It sounds to me like you have developed some firescale on your
tubing/bead, which is quite a challenge to remove.
What I do in this situation is to do what is sometimes called
"depletion gilding" (that is a term usually used for gold, not
silver, but the basic method is the same).
What you need to do is to raise the fine silver on the piece by
repeated heating and pickling. Basically, the acid in the pickle
eats away at the copper in the surface of sterling, leaving a very
thin fine silver layer on the outside of the piece.
To do this you need to lightly heat the bead/tubing with your torch
until it turns a light yellow/brown straw color then place it
directly into the pickle. Then after pickling, clean the piece of
what I call “pickle skin” (i.e. the hazy skin that is always left
after pickling), by lightly brushing with a soft toothbrush, and then
heat the piece again, repeating this process over and over until your
firescale is eliminated. If your firescale is deep, it can sometimes
take up to 20 times of repeating this process to get rid of it.
Truly, I have learned that the best way to deal with firescale is to
prevent it. I do this by always coating my pieces with a mixture of
denatured alcohol and boric acid before I solder. It protects the
metal well, and I have much less problems with the development of
As you learn finesse at soldering (lots of practice); controlling
your heat well, getting the torch off the piece as soon as your
solder flows, keeping an even heat throughout the soldering process,
etc. etc. you will have less firescale issues as well. In my opinion
there is an art to soldering, and it takes time and practice, and
patience too. I love to solder, and have discovered that I am always
learning something new with each piece I make that requires some real
fine soldering techniques.
There are some great fluxes out there too, which can help reduce
firescale issues by protecting your work. Read the string on “Cracked
Solder Joints”, it has a lot of good on different
soldering fluxes. If something is really delicate, I use the
"Firescof" brand to coat my piece completely before I solder. It is
pretty expensive stuff though, so I rely on the good old fashioned
boric acid & alcohol for most things.
Good luck, and hang in there! Remember too, that we are all still
learning, no matter whether we are “Newbs” or have been at jewelry
making for years! The way I see it is, I am learning every day, and
the day I stop learning will be the day I die, as there is always
something new I learn every time I sit at m bench!