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Bracelet turned copper color in pickle


#1

When I finished putting the jump rings on my bracelet then to the
pickle, few minutes later my bracelet turn copper colour, and anyone
tell me what happen and what can I do to fix the bracelet?

Anna


#2

Sounds like the pickle has been contaminated with steel.

Regards Charles A.


#3

Well Anna, if you had the clasp in there with a steel spring this
could have caused the contamination. Never put steel of any type in
the pickle. Start with a new solution as now you will turn everything
copper colored.

Russ
The Jewelry CAD Institute


#4

Your pickle is contaminated. If you put steel tweezers or an ferrous
metals in the pickle it can contaminate it and then it leaves a
copper flashing on the surface. Sometimes it just washes off with
soap, brass brush, and water, but may need to sand and file to clean
off heavy plating. This article

has a method with peroxide to remove.

Melissa Stenstrom


#5

Most likely one or more jump rings contained iron which created an
electrolytic reaction that caused copper in the pickle to be plated
onto your bracelet.

The plating is very thin and can be removed by abrasion, but if that
is impractical, dipping the item into nitric acid for a few seconds
will do the job. Nitric acid is nasty stuff and can create poisonous
fumes, so do it outside and wear protective clothing.

Regards, Gary Wooding


#6
Most likely one or more jump rings contained iron which created an
electrolytic reaction that caused copper in the pickle to be
plated onto your bracelet. 

it can occur with other base metals beyond iron. What’s required is
a metal IN CONTACT (electrically) with your silver, that is more
chemically reactive than is the copper, which is already in solution
in the pickle. Iron is the classic culprit, in the usual form of
steel tweezers holding the item being pickled, or iron binding wire
left on during pickling, or things like the steel spring inside a
spring ring clasp… But if you happen to be using componant (jump
rings, clasps, etc) which have an electroplated layer, and that layer
includes, for example, a nickle underplate, or there are zinc parts
in something, those too, can cause copper to plate out on the silver.

The plating is very thin and can be removed by abrasion, but if
that is impractical, dipping the item into nitric acid for a few
seconds will do the job. Nitric acid is nasty stuff and can create
poisonous fumes, so do it outside and wear protective clothing. 

Safer than nitric (which certainly does work, if you have it handy,
though it may etch more than you wish if you’re not careful), is to
mix up a small amount of fresh pickle, to which you add a little
hydrogen peroxide (the stronger types you can buy at beauty supply
shops, not the almost drinkably dilute version sold as a disinfectant
in the pharmacy, work better). The peroxide super charges the pickle,
so it will then be able to dissolve that thin copper layer without
harming the silver. When done, you can add this right back to your
regular pickle pot. The peroxide degrades and doesn’t last long,
leaving ordinary pickle.

Peter


#7
Your pickle is contaminated. If you put steel tweezers or an
ferrous metals in the pickle it can contaminate it and then it
leaves a copper flashing on the surface. Sometimes it just washes
off with soap, brass brush, and water, but may need to sand and
file to clean off heavy plating. 

A couple comments. First, note that what causes the plating is iron
or other base metal, more reactive chemically than copper, still in
it’s metallic form and in electrical contact with the silver. This
sets up an electrochemical cell (like a battery), which is then
responsible for the plating. As the iron dissolves, it replaces
copper already in the pickle solution, which then plates out on the
silver. If the iron is not in actual contact with the silver, then
although the iron may dissolve in the pickle, it does not cause this
plating to occur. Also, iron already dissolved in the pickle does not
cause a reaction. So to a degree, the pickle is not actually
contaminated. You may be able to continue to use it without problem,
once the offending iron or other metal is removed. Once the pickle
has a lot of copper dissolved in it (it turns decidedly blue) or has
too much other junk (iron, zinc, etc) dissolved in it, then it
eventually not only becomes less effective, but also can start to
cause less easily described problems, like a dingy surface that
doesn’t look like a cleanly pickled surface should do, discoloration,
etc. If that’s happening, then it’s fair to say the pickle is ready
for replacement. Call it contaminated, or worn out, or just plain a
mess. Your choice. Neutralize it if you need to for your situation,
and dispose of it, and mix up some fresh pickle.

Second, if you’re tempted to go the mechanical route (filing,
sanding, etc) to remove the plating, be aware that the “fresh pickle
plus peroxide” method referenced in Melissa’s post is well worth
looking at. It’s a LOT easier, and very effective, than mechanical
methods of removal unless the plated area is so minor that simply
buffing or mechanically removing the copper is trivial. If the piece
is at all complex, though, the peroxide/pickle mix is fast,
effective, and doesn’t harm the silver surface at all.

Peter


#8
Well Anna, if you had the clasp in there with a steel spring this
could have caused the contamination. Never put steel of any type
in the pickle. Start with a new solution as now you will turn
everything copper colored. 

I’m sorry, Russ, but you’re wrong on this. The copper plating occurs
only while the steel spring or other iron item is still in a solid
metallic form, and in electrical contact with the silver or gold
jewelry. Once dissolved, or removed, or no longer in actual contact
with the silver, there is no longer an electrochemical cell created,
and no more plating. While heavy iron contamination of pickle ends up
giving you unattractive surfaces eventually, small amounts of iron
dissolved in the pickle will have no significant effect. She only
needs to remove the source of the contamination, that is remove
whatever iron item is involved, and the problem will stop. The pickle
does not usually need to be changed just because it caused copper
plating to occur in one instance. Once the pickle is depleted,
meaning it’s dissolved so much copper and other junk that it’s no
longer effective or working well, THEN it needs to be changed. She
has probably not reached that stage with this one instance.

Peter


#9

Hi Peter,

This is interesting that you should say that.

Our teacher tells us that if steel contaminates the pickle, the
pickle will be contaminated and turn your metal pink. The pickle in
this case being dilute sulphuric acid.

Apparently you can remove the pink with pure ammonia, I haven’t had
reason to try this.

So what you’re telling me is my teacher is wrong?

Regards Charles A.


#10

You’re likely to get a million replies to this, but here goes anyway.
If your bracelet is silver you may have inadvertently put some iron
or steel into the pickle. That will cause a reaction that will plate
copper onto the silver, or brass for that matter. You must use copper
tongs. How to get the copper off the silver? There may be multiple
ways, but either a lot of sanding or plating over the copper with
silver will be what you’ll have to do.

Dennis


#11

Anna

Steel in the pickle causes a chemical reaction that causes copper to
plate out on silver Make sure none of the components of your bracelet
are steel. Also, make sure your tongs are not steel. Plastic or
copper tongs should be used in pickle Steel in the pickle causes a
chemical reaction that causes copper to plate out on silver

The copper layer is likely very thin and can be sanded or polished
off.

Regards
Milt in Calgary Alberta


#12

For removing or defuzzing brass, this is an easy and safe way to
accomplish this task.

1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
3 tbs of fresh granulated pickle

Mix and dunk your work. You will see the brass disappear right away!

This is a one time use which is why the quantities are small. For
larger pieces, just recalculate the amounts.

Plastic strainers are great for tiny work in pickle.

Karen Christians
Cleverwerx


#13

I think you copper plated your piece. Somehow iron, aluminum or steel
got introduced to your pickle, forcing the copper in the pickle to
bond to your silver. Was there any possibility that your jump rings
were not silver? Or could you or someone else have used tongs or
other tools in the pickle that were not copper or plastic? I have
been experimenting with embossing silver with a pattern, then putting
my piece into the a much used pickle, then dropping an iron nail into
the pot. (Make sure you have some extra room in the pot and that you
have good ventilation, because the pickle bubbles up.) I then use a
gentle abrasive to remove the copper on the raised area. The copper
in the recesses can then be colored by heat or a patina, while the
raised silver areas can be polished. I think that you can remove the
pink color by putting the piece in a fresh batch of clean pickle. I
unintentionally did that to a piece last weekend…My copper plating
came off completely when I put it in a fresh batch of pickle…but I
learned something new and I can always replate. If you do want to try
the copper plating, you can put a piece of copper into the pickle pot
and wait until the pickle turns aqua colored (the copper will begin
to look like steel in the pot because the pink color is counteracted
by the aqua tint of the pickle). Then take out the copper, add your
silver then put in the iron washer, nail etc.

Hope this helps, Julie Mc.


#14
Never put steel of any type in the pickle. 

True, up to a point…

Start with a new solution as now you will turn everything copper
colored. 

Not entirely true. Iron (read steel too) will cause copper to be
deposited only if it touches the precious metal, and the the pickle
contains dissolved copper. Yours does, but so does all pickle after
its been used a bit. If it looks even a little bit blue, then it
contains copper. If the iron doesn’t touch the precious metal then
the copper will not be deposited.

No problem if there is no iron at all.

IHTH
Regards, Gary Wooding


#15

Every I put on the bracelet suppose to be steriling silver but I
think the jump rings might not be but they suppose to be. Thanks.


#16
Every I put on the bracelet suppose to be steriling silver but I
think the jump rings might not be but they suppose to be. Thanks. 

The thing that might happen, if you are buying commercially made
jump rings, is that while you might have sterling silver jump rings,
it’s possible that you bought sterling rings that have been rhodium
electroplated in order to prevent tarnishing. It’s easy to tell the
difference, because the color of rhodium is darker than that of clean
sterling silver, but if you’re not looking for it, you might overlook
the difference. Rhodium plating over sterling silver usually has at
least one level of plating of another metal, and often two layers,
between the silver and the rhodium. One of these often is a layer of
nickel. Nickel can sometimes cause copper to plate out of pickle.

If this is the source of the problem, and you still wish to use this
type of jump ring, then the solution is to use newly mixed pickle
with this type of item. Newly mixed pickle does not yet have any
copper dissolved in it, so even if there is a contaminating metal,
like nickle or iron in the pickle with your jewelry, there will be
none of that copper plating taking place.

cheers
Peter Rowe


#17
Our teacher tells us that if steel contaminates the pickle, the
pickle will be contaminated and turn your metal pink. The pickle
in this case being dilute sulphuric acid. 

iron in the pickle, after it’s in solution, amounts to ferric or
ferrous sulphate mixed with your acid. These do not cause addtional
reaction with your metal. It’s the electrochemical potential
(voltage, essentially) created by the metallic iron in contact with
your precious metal, that specifically causes the iron, as it goes
into solution, to replace copper, forcing it out of solution onto
your piece. Without that electrical contact, this simply doesn’t
happen, and after the iron is dissolved, it also doesn’t happen. It
might be that eventually you could have so much copper, AND so much
iron or other junk in the solution that it would become essentially
unstable or super saturated or something like that. By then, it would
look terrible, and the result could be some plating onto your piece.
But as I say, this is not normally the stage of things where we run
into the problem. If the pickle visually looks OK, and not seriously
discolored, it will work fine once the source of contaminating iron
is removed.

Apparently you can remove the pink with pure ammonia, I haven't
had reason to try this. 

News to me. Ammonia can be used in some work with metals. For
example, although silver chloride is insoluable in water, ammonia
will dissolve it, or so I recall. But no matter what, ammonia in
strong enough concentrations to be useful this way is REALLY nasty
stuff. And since it’s also one of those chemicals used by illicit
drug labs to make crystal meth, ammonia is also no longer so easy to
find a source for small amounts, at least in the U.S. If it works to
remove copper is something I don’t know. Hadn’t heard that before,
and I’m not sure I’d believe it without some more Either
way, however, I’d not bother to try it. Mixing some fresh pickle all
by itself will slowly remove the copper from silver, or much faster
if you add some hydrogen peroxide. Easier by far than fooling around
with pure (anydrous) ammonia.

So what you're telling me is my teacher is wrong? 

Yes and no. I’d guess he/she was simply trying to keep the message
simple for students. Keep iron out of the pickle is a great mantra to
teach students, especially in a shop situation where many share a
pickle pot. With some students, if you go into great detail about the
chemistry and exact conditions of copper plating, you’ll be certain
to simply confuse at least a few of them. That gets counter
productive in a class situation. There isn’t a great downside to
keeping this simple. If students feel they have to replace pickle
when it’s been copper plating, well, sodium bisulphate is really
cheap, and you do have to replace the pickle every now and then
anyway. So if now and then a bit of pickle gets changed before it
absolutely has to be, well, no great harm in that, I think. The only
downside I can think of is that there are a few times (like removing
broken drill bits) where knowing the limits to how much you have to
avoid iron in the pickle can be of use. But this simply isn’t the
common situation, especially in a class. And if you DO tell students
they can remove drill bits with clean pickle, no doubt someone will
forget the word “clean” there, and then will do so while another
student is already using the pickle near the end of some intricate
construction piece, and student “A”'s mistake will cause a major
headache for student “B”…

So was your intructor wrong? technically yes, but as a teacher,
probably not, and I’d bet it was intentional just to avoid problems.

Peter


#18

If I am wrong, others will let me know. I am guessing that you used
a steel item (tweezers maybe) in your pickle solution instead of
stainless steel. With non-stainless steel, there is an exchange of
ions/electrons/reallytinythings that charges your pickle solution
turning it into an electroplating device. The copper probably came
from sterling silver or using copper tongs. Once equilibrium is once
again achieved, the plating action will stop. Or get some new pickle
solution.

Fred Reese


#19

Peter is right after I take the bracelet out and not knowing any
better I put some other stuff in it with no affect, I just wish knew
about the solution you mention would have safe lot of filling, lol.
Thank you for all help, I know for sure were my jump ring but they
were supposed to be silver too.


#20

I like that, must tuck that one away in the memory bank under
"useful knowledge".

I was going to suggest depletion gilding, but I’m not certain how
effective that would be.

Fred Reese