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Black Marks - help!

Hi Noel,

A customer of mine just called to talk to me about a silver
necklace which marked a brand-new yellow turtleneck sweater that
she bought... 

I had this happen to me with a pendant. I could never figure out
whether the jewelry or the fabric was at fault. The easiest cure is
to lacquer the back of the piece. In your case that won’t work, at
least not if it’s the snake chain that’s leaving the stain. I hate
to suggest it, but the best solution may be to have the piece rhodium

Additionally, do you think I'm obliged to offer to pay for the

Obliged? No. But it couldn’t hurt as a measure of good will. Did
she suggest it?


so I'm not excited about "bringing up the fine silver" on the whole

That’s not likely to have any bearing on the cause. I doubt the
nature of the surface metal has anything to do with it, that surface
depletion gilding would affect. The two most likely culprits are
the cause you thought of, that being some faintly abrasive nature to
the fabric, or perhaps residual cosmetics, or the like, which could
abrade the surface of the metal leaving a stain, or more likely
still, after the last polishing of the necklace, it wasn’t
sufficiently cleaned, and some polishing compound remained. Snake
chains can pack a LOT of compound into their structure, and can be
hard to clean sometimes. I’d expect that it just needs a very
thorough cleaning to be sure no remaining polishing compound is
inside the chain. Before delivery, test it by hand rubbing, lightly,
with a piece of soft white cloth. It should leave no mark.


Dear No�l, Same thing happened to me after you borrowed the necklace
I bought from you to take pictures the last time I was in Evanston!!
My guess at that time was that it had to do with the fact that you
might have polished it before taking the pictures and the dark stain
on my white t-shirt was due to residue from the polishing
compound… Take care, Paula Gonz�lez de Q�erio (warm and sunny in Buenos Aires)

Noel, your problem caused me to remember an encounter with an
elderly lady who told me, upon observing the silver jewelry I wore,
that she would NEVER wear silver because it turned her clothing
black. So, I asked her if she ever cleaned or polished that silver
jewelry and she looked completely blank . I asked if she cleaned
and polished her table silver regularly and she said, “Of course I
do.” Then it began to dawn on her.

There really is a responsibility to keep one’s jewelry clean. It
helps if the seller explains how best to do that and provides a
zip-loc bag and anti-tarnish strip with silver as well. The yellow
sweater will clean up just fine and so will the necklace. Nothing
is ruined. Shouldn’t be a legal dispute at all nor a cause for
concern to either party. Silver is best worn frequently, but it has
limitations, reacting to gases and acids. Perhaps that customer has
a bit too much of one or the other. Give her necklace a good
cleaning in the ultrasonic or bright dip. Then show her how to
clean it herself before wearing. And explain that tarnish happens.


Another thing to consider is the fabric itself- is it a natural
fiber or synthetic? Is it dry-cleaned or washed? Are there any
finishing chemicals or sizing left from the construction of the
garment? Any or all of these could contribute the sulfur compounds we
associate with silver/black marks. Hoping to help- Betsy

Some “hard” fabrics can actually wear off a fine deposit of silver -
remember silver point drawing. Vellum and some dense papers can be
drawn on using a sharpish needle made of silver. I suspect that the
fabric is actually eroding the necklace.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040