Even though my New York life doesn’t allow for making jewelry any more, I’m still passionate about jewelry and remain interested in metal techniques. Therefore, when I came across a handy tip for silver polishing in one of my jewelry magazines, I figured I should give it a try. According to Designer Peggy Li of Peggy Li Creations in San Francisco, all it takes to rid silver of unwanted black tarnish is a plastic dish large enough to hold the jewelry items, a piece of aluminum foil, baking soda and boiling water.
When I tried her method on a tarnished silver napkin ring, I was astounded at how fast and effective it was. Here’s the tarnish-free napkin ring after I used Peggy’s process:
Of course, after I witnessed the miracle above, I realized that I should have taken a before and after picture. So, this morning, I went rummaging for more silver to clean. While my upbringing was far from the silver spoon kind, I did receive this silver-handled spoon when I was very young and we still lived in Portugal. (Judging from the look of it, it was probably last polished in the 70s, too!)
Peggy’s tarnish removing “recipe” follows…
hot water (heated to almost boiling)
1. Place silver items to be cleaned in a plastic or Tupperware container big enough to hold them.
2. Place a piece of aluminum foil inside the container so that it completely covers the bottom.
3. Place silver items to be cleaned on top of the foil.
4. Add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of Baking Soda (use more if you are using a large container with more silver items.)
5. Heat water to almost boiling and pour it over the silver items to just cover. The mixture will begin to bubble and foam as the chemical reaction binds the aluminum to the sulfur oxides. Swirl the silver in the mixture for a few minutes, or let it soak longer if the tarnish is significant. Remove pieces and rinse. (You may need to repeat the process to remove black oxides from more heavily tarnished items.)
Here’s my spoon “in process”:
And the now tarnish-free spoon:
In the case of this spoon, I did follow up with a very quick rub with my jeweler’s rouge cloth to bring back the shine to the silver (however the napkin ring above needed no further treatment):
You can clean your sterling silver jewelry using the above method, too. Only please don’t put items containing gemstones, pearls, turquoise, or other soft porous stones into the bath as the heat may damage the stones.