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Discoloration on my satin finish too


#1

Dear All,

I read Laura’s post about oxidation on her satin finished jewelry
with interest, as I have been having this difficulty lately too. I
will give you all some background.

I’ve worked with gold primarily for the last 15 years. I have
worked with silver occasionally, though not often, as it is not my
metal of choice. This past year we decided to add a low end line of
jewelry to our inventory to help fill out the under $50.00 price
range at the art center where I volunteer once a month. We created
several patterns we pierce out of a silver disc about the size of a
quarter which is then sold as a pendant on a rubber cord. We chose
Argentium silver from Stuller for our material, though the silver
ring at the top is your basic sterling silver, soldered on with
medium silver solder. Instead of a shiny finish, I used a
scotchbrite wheel, which left a nice, even, matte finish.

I decided to take these silver discs to our outdoor art shows as
well. One of the shows was a dismal, gully washing rain day. We
had a canopy, but there was no stopping that sort of rain. The
silver discs got soaked. We packed them into plastic bags and
figured we would dry them out with everything else. When we looked
them over several days latter, they were all spotted, which didn’t
surprise us. We tried dipping them in silver cleaner but that
didn’t work, so I simply ran them quickly over the scotchbrite wheel
again and we were set. By the next show a month later, we had
spots again; yellowish spots this time, that looked a lot like
typical silver tarnish. With the matte finish, we can not simply
wipe it away like on a shiny surface. I refinished them again. Now
we had a show this past weekend; temps were 96 degrees in the shade
with horrible humidity. I was melting ice cubes on the back of my
neck and letting them drip down the back of my dress! The discs had
all been freshly refinished the night before. By midway through the
day, we had tarnished looking discs! Many had actual fingerprints
tarnished on, where someone had touched the disc and left a finger
print behind, which promptly turned yellowish.

So… I’m wondering what best to do here. I worried about the
product I have sold, as I don’t want anyone unsatisfied if I can
help it. I have worn one of these discs off and on for several
months, and I have not had this problem with mine. The ones at the
art center don’t seem to be tarnishing to any degree either. I’m
guessing that the matte finish is perhaps holding more “dirt” than a
smooth finish would, and that this “dirt” from skin oils and such is
reacting to the hot, humid weather. I could be wrong, and I’m open
to suggestions as to cause and for solutions. Perhaps I could try
the anti-tarnish strips available from suppliers, though that won’t
help when they are out hanging on display. I don’t want to apply a
laquer type finish, as that always comes back to bite you in the
end. I was hoping the Argentium Silver would prevent this problem,
but perhaps it is not the silver itself but the finish that is the
problem?

They are a great pricepoint, but gold is certainly less maintenance.

Any comments?

Thanks.
Brenda
Nesheim Fuller Design
Mason City, Iowa, where we have traded our upper 90’s with high
humidity for a crisp, clean 70 degree day.


#2

Brenda,

I am having the exact same problem. I also use scotchbrite on my
silver and I did 2 shows in this miserable, humid heat and my silver
was virtually brown. Anywhere someone had touched it had a brown or
yellow fingerprint. At home I can refinish them but on the road they
are a disaster and I worry about how they are going to look after a
customer wears them as most customers don’t have access to a buffer.
I too hoped the argentium would not react this way but there was no
difference. I am desperately looking for a way to keep them clean
without having to rebuff them. I also constantly get questions from
customers on how to keep them clean - and more embarassing I have
seen customers come back wearing some pieces that looked terrible.
Polishing cloths change the finish and even trying to clean them by
hand with a small piece of scotchbrite doesn’t work. Many of the
pieces have mixed material components such as anodized aluminum,
pearls and beads making it even more difficult. This is a serious
problem for me because my low end is my bread and butter, sells very
well and I can’t give it up without going under. Any suggestions,
greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Grace


#3

At the SNAG conference 3M had this anti-tarnish paper called 3M
Jewelry Protector Strips that can be packed with your stuff or put
into the cases. That might be helpful for you.

Robin C. McGee
Rcmcgee47@comcast.net


#4
... We chose Argentium silver from Stuller for our material, though
the silver ring at the top is your basic sterling silver, soldered
on with medium silver solder. Instead of a shiny finish, I used a
scotchbrite wheel, which left a nice, even, matte finish. 

Hello Brenda,

In my experience with Argentium Sterling (AS) the problems you’ve
been having should not occur if the metal has been properly treated
and handled. A few possible causes come to mind:

  • did you use a clean soldering surface when you soldered the jump
    rings onto the AS disks? The idea is that if you use soldering
    surfaces that have already been “contaminated” with regular sterling
    silver then that can damage and/or diminish the tarnish resistance of
    the AS.

  • did you polish the AS with clean buffs? As above, the idea is that
    if you use buffs that have already been “contaminated” with regular
    sterling silver then that can damage and/or diminish the tarnish
    resistance of the AS.

  • have you tried “activating” the tarnish resistance of AS? The basic
    procedure is simple, just toss the AS in your (clean) kitchen oven
    and bake it for 20 minutes at 120 C (250 F). Pickle if there is any
    discoloration. This process encourages the formation of germanium
    oxide (it is virtually transparent) which is what gives AS it’s
    tarnish resistance properties. You might want to run a test where you
    do this with one of your disks and see if it behaves any different
    than the others under your normal display and handling conditions.

I’ve used a wide variety of surface finishes in my AS work
–hammered, satin, matt via scotchbrite, mirror bright, etc-- and in
my experience the type of finish doesn’t seem to affect the tarnish
resistance one little bit. In all cases the metal has been tarnish
resistant if it was properly treated and handled.

I hope some of these suggestions are useful to you.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com


#5

Hello,

I have found brushed finishes on silver to be temporary, at best,
although they do look great. High polish, on the other hand, dulls
quickly. Finish on a metal as soft as silver is a real question -
how is it possible to design pieces where the patina that results
from use is visually “absorbed” by the design (that is, doesn’t look
like crap after you have worn it some)? I have recently started
using a magnetic finisher - the surface texture of the metal is
matte but it appears to have less surface area to trap skin oils and
acids. I would be interested to know what others’ experiences are
with this piece of equipment.

Regards,

Donna
Donna Hiebert Design


#6

I thank everyone for their suggestions on how to keep satin finishes
looking nice but I think they are missing the problem. I don’t have
any problems storing my work and keeping it nice. I package it
tightly in silver cloth and close it into a zip lok bag. It is when
it is out at shows, especially hot, humid weather and people are
handling it that it becomes a disaster - turning beautiful white
bright jewelry into a brown mess. I have to assume it will get that
way for the customer too since I find most customers don’t take as
good care of their jewelry as I do. I am wondering if there is
something it can be coated with, prior to a show that will not
effect the look of the finish or something I can use as a quick
touch-up on site. I have tried using small pieces of scotchbrite by
hand but it doesn’t work well especially if the piece is intricate
and/or of mixed components - too small to get into tiny areas. Also,
if it is hot and humid, it becomes nearly inpossible to keep MY hands
clean enough to really handle the jewelry and I can’t work with
gloves in 90 degree weather. I can’t stress enough what a nightmare
this is and am really at a loss for a good solution. Help.

Grace


#7

Dear Trevor,

Thank you for responding. I must admit my ignorance- I haven’t done
anything to “activate” the tarnish resistance. I do keep a clean
solder area ( about the only area in my shop that stays clean!), and
I use almost no regular sterling in my shop. The silver rings at the
top of these discs are standard sterling, but aside from them, I
can’t remember the last time I worked with sterling in my shop. It
is generally gold. The scotchbrite buff was brand new, bought
specifically for this project, and it is the only buff I use on these
discs- no tripoli or rouge is used, as they simply need a few surface
scratches removed to complete. So, maybe I need to do the heating
thing. Would it be the proper sequence to pierce the design, solder
the ring on, scotchbrite the surface, then bake in my oven? If I had
to redo the scotchbrite finish, would I remove all of the heat
induced oxide and therefor need to rebake?

Thank you so very much for this help. We want to maintain this line
of product, but I so do not want unhappy clients!

Brenda
Nesheim Fuller Design
Mason City, Iowa 50401


#8
    have you tried "activating" the tarnish resistance of AS? The
basic procedure is simple, just toss the AS in your (clean) kitchen
oven and bake it for 20 minutes at 120 C (250 F). Pickle if there
is any discoloration. This process encourages the formation of
germanium oxide (it is virtually transparent) which is what gives
AS it's tarnish resistance properties. 

Hello Trevor;

There’s the little detail I’ve been looking for. I had almost drawn
the same conclusion myself. I’ve read about the Germanium oxide bit,
just didn’t know a preferred way of bringing it about. I’ll be
keeping my eye on this discussion

David L. Huffman


#9

Just a thought about satin finish turning brown. I know that fire
scale on polished silver will turn brown in time

Are the polished areas also turning brown? If not what is the
different between the satin finished area and the polished area? Is
it possible fire scale was developed on the piece and removed from
the high polished areas and not removed form the area that is to be
satin finished? Just a thought, no proof.

Lee Epperson


#10

hello, I read about your problem. Have you tried using a Speed -Brite
cleaner? It works by electrically removing grease and light tarnish.
It can do a pretty good job really quickly. It is great for pearl
jewelry cleaning and such because it doesn’t attack the nacre.
Perhaps you could give it a try for a quick remedy when you are at
shows

Good luck. Dennis


#11

Hi Grace,

How about cleaning it with Simple Green before leaving the studio and
some extra solution for the show. I’m sure that the combination of
sweat, sunblock, and sun are the perfect advanced oxidizers for
sterling.

Good luck, Reba-


#12
    ... We chose Argentium silver from Stuller for our material
... I used a scotchbrite wheel, which left a nice, even, matte
finish. .... When we looked them over several days latter, they
were all spotted ... but perhaps it is not the silver itself but
the finish that is the problem? 

Hello Brenda,

Sorry to trouble you again. I’ve been kicking this discoloration
thing around today and have a few more thoughts on that matter that
may be of interest to you.

The first is that I’ve written at some length about Argentium
Sterling’s (AS) need for some form of heat treatment and the issues
related to that. Again it’s wordy so I’ve posted it on “the blog”:
see “Heat treating your Argentium Sterling” at
http://www.touchmetal.com/blog/argentium-blog.html if you are so
inclined. In a nutshell it’s about the importance of allowing the AS
to react to an oxygenated atmosphere while being heated and how that
may not (as yet) be happening with some of the metal you folks are
receiving.

The other is your concerns over the matt finish and whether that
might be making things worse for you. In my experience that finish
should not be a problem. For example, my wife has a set of matt
finished AS earrings that haven’t behaved any different than any of
the other dozens of AS jewelry pieces that I have produced. She also
has a matt finished ring that has been no problem at all.

One thing that may be relevant is that I often torch anneal my pieces
and as I understand it that goes a long way to ensuring that the
germanium oxide layer has been well and properly “raised”. Stock that
has come from a factory and never gone under a torch may well be at a
disadvantage in this regard. Heat treating in the oven may or may not
be sufficient.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com


#13
    Just a thought about satin finish turning brown. I know that
fire scale on polished silver will turn brown in time 

No firescale is not the issue, in fact many of the satin finish
parts were not even soldered.

Grace


#14

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am feeling totally confused as
to how to use Argentium Silver now. I have made soldered pieces,
combining it with sterling and I have also used it for cold,
non-soldered pieces. Neither have been around long enough to tarnish.
I purchased the argentium from Stuller and I don’t recall seeing
anything about having to heat treat it first so I have not done that.
Should all argentium stock be heat treated before working with it?
Does the soldering process automatically do this? If I am going to
use it cold should it first be heat treated and pickled? And a post I
just read talked about using flux like that was a no no. I use
manufactured Prips Flux and have been working the argentium pretty
much like I would any sterling, fluxing everything before heating.
Have I missed something? Really confused now!

Grace


#15
I am feeling totally confused as to how to use Argentium Silver
now. 

In my experience it’s not a big deal Grace, very few changes should
be necessary from the way you normally work sterling silver. But
there are some differences, namely:

  • there’s no need to firecoat Argentium Sterling (AS). The purpose
    of firecoat is to keep the oxygen away from the hot metal and that is
    totally unnecessary, and somewhat counterproductive, when working with
    AS. AS likes to react with oxygen and it is good for it todo so.
    Standard sterling silver loves to react to oxygen and it’s
    generally not a good thing at all.

  • for the same reasons there is no need to use reducing flames with
    AS or work on charcoal in order to get a reducing atmosphere. A
    reducing atmosphere starves the AS of oxygen which, as explained
    above, you generally don’t want to do.

I purchased the argentium from Stuller and I don't recall seeing
anything about having to heat treat it first .... 

I haven’t bought AS from Stuller yet so I don’t know what
documentation they include when you do but I do know that some folks
have reported getting tarnish in the bag or shortly after putting it
into use. Whether Stuller mentions it or not this shouldn’t happen
unless the metal has been oxy-starved in production. The solution is
easy: heat treat it.

If you’re not having any tarnish problems then your stock may well
have been heat treated before you received it and that’s great
because you’re good to go.

If you’re like me and you’re not into taking those kind of chances
then by all means heat treat your new stock and then you’ll know
exactly where you’re at.

Just to make sure we’re on the same page by “heat treat” I mean torch
anneal. Kiln annealing is probably just as good but I don’t have a
kiln so I wouldn’t know for certain.

Does the soldering process automatically do this? 

Yes, as long as you haven’t firecoated everything. If you’ve heated
your AS with a torch to annealing or soldering temps without the
use of firecoat and without the use of oxygen reducing flames or
environments then yes, you have heat treated your AS.

And a post I just read talked about using flux like that was a no
no. 

I think that post was talking about firecoat not flux. There’s
nothing whatever wrong with using flux with AS, assuming you’re using
it in the normal way for the normal reasons.

I use manufactured Prips Flux and have been working the argentium
pretty much like I would any sterling, fluxing everything before
heating. Have I missed something? 

If by “fluxing” you mean adding flux to your soldering joint to aid
the soldering process then no, you’re right on track. If by "fluxing"
you mean firecoating your entire piece then … well, see above:
firecoating AS is generally unnecessary and is in fact somewhat
counterproductive.

I can’t stress enough that there’s no reason to be confused or upset
about this. Just remember that AS likes oxygen when heated. That’s
really all there is to it. This of course means hold the firecoat and
forget about reducing flames and atmospheres.

Other than that nothing really changes … except that you’ll never
have to worry about firestain and tarnishing is pretty much history.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com


#16
 I haven't done anything to "activate" the tarnish resistance.
...... So, maybe I need to do the heating thing. Would it be the
proper sequence to pierce the design, solder the ring on,
scotchbrite the surface, then bake in my oven? If I had to redo
the scotchbrite finish, would I remove all of the heat induced
oxide and therefor need to rebake? 

Hi Brenda,

I’ve been skimming, rather than reading thoroughly, my Orchid
Digests—(so much to do lately!)-- and had not realized that all
these posts about discolored satin finishes had to do with Argentium
Sterling Silver—hence, my apologies about being slow to offer my
two cents. That is also the reason that I added a few words to the
title of this thread.

If you simply want to “bring up” or “activate” the germanium oxide
protection of the Argentium Sterling Silver, but hardening is not
necessary, I suggest simply 10-20 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
This may not discolor the metal at all.

Hardening is 45 minutes or longer at 580 degrees Fahrenheit. (I
usually do an hour or more at 550, since that is the limit of my
oven.)

If there is discoloration after either of these procedures, pickle
the metal.

If you need to brighten the surface after that, I suggest that you
try to avoid something so abrasive as re-doing the Scotchbrite
finish. Instead, use a Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Cloth, or brass
brush with soapy water.

In fact, I think that you can probably skip the heating, and simply
wipe the surface with a Goddard’s Long Shine Cloth after the
scotchbrite finish! It seems to protect the surface while the
germanium oxide slowly builds up at room temperature.

One more idea on your procedure, that could cut out a step. Try
this:

  - Pierce 

  - Scotchbrite the surface 

  - Solder on the ring (which would increase the germanium oxide
  protective layer on the surface) 

  - pickle and rinse 

  - brass brush with soapy water, and/or rub with a Goddard=B9s
  Long Shine Silver Cloth 

I hope these ideas help, in addition to Trevor’s thoughtful
responses.

Best wishes,
Cindy

Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com/
P.O. Box 750007
Arlington Heights, MA 02475
Phone and fax: (781)863-0140


#17

Hi,

 I have recently started using a magnetic finisher - the surface
texture of the metal is matte but it appears to have less surface
area to trap skin oils and acids. I would be interested to know
what others' experiences are with this piece of equipment. 

How do you clean a sterling chain that has pearls on it? Is there a
mild liquid you dip it into? I’m a beginner, so I don’t know this
stuff. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Diane


#18
We chose Argentium silver from Stuller for our material, though the
silver ring at the top is your basic sterling silver, soldered on
with medium silver solder. 

P.S. Why are you using regular sterling wire and solder? Won’t it
look crummy when those tarnish differently? Why not use Argentium
Sterling Silver wire and solder?

Cindy
Cynthia Eid
http://www.cynthiaeid.com/
P.O. Box 750007
Arlington Heights, MA 02475
Phone and fax: (781)863-0140


#19

Dear Trevor, Cynthia, and All,

I apologize for the delay in getting back to you all. My family has
been down sick with some nasty viral infection, which has pulled me
away from work these last 4 days.

I was going to bake my discs this past weekend and see what that did
for the discoloration problem, but I spent my days taking care of
very sick kids and spouse instead. Now it sounds like maybe I just
need to torch anneal them. I really don’t need them to be hardened.
Anyway, it sounds like my big mistake was dipping them in boric
acid/alcohol when I soldered the rings on. In the future, perhaps I
can simply eliminate that step, and anneal and solder and bring up
the germanium oxide layer all at the same time.

As for the standard silver rings at the top- when I started making
these items, we were looking to make a piece on a budget, with
minimal material cost and less than a half hour time in each disc.
Argentium solder was not yet available at that time, so I knew I
would be using traditional solder. Argentium jump rings were not
available ready made, and standard sterling ones were. As I had to
use standard solder, it didn’t seem like such a bad thing to use
pre-made standard sterling jumprings. I know it is not a big deal to
make your own jumprings; I made many during the 12 years I did
repairs full time, but it was just so handy to pull ready made ones,
all the same size and symmetry, from a bag! Now that Argentium
silver solder is available, we will need to rethink our premade
jumprings of standard sterling. I don’t suppose there is any
supplier out there who would like to add 8mm 18 gauge jumprings to
their line? In the mean time, I guess we will probably need to
purchase some Argentium wire and make our own.

Also- this is for Cynthia- where do I find Goddard’s Long Shine
Silver Cloths? Do you think these would be effective on a
Scotchbrite finish?

I want to thank everyone for their posts on this subject. You have
all been hugely helpful, and I look forward to trying out your
suggestions to eliminate my problems. I will keep you posted!

Take care.
Brenda
Nesheim Fuller Design


#20

Continue from:
https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/discoloration-on-my-satin-finish-too

Dear All,

My original post addressing discoloration issues on Argentium silver
elicited such a discussion that I felt compelled to thank everyone
for their comments and to update you on my discoloration situation.
Trevor and Cynthia both contacted me via orchid and my personal
e-mail to help me sort out my discoloration issues. They do know
what they are talking about!

I have baked all of the disks that were giving me fits with yellowish
discoloration in my oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. That is
hotter and longer than they said would be necessary, but I wanted to
be certain to heat the metal adequately. It’s been a while since I
checked my oven’s calibrations! I laid them in a pyrex dish with no
lid. My oven is definitely not immaculately clean. I had slight
discoloration when I removed the discs. Then I used a Goddard’s Long
Shine Silver cloth on them. This is a great cloth. It removed the
faint discoloration with very little effort and leaves a very
attractive “glow” to the scotchbrite finished discs. I don’t know how
else to describe it. I definitely love that cloth. I purchased it at
a True Value hardware store, after contacting Goddard’s directly for
a nearby source.

After the baking and the Goddard’s cloth I left the discs out in the
air to see what would happen. We have had some 90 degree days with
extremely high humidity, and my house is not air conditioned. I have
handled the discs to try to simulate the outdoor art show experience.
I have almost no discoloration problems! A very few pieces showed a
very faint yellowing, not evenly across the disc but spotty. Another
cleaning with the Goddard’s cloth and I have not had that small
problem reoccur either.

The new pieces I am creating I am making sure not to dip in boric
acid/ alcohol prior to soldering. Boy, is this a hard habit to break.

Anyway, I’m seeing successes with these amended work habits and the
above given advice. Hurray!

Another problem solved, the Orchid way.

Take care.
Brenda
Nesheim Fuller Design