Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beading Tip for Tuesday

This is from Monday's Beading Daily Newsletter.  Wonderful help with cleaning sterling silver beads and jewelry.  
I hate tarnish, I swear it is the work of the Devil.  Not only do I hate it, I hate cleaning it, I hate the smell of it, and 
it makes me TOTALLY grumpy when I have to sit at a show and clean tarnish from jewelry during set up.  I try 
very hard to keep things sealed to prevent this, but you can't prevent putting the jewelry out in the air at shows, 
and when doing "outside" fair type shows, the humidity conspires with the air and tarnish to make me annoyed.  
Brings to mind Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes saying "OOH that makes me SOO ANGRY!"  
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From Beading Daily
Lately, instead of buying brand-new sterling silver clasps, findings, and beads, I've been turning to a few new sources. 
First, I've been practicing my wire working skills to make my own earring findings and clasps using my favorite sterling 
silver wire and beads. Second, I haunt my local thrift shops, junk shops, and antique shops. There are treasures there, 
and a lot of them are sterling silver! And of course, I go back and recycle findings and clasps from older projects or 
projects that I never finished (gasp!).

The only downside to using recycled or up-cycled sterling silver is that sometimes it's in less-than-perfect condition. 
When I get a beautiful piece of sterling that looks like it could use a little loving, I'll clean and polish it up. 
Jean Campbell wrote a wonderful blog about this very topic a couple of years ago, and here's the method that 
she tried for cleaning tarnished sterling silver:

Removing Tarnish from Sterling Silver at Home
Tarnish-Busting Formula
1. Choose a plastic or glass (never metal) pan that is deep enough so that when filled with water your tarnished jewelry 

will be covered.
2. Put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of the pan.
3. Pour near-boiling water into the pan.
4. Add a couple tablespoons of baking soda to the water.
5. Place the tarnished jewelry onto the piece of aluminum.
6. If necessary, add more baking soda to the dish until you see the tarnish coming off your piece. You should get a slight 

bubbling effect with an odd odor.

You can clearly see the difference in the before and after photos here. Jean also used a soft toothbrush to completely 
remove the rest of the tarnish from the beads and findings, but it didn't take much effort.

Before and After Using the Home Tarnish Removal Solution

We're not sure how the chemical reaction would affect gemstones or other beads, and I would never try it with a piece 
strung on silk, cotton, or nylon thread because of the hot water. But it went perfectly for this bracelet made of sterling silver, 
freshwater pearls, and crystals strung on beading wire.

One word of caution: I wouldn't use the boiling hot water method with any handmade glass beads. If the beads aren't 
properly annealed, there's always a chance that the boiling hot water can cause thermal shock and your lovely 
handmade beads will crack.

Some other suggestions for cleaning up and caring for you tarnished sterling silver beads and findings:
  • For a faster method for polishing silver, try using your favorite tartar control toothpaste with a small toothbrush. 
  • I've found that a toddler-sized toothbrush works perfectly.
  • You can also make a weak solution of vinegar and salt using two cups of vinegar and a teaspoon or two of salt.


Cindy said...

I put mine in the tumbler with stainless steel shot, warm water and a couple drops of burnishing compound. When tumbled for about 15-30 minutes the silver is like brand new.

I toss in complete pieces of jewelry, earrings, etc. Lampwork beads and all, I love doing it this way, they are rinsed and laid out to dry, if the piece is all silver I blow dry it with a hair dryer.

Pixybug Designs said...

Thanks for sharing that Cindy! I have a tumbler, but am always afraid it will ruin the stuff.

Cindy said...

Another Cindy here....I purposely go for the oxidized look so the tarnishing won't drive me crazy, plus it gives a piece such nice character and depth.
You'll love that tumbler once you get used to it. I use it for ALL of my lampwork and wire pieces and have not had a problem.

Pixybug Designs said...

Thanks Cindy! That is a good point, with all the varieties of metal finishes these days, a little tarnish adds to the design instead of it just making me crazier! :0)

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