Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 5 - Shop Your Stash: 5 Easy Steps to Sparkling Silver (aka Chemistry 101)

I'll be the first to admit that this posting is slightly off topic. But it does involve things of beauty and shopping your stash! So...I'll proceed.

One of my pet peeves of living near the coast is that my sterling silver jewelry quickly turns black and disgusting if I forget to store it away in my jewelry box. The experts call this black crud oxidation or patina. Chemicals present cause darkening where the silver is stored or just in the air. And sulfur is a primary culprit, along with chlorine as in swimming pools. Brown paper bags are notorious for emitting just enough chemical (sulfur type) fumes to really “age” silver in a hurry. To remove the darkening, you'll need a silver jewelry cleaning cloth and a lot of elbow grease.

But I'm not that patient. I want immediate results without the work. Recently, I discovered an extremely easy method to remove the patina that is near instantaneous. And best of all, you don't need any expensive ingredients to bring your favorite silver necklace or earrings back to its near original state. Here's what you need to do:
  1. Gather baking soda, aluminum foil, and a disposable pie tin (hint: remember the one that you never took back to Marie Callendars or Baker's Square for your deposit) from your kitchen pantry.

  2. Cover the pie tin with aluminum foil and place the darkened silver item into the covered pie tin. Sprinkle item with baking soda. A general rule is that you want to cover the item, but not drown it in baking soda.

  3. Boil a kettle of water on the stove or in the microwave. Once the boiling point is reached, remove kettle from heat source.

  4. Gently pour about a 1/2 cup of water on top of the baking soda. At this point, the baking soda will begin to bubble and the cleaning process will begin. Depending on the severity of the patina, it will take about a minute to completely remove the patina. If the item is extremely oxidized, you may need to repeat steps 1-4 and increase the amount of baking soda.

  5. Remove item from pie tin and rinse with water. Then, lay it flat to dry on a towel. It's that easy.
Words of caution: This jewelry cleaning method is not advised for items with precious or semi-precious stones or other materials that may be easy scratched. Also, I discovered that certain plastic beads did not survive the boiling water. For best results, clean each item (or pair) individually.

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