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Cleaning silver and freshwater pearls


#1

Hi all, I’ve recently been making a lot of jewelry combining sterling
silver with freshwater pearls. Can anyone tell me what the best thing
would be for cleaning this type of jewelry? I think most of the
silver cleaners would damage the pearls, but soap and water cleaning
won’t remove tarnish from the silver. I haven’t had any problems so
far with tarnishing, but I want to be able to advise my customers of
the best way to care for the jewelry that I make, since I know the
silver will tarnish eventually.

Thanks!
– Leah


#2

That’s a difficult combination to keep clean. As long as there’s no
silk or thread involved in the piece, you should be able to use the
hot water, baking soda and aluminum foil treatment with acceptable
results. This will remove tarnish, but it will not polish. To get a
bright polish on the silver, you must rub it (somehow).

Just use about 2 or 3 tablespoons of baking soda to one cup of very
hot water (does not have to be boiling - the shock of cold versus hot
could harm some beads). Line the bottom of a glass bowl or large cup
with tinfoil. Add the water & baking soda, stirring to dissolve. Add
the jewelry piece, making sure the silver touches the foil. Wait a
few minutes and then rinse under warm water and dry thoroughly.

Betty


#3

G’day Leah; The easiest and least destructive de-tarnishing
method for silver with pearls would be to place a tablespoon of
washing soda (sodium carbonate, NOT bicarbonate) in a bowl and
dissolve it in hot water .Put a piece of kitchen aluminium foil in
with the jewellery. and watch the tiny bubbles of freshly generated
hydrogen gas remove the sulphide tarnish, converting it back to
silver. It won’t hurt the pearls, and should take only a few
minutes.

Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ


#4

John said - “. …place a tablespoon of washing soda (sodium
carbonate, NOT bicarbonate) …” and I was wondering if anyone knew a
place to get washing soda in quantity and cheaply? I’ve looked for
but not found it at Costco. The only place I’m finding it is at a
pricey dye shop in CA, and I’d love to find another source!

thanks - Ivy


#5
I want to be able to advise my customers of the best way to care
for the jewelry that I make, since I know the silver will tarnish
eventually. 

First - prevent it as long as you can. You can buy Pacific cloth
(anti-tarnish) at large fabric stores (I got a yard of 60"-wide
material for about $10). You can tell your customers where to get
some to line their jewelry boxes with, or you can have lengths or
pre-made bags available for purchase.

Second - the dry polishing cloths seem to be fine to use around
pearls. After cleaning the silver, the whole piece can be washed.
But be careful if it is strung on thread (as opposed to cable) - the
black may come off the cloth onto the thread.

Tas


#6

Buy yourself a Speed Brite ionic cleaner. You will wonder how you
lived without it. As low as $35.+ the solution.


#7

Hi, Ivy- Look in the laundry aisle of your local supermarkets. That’s
where I find it here in Phoenix, AZ.

Lee Einer


#8

Ivy, Sodium carbonate (‘washing soda’) can be bought in bulk through
<www.tri-esssciences.com> which also has great safety and MSDS
links. They don’t take orders for chemicals online, but can be
reached at (800) 274-6910 for pricing. Their minimum shipping fee
is $20. You can also go to a larger scientific supplies place like
VWR Scientific <www.vwrsp.com> but they don’t seem (based on limited
experiences, I admit) quite as welcoming to ‘small’ order-placers.

(Standard disclaimers apply.) ~Elna in Berkeley, where the morning
fog finally returned to cool us off…


#9

Hi Ivy Arm and Hammer makes a laundry product called Super Washing
Soda. It is sodium carbonate. In my town there are three
supermarkets and two of the three sell it. I’ve used it for years
in place of the higher priced product from dye companies. Linda M


#10

Check the laundry supply section of grocery stores. Not all of them
carry washing soda but some do.


#11

Ivy, Check your local grocer! Mine has washing soda available in 5
lb and 10 lb boxes. I’ve not found it at Costco (but you can get the
really big boxes of baking soda at Costco, which is great!).

Karen Goeller
@Karen_Goeller


Handcrafted and Unique Artisan Jewelry


#12
    John said - ". ..place a tablespoon of washing soda (sodium
carbonate, NOT bicarbonate) ..." 

For what it’s worth, I’ve done this with baking soda (bicarb) and a
little dish detergent, and it worked fine, though I was cleaning
just silver, no pearls. --Noel


#13

Ivy, Most large grocery chains carry ‘washing soda’ in the laundry
departments. Its just a couple of $ for a large box. I have one
around all the time…here in SOFL the Publix chain carries it.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


#14

I use Rex’s method–a toothbrush and baking soda (sometimes
dry–which I was taught to do with “liquid silver”) on silver I’ve
combined with “fragile” materials. I don’t understand why this is
wrong, i.e. why you need to use washing soda. (And I too know of no
other place to buy the latter besides a “dye house.”)

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments


#15
    I was wondering if anyone knew a place to get washing soda in
quantity and cheaply?  I've looked for but not found it at Costco.
The only place I'm finding it is at a pricey dye shop in CA, and
I'd love to find another source! 

My answer: You can get Arm and Hammer Washing Soda from the grocery
store in the laundry soap department. A 3-lb, 7-oz box cost me $1.99
at HEB.

Buy yourself a Speed Brite ionic cleaner. You will wonder how you
lived without it. As low as $35.+ the solution. 

My answer: Is this safe for everything? Is the sodium carbonate safe
for everything?

J. S. Ellington


#16
   Is this safe for everything? Is the sodium carbonate safe for
everything? 

Pretty much. there may be exceptions, but right off hand, I can’t
think of any that are common in jewelry. You might want to think
twice before immersing something with silk or nylon strung pearls,
since the silk/nylon will absorb the solution, which might make it
degrade faster, over time. But I’m not even sure of that. And since
the speed brite is only intended to clean conductive metal items,
it’s unlikely you’ll need to get pearl cord (or other stringing
cords) in the speed brite anyway. Unlike ultrasonics, speed brites
only work with things that can be part of an electrical circuit, just
as with electroplating.

Sodium carbonate is pretty benign stuff. It’s used mostly as an
electrolyte here, with it’s mild basic ph providing some wetting
agent/detergent properties to improve the conductivity. I can think
of no actual metal that it would harm, and frankly, the only gem I
can think of that I’d want to check, would be amber, which can be
sensative to some strong bases. But it would surprise me if it
actually has any effect on it.

Peter


#17

Hi, Lisa-

I think you may be confusing a couple of different cleaning methods
here-

If you are doing the amazing soda + aluminum foil+ hot water trick,
you will want to use washing soda rather than baking soda- the
washing soda is more effective for this application. Washing soda is
frequently available in the laundry detergent aisle of supermarkets
here in the US.

Baking soda on a toothbrush works just fine to remove tarnish by
abrasion.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#18
   For what it's worth, I've done this with baking soda (bicarb)
and a little dish detergent, and it worked fine, though I was
cleaning just silver, no pearls. --Noel 

As I understand it, the bicarb or carbonate is there mostly to make
the water electrically conductive. the contact between the silver
and the base metal creates an electrolytic potential, which is what
then reduces the sulphides, cleaning the tarnish off of the silver.
I could be wrong, but near as I can see, about the only difference
between them is that sodium carbonate, being more alkaline, would
provide a bit more wetting power and some cleaning power to get
through any oil or grease, and it might allow greater soluablity of
the sulphide ions, but in that, I’m just guessing a bit… For
that matter, I’d bet, though I’ve not tried it, that a number of
other chemicals would also work as the powder added to the water.
TSP, for example, comes to mind, since it’s what I use to mix up the
electrolyte in anodizing titanium or niobium. It’s
detergent/cleaning power is useful in that application…

So far as cleaning pearls, TSP might be a little harsh, but I’d
guess that so long as it’s dilute, it would work safely enough.
Just don’t try cleaning pearls with acidic chemistries…

Any of you real chemists out there know?

Peter


#19

HI All, And thanks to everyone for suggestions on where to get
washing soda.

Just thought I’d report back that I have not (yet?) found it in any
of the major grocers here in the Bay Area / Oakland! I’ve checked
Safeway and Albertsons so far, and a couple of stores in each chain

  • hard to believe, but since I’m moving to NM soon, perhaps I’ll have
    better luck there.

I have used the baking soda and tin foil method, and its OK - like
Lisa, I’m curious as to what the difference will be using washing
soda - is that stronger?

Thanks!
Ivy -


#20

Hi Ivy

    Just thought I'd report back that I have not (yet?) found it
in any of the major grocers here in the Bay Area / Oakland!  I've
checked Safeway and Albertsons so far, and a couple of stores in
each chain 

You might try looking in health food stores that sell cleaning
products. The health food store i used to work for sold washing
soda as a “back to basics” alternative to regular laundry
detergents.

Hope that helps
Brigid Ryder