Most of you like me will probably prefer to keep your vintage sterling silver charm in its condition as found, tarnished and all. At times though, there are pieces that are so tarnished, I think it would do the piece justice if I brought it back to its former splendor.
Taking my mother-in-law's advice from years of preserving her family silver and beautiful finds from decades of traveling around Asia, I have attempted the below, which is her time tested hands-free and eco-friendly way of cleaning silver.
You may also want to apply this method to other sterling silver pieces, especially cutlery, so as not to have any after taste (photos included below on how it worked out for my selected vintage charms).What you will need:
- Bicarbonate of Soda
- Hot water
- Aluminium Foil
- Glass or Plastic Container
- Line a non-reactive container (e.g. glass or plastic bowl) large enough to hold your piece of sterling silver charm bracelet or charm pendant, with aluminium foil (shiny side facing up).
- Fill the lined container with very hot water premixed with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) of 2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda per 1 litre of water. As a side note, for family silver e.g. antique knives, where the solder softens at lower temperature, use warm water and simply allow for longer for step 4 below.
- Place your sterling silver charm / charm bracelet / charm pendant into the container.
- Soak your sterling silver charm piece in hot water for a few minutes, before removing the piece with tongs (beware, the sterling silver charm will be hot!).
- Polish and buff your sterling silver charm or charm bracelet with a soft cloth to remove any stains and reveal the beautiful shine.
Heavily tarnished items may require the above steps 2 to 5 to be repeated.
This method of polishing sterling silver is very effective with items with high silver content. The science behind this being, the sulphur atoms (which adheres to the silver to form silver sulphide, giving the tarnished appearance) are carried by the solution and transferred to the aluminium (forming aluminium sulphide), leaving the silver charm bracelet sparkling.
The aluminium foil may be reused, making this a waste-free process of polishing your sterling silver charms and charm bracelets. This is a great way of cleaning our precious sterling silver charms and other sterling silver pieces large and small.
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