnish, or corrosion, is caused by a common element that is present in the air we breathe as well as in several food items:  sulphur.  While it is not harmful to us, it does serve to create a chemical reaction on the surface of items containing silver.  Many people work to protect their silver pieces from tarnish by keeping them packed away, or by rubbing on a polish which acts as a protection for the silver.

Tarnishing from the air is not the only issue to guard against with silver.  For hollowware such as might be used at the table for service, any contact with products containing eggs, mayonnaise, salt, vinegars and fruit juice can also create the telltale signs on the silver pieces.

How much effort you place in cleaning the silver pieces you own may depend on how much value you place on those items.  The appearance of most silver pieces is enhanced by natural aging, a term called patina that is developed on the pieces after being hand rubbed. Using specific products that are designed to polish and clean the items can restore the dulling appearance and protect them from further oxidation.

Not all silver should be treated the same, however. In some intricate patterns that are embossed onto silverware or hollowware, a black substance can be noted within the scrolls and grooves. Many people may think they should diligently scrub these areas when cleaning silver to remove the blackened material, but in actuality, the dark coloration is intentional; meant to enhance the fancy pattern placed upon the item.  Often, an oxide or finish is applied to these areas to bring out the lovely intricacies.

There are some tips on caring for your silver pieces that may alleviate a tedious task of polishing and cleaning by staying one step ahead of tarnish.

  • As soon as you are finishing using the silver piece, wash it in hot, soapy water.  Rinse the item well and dry/buff the piece with a soft cloth.  Air drying should never be allowed for any silverware or hollowware, as the air itself will cause spots of oxidation to form.  Likewise, silver should not be cleaned in the dishwasher as a film will build up over time.
  • Never wrap silver pieces in plastic wrap, newspaper or enclose in cardboard containers to store.  Acceptable methods of storing them are by using bags or liners specifically made for the storage of silver that are made of flannel.  An exception would be that silver can be stored in zippered plastic bags commonly used in kitchens.
  • When the time arrives for the silver pieces to be polished, use only those products which have a strong reputation for polish performance.  Purchasing store brand polishes may prove to be damaging to your items in the long run.
  • It is exhilarating to find an antique piece of silver at a garage sale or estate sale.  Typically, the owners did not know what they had, and never bothered to clean the item, so it may be heavily tarnished.  Items such as these should always be put into the hands of professional silver smiths or jewelry shops for the most effective and safe cleaning

More important than information of how to clean silverware and hollowware is how NOT to clean the pieces. There are many home remedies out there utilizing materials that will harm the silver pieces should they be used, thus diminishing both their beauty and their value. Cleaning methods to avoid include:

  • Cleaning silver items with toothpaste or a paste composed of baking soda and water
  • Making combination of aluminum foil, baking soda and water
  • Clean intricate patterns or plain silver surfaces by an old toothbrush
  • Using paper toweling to dry and buff silver pieces
  • Using miracle “dips” advertised to instantly restore heavily tarnished silver pieces

Incorporating any of these processes or materials in the cleaning procedures for your silver pieces will certainly cause irreparable damage to them. Again, the oxidized coloration that elaborates the patterns engraved on the silver is meant to be there. Using toothpaste or baking soda, which are abrasives, will mar the surfaces by causing minute scratches in the silver, opening the road to damaging corrosion. While many “do it yourselfers” tout the method of soaking silver pieces in a solution of baking soda and hot water on a surface of aluminum foil, this method will remove the lovely oxide coating applied by the manufacturer of the silver to enhance the patterns. Once removed, it cannot be replaced.

How To Clean Silver Jewelry With An Ultrasonic ?

Cleaning silver jewelry by using ultrasonic machines is one of the easiest and fastest ways of getting rid of all the dirt and grime that has settled onto your precious stones and metal. Ultrasonic cleaning takes just 5 minutes and your jewelry comes out of the machine looking like new. On top of this, ultrasonic machines are not very costly either and you can easily get a good machine after spending just 60$ to 80$. And this is just a one time investment, for all your machine will require for cleaning is just plain water, and you can go on cleaning your jewelry using your machine as and when required.

Using an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner is one of the best methods of cleaning silver jewelry. These cleaners are based on the concept that when very high frequency sound travels through water, it creates its own path, which results in microscopic bubbles shooting out at a high pressure inside the water. When these bubbles burst due to the pressure put on them by the surrounding water, then very tiny and very powerful jet streams are formed. This process is known as cavitation. Since the bubbles formed during cavitation are extremely small in size, they travel inside all the crevices and corners of your silver jewelry. The pressure and temperature of the jet streams created during cavitation are extremely high and thus, provide for an extremely detailed and thorough cleaning of your jewelry.

Most ultrasonic jewelry cleaners use a range of 20-80kHz sound waves. A household ultrasonic cleaner, which can be purchased for somewhere around $60-$80 generally works with a 40kHz frequency while an 80kHz frequency is used for ultrasonics that are sold for commercial use. The quality of cleaning however does not change much with the frequency of sound used as long as enough bubbles are formed.

Using an ultrasonic cleaner is one of the easiest and fastest methods of getting your jaded jewelry to shine just like new. However, there are a number of precautions that you should keep in mind before dunking your precious silver jewelry in ultrasonic waters. Special care should be taken regarding jewelry that is embellished with gemstones. For one, ultrasonic cleaning is not recommended for soft stones like pearls, amber and opal. Then again, there are a number of gemstones which should not be put in an ultrasonic cleaner because of their internal structure, which can change on interaction with ultrasonic waves. Gems that fall under this bracket are peridots, emeralds, tourmaline and tanzanite.

Other instances where ultrasonic cleaning is not advised are when your jewelry is set with stones that are very highly polished with chemicals like wax, oils or resins since these might be cleaned out of their crevices, leaving visible faults behind. Wax treated stones may lose their luster. Similarly, any stone that has undergone enhancements is in danger of losing its artificial finish or filling in case it is put in an ultrasonic cleaner. In fact, it is advised that you consult your jeweler before you start using ultrasonic cleaning equipment on your precious gems and jewels in order to get the best, rather than the worst out of this technology.

How Does Ultrasonic Work?

Sound of a frequency higher than what human beings can hear is called ultrasonic. An ultra sonic machine works on the concept that when ultrasonic sound is passed through water, a physical phenomenon called cavitation takes place where millions of microscopic vacuum filled bubbles are formed. These bubbles then burst with a very high rate of pressure and temperature, creating powerful jets that can effectively clean all kinds of jewelry inside out.

How Do You Use It?

Household ultrasonic machines come equipped with a removable basket. All you need to do in order to clean your jewelry is to keep all the jewelry that needs cleaning into this basket. Then you put the basket into the tank of the machine, which can be filled either with water or cleaning solution and switch on the machine. You can take your jewelry out of the machine after five minutes, sparkling clean and looking as good as new. Many ultrasound cleaners have separate dipping tanks where you can remove stubborn stains and tarnish from your jewelry by dipping it in tarnish removing solution, if it has already not been cleaned by ultrasonic.

What Are The Precautions That One Needs to Take?

The force and pressure with which molecules in an ultrasonic machine make for thorough cleansing, but this can be damaging for some kinds of jewelry. For one, there are a number of stones that might get damaged when put in an ultrasonic machine. So if your jewelry is embedded with soft gemstones like opals, pearls or amber, then do not put it in an ultrasonic machine because they may get damaged in the process. Similarly, there are a number of precious stones whose crystalline structure might get disturbed with ultrasonic cleaning. Emeralds, peridots, tourmaline and tanzanite fall under this category. In fact, it is advised that you consult your jeweler before putting any kind of jewelry into an ultrasonic machine.

Always follow the instructions that come with your machine to a T and never run it without water or with a cleaning solution that is not recommended by the manufacturers. Once you know what to clean and what not to clean, and how to use an ultrasonic machine you will be able to take a lot of use and derive many benefits from your ultrasonic cleaning machine.

 

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