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Electrolytic cleaning of silver


#1

Hi all,

I just tried the electrolytic cleaning process described in Tim
McCreight’s book. I tried it on some tarnished sterling silver
jump rings and it worked pretty darn well. It didn’t get every
tiny bit of tarnish but it sure did help. The procedure involves
filling an aluminum pot with a solution of water, baking soda,
salt and liquid soap. The solution is heated and the oxides are
transferred to the aluminum. I have seen commercials for
products, flat sheets of what must be some sort of aluminum. I
assume they work the same way.

My question: Is there another form of this process that doesn’t
involve heat? Is there a way I could apply this technique to
pieces with stones so as not to damage the stones? It is an
interesting, non-abrasive way to clean tarnish. Is there anything
else I should know about how this chemical reaction might work on
fine silver or how it might effect solders?

Thanks for any info!-Carrie Nunes
@tnunes


#2
 My question: Is there another form of this process that
doesn't involve heat? Is there a way I could apply this
technique to pieces with stones so as not to damage the stones?
It is an interesting, non-abrasive way to clean tarnish. >>

Carrie, I purchased a cleaner called Gem Brite which basically
is a small “ionic” aka electrocleaner. Its works very well on
semi tarnished silver. It is also safe for all stones. For the
heavily tarnished pieces, I use a chemical tarnish remover sold
by SWEST simply called “Tarnish Remover”. It works great if you
can tollerate the smell. It smells like rotten eggs. Both of
these processes work at room temperature and are non abrasive. If
you want to make your own electrocleaner, you can take a 6 volt
battery charger (if you dont have a rectifier) and connect the
positive lead to a piece of flat stainless steel. Connect the
negative lead to the article you want to clean. Take a glass jar
and fill it with a diluted solution of sodium hydroxide (drano).
1 part hydroxide to ten parts water. Immerse your stainless steel
anode and your jewelry in the solution and turn on the voltage.
Woalah! An electrocleaner. Ken


#3

Hi Carrie,

I’ve been using the electrolytic process for my organic and
porous stone set jewelry for several years now and find it works
fine - just drop the temperature when you’re doing such stones. I
regularly successfully clean silver with malachite, amber, coral,
etc., but don’t leave them in long and treat my stones back and
front with glycerine or mineral oil when the pieces are dry.
I’m working in sterling but have never noticed an interaction
with my solder or any discoloration.

In your position, I would try a piece of fine silver of lesser
importance before committing to this process for .999; although
my bezel surrounds, both plain and gallery, are built with .999,
and they always come out looking great.

Incidentally, if anyone’s interested - to build Gold Filled
bezels, I’ve found that if I use 14kt bezel strip on Gold Filled
sheet with 14kt solder it doesn’t boost the price too much and
lends itself to bright-cutting and polishing and comes out
looking right. I solder all my Gold Filled using 14kt easy solder
(one temperature solder as you don’t want to get the piece too
hot) and have produced some fairly ambitious pieces. The idea is
to keep the piece simple and try to design with the least number
of solder joins in mind. Stay away from that single clad stuff.

Good luck!

Nina
Nina - Silver Design, 9122 S. Federal Hwy, Suite 249,
Pt. St. Lucie, FL. 34952 : Toll Free:1-888-460-1800
URL: http://www.nina-sd.com : Email: @Nina


#4
My question: Is there another form of this process that
doesn't involve heat? Is there a way I could apply this
technique to pieces with stones so as not to damage the stones?
It is an interesting, non-abrasive way to clean tarnish. Is
there anything else I should know about how this chemical
reaction might work on fine silver or how it might effect
solders?

You might take a look at the ‘Speed Brite’ system mfgrd by Speed
Brite Inc 800-874-2823. It’s listed as an ionic jewelry cleaner.
Basically it’s a plastic tank containing a proprietary liquid, an
aluminum plate under a plastic grid & a power supply with 1 lead.
In use the item to be cleaned is connected to the lead, placed
in the tank & the power turned on. After a predetermined period
(about 1 minute) the machine turns itself off. Seems to work
good on most sterling. While the unit is on, there are lots of
bubbles created at the item being cleaned. I believe they also
make a unit that can be added to an ultrasonic cleaner. It’ll
take tarnish off, but not caked on gunk, for that the ultra sonic
or steamer is still the best. I’m not connected with the
company, just a satisfied user.

Their ad says it’s safe for ‘All’ stones, diamonds, emeralds &
opals. I’ve never had any problem with any stones as long as
they or the glue wasn’t water soluble.

I’ve never checked the chemistry that’s occurring, but I suspect
it’s probably a weak plating (unplating?) action. It’s definitely
an electro-chemical action.

Dave =


#5

I lijne a Pyrex bowl or pan with aluminum foil, put in about a
tablespoon of baking soda, the silver, and then pour in boiling
water. I do not further heat it. When the foil turns a brownish
color, it’s done. I’ve had much success with this method. On
the other hand, I bought one of those aluminum slabs of metal
(advertised on TV) to go in a glass pan. It did not work and I
returned it.

Ruth


#6
    I lijne a Pyrex bowl or pan with aluminum foil, put in
about a tablespoon of baking soda, the silver, and then pour in
boiling water.  I do not further heat it.  When the foil turns
a brownish color, it's done.  I've had much success with this
method.  On the other hand, I bought one of those aluminum
slabs of metal (advertised on TV) to go in a glass pan.  It did
not work and I returned it. 

Ruth, thanks for posting this. Today while cleaning polishing
compound off PMC, I somehow contaminated it. (Used a different
brush than usual and think some residue in it mixed with the
amonia I was cleaning with.)

Used your recipe…Have a couple pieces with deep textures that
will need additional cleaning but everything else cleaned in an
instant! What a time saver! Thanks, thanks, thanks!!!

Candy