What can I use to seal sterling silver so it won’t oxidize over
time? I have an unusual job, well unusual for me anyway, the short
explanation is that I am making a small sterling silver bouquet of
flowers that will be set in a shadow box to be hung on the wall. The
little silver flowers will be under glass and hard to remove to
polish, but on the bright side nobody will ever touch them. Any
suggestions as to what I can apply to preserve the high polished
finish for years to come?
All I thought of was lacquer, and I thought that might be hard to
apply perfectly and easy to see.
Rio Grande makes a product called tarnish shield that works well. As
far as lacquer I have pendant that was finished in lacquer and has
lasted many years with my heavy usage although you’re right it can be
difficult to apply to really complex pieces. Another thing I’m all
about right now is using Argentium sterling rather than regular
sterling as it does not yellow at all-its simply wonderful!
You asked about a sealant for a sterling piece that will be boxed,
not worn. With that understanding, I’d recommend using #2105 Clear
Lacquer made by G.J. Nikolas. It is specifically for tarnishable
metals and works well on brass, copper, and silver.
I got tired of polishing my silver plate serving pieces as they are
rarely used, but do look pretty. After a good polishing and
cleaning, I used this lacquer in accordance with the label
directions. After about 7 years on display, the pieces still look
shiny and the lacquer is not detectable.
G.J. Nikolas’ website is www.finish1.com. You may have to find a
distributor or buy the 12 oz. spray cans by the case. In any event,
it is a durable sealant and for your use, should hold up well.
Practice is a durable sealant and for your use, should hold up well.
Practice the application techniques to avoid drips.
Your mileage may vary, Judy in Kansas, where the last football game
is over for the season. No bowling this year, darnit.
As I read the argentium description, “germanium severely inhibits
tarnish”. Not the same as ‘prevents’ tarnish.
Lacquer will yellow and flake, even sitting in a covered box.
You want years…Rhodium
I’d suggest you vacuum the box before completely sealing, dust will
be your enemy. Not dust like you’d find on a messy bookshelf with
someone’s initials, dust like you find under a leaking watch crystal.
Sometimes its tenacious stuff, not easily removed.
Really, I’m not being provocative. Rhodium is your answer.
You’ll have to do better than that for me to think you’re a
Here’s some shop talk. My understanding is that rhodium is not a
good barrier coat for silver, that it will allow oxygen to penetrate
to the silver and so the silver will eventually oxidize and will
"bleed" through to the surface of the rhodium. Although I seldom work
with silver, I did make hundreds of silver pendants for someone
probably 20 years ago. They wanted to be sure that they never
tarnished so I sent them to Tanury (they are a big outfit that plates
all of the Cross pens, etc), and the lab guy at Tanury told me that
the only effective, long term way to prevent sterling silver from
oxidizing is a barrier coat of nickel. He said the layer of nickel
will not allow oxygen to reach the silver and that prevents
oxidation, then we could plate it with rhodium but that wouldn’t be
necessary. I believed him and that’s what we did, apparently none of
them oxidized because I never got one back.
In this case I need to shade the piece with liver of sulphur, so
neither nickel or rhodium would do the trick this time (because I
couldn’t oxidize/shade them). I want it to remain the color of silver
rather than color of rhodium or nickel anyway (picky I guess). If I
plated it and didn’t like it, it’s tough to remove. If I wanted to
nickel plate it I wouldn’t do it myself, I have only tried it a
couple of times and it was hard for me to get good results. It seems
you need to flash plate the piece with copper and then plate it with
bright nickel. I could never get a perfectly super shiney finish over
silver. It was such a pain I just always have said that I don’t do
it. This little project is a family gift that has a dollar limit, so
I’m trying to keep the solution fairly simple.
Mark, yeah copper and nickel are needed before rhodium on silver,
SOP. Rhod will not stick to silver, you get this ugly mess. Nickel
will tarnish, just not as obviously as silver. When you said you were
putting a high polish on the piece I assumed you meant bright finish
overall and that longevity was the imperative, I didn’t know about
Jeff Herman I would say is THE man for silver so give his idea a
try. Being that oxidized silver is matte I might test a spot
I needed to deliberately oxidize areas of piece to create
depth/shading, so I didn't want to use argentium for fear that the
oxidation might be uneven.
I have had no problem with applying patina to Argentium Silver. The
usual rules of having it clean for an even darkening apply. Liver of
sulphur needs to be a bit stronger, perhaps, than for traditional
sterling. If I just want black, I use a chemical patina, such as
Silver Black by Griffith. Grobet bought Griffith, so you can get it
from a Grobet supplier, such as Allcraft.