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Accidental arc flash in ionic cleaner


#1

Occasionally I will add a small copper accent to a sterling piece.
This past week I tried cleaning some of these pieces in my ionic
cleaner and it created what looked like an ‘arc flash.’ It also does
this on the sterling mesh chokers.

Are these not meant for cleaning mixed metal? If that is the case,
there must be some other material in those mesh chokers.

Look forward to any input,
Liane Redpath Worlund


#2

the first thing i would do is get out a multimeter and check for
shorts in the cleaner. Secondly, the sterling may be plated…though
not sold as such) particularly if made in china as there have been
very many instances of fraudulent wares marked as one metal though
another, less expensive substitute (Tiffany & Co. NY has had to deal
with this problem over the past 5 years). You also apparently realize
that you are introducing dissimilar metals into an electrolytic bath
(if you have any remaining pickle on the pieces it is then
electrolytic, or if you are using something like Harbor freight’s
"ultrasonic cleaner" which is based on an acid, albeit mild, to
enhance the cleaning action of the ultrasonics they sell- thiourea to
be exact) However you should not get an arc of light, that indicates
an electrical problem. Sterling as you know is copper and silver
alloy- it should be stable though in an ionic or ultrasonic cleaner,
any flash should not occur if you are using distilled or de-ionized
water…again check the pH of the solution to ensure it is neutral-
then check the electrical system of the machine- cords for shorts and
the unit’s tub for small holes or leaks that may have been caused by
weak acids pitting it overtime- that could, though remotely, be the
problem, in which case it is time to replace the machine as repairs
are very temporary and it sounds like the machine is already not so
safe…The simple contact of copper to stainless steel or sterling to
steel and copper shouldn’t flash though I’m surprised your pieces
aren’t coming out slightly pink from the plating effect of
non-neutralized pickle…I can’t wait to hear what others say as I
have NEVER heard of this happening in 35 years at jewelry making…rer