How To Clean Tarnished Jewelry


Written by Nickie Fleming in Jewelry
Viewed by 108 readers since 05-30-2009

In a former article of mine, I told you something about cleaning vintage jewelry. Some of these tips might come in handy for cleaning tarnished jewelry as well.

When we talk about ‘tarnish’ we mean that your piece of jewelry is dirty and has a dull shine. You can clean away this dirt through chemical means, but be warned they could harm the jewelry.

Especially silver has a tendency to tarnish. You could use silver polish to clean it up, but did you know that the polish scrubs away the surface of your treasured ring or necklace? Silver polish can be especially bad for silver-plated pieces, where the layer of silver is not too thick. Another problem with polish is that it can hardly clean all the little nooks and crannies in your jewelry. So why not go for some easier, home-made, methods?

Method one:

You will need: water, salt, an aluminum plate (can be substituted by aluminum foil) and water softener powder (for instance baking soda).

You start by taking a aluminum plate (or a plate covered with aluminum foil). Then you add one tablespoon of salt and one tablespoon of water softening powder, and pour some hot (but not boiling) water over them. Stir well enough to dissolve the powders.

Once that is done, you can dunk your jewelry in the solution. The result may be immediate, but can also take some minutes. If an item is very tarnished, this cleaning method will not be enough. You will need additional polishing.

A word of warning: Do not use this method for jewelry that has precious or semi-precious stones. Most of the time, you can do this without an ill effect, but sometimes the solution may damage the stones in the piece. The method is also not good for antique silver (oxidized). When you try this method for cleaning antique silver, it will remove the antique finish along with the tarnish.

How it works: What makes your jewelry look grayish, is the silver sulfide through a process called oxidation. When you immerse a tarnished piece into a solution of baking soda or salt, the aluminum of the plate you use reacts with the silver sulfide. It pulls the silver atoms out and plates them into the aluminum. The silver that remains from the reaction is deposited again in the silver.

Method two:

Did you know that there is a trick to polish silver jewelry with lipstick and some tissue? No? Then here is how it works:

You will need lipstick and tissue.

You must fold the piece of tissue until it is four layers thick.

Then you take out your lipstick and scribble on an area about the size of a 50 cents piece in the center of the tissue.

Go on to rub the tarnished silver piece with the lipstick spot until the black has transferred from the jewelry onto the tissue with lipstick. If the silver is extremely tarnished, you better take another tissue and repeat the process.

Finally, you can buff the piece of jewelry with the clean section of the tissue, so that all remains of lipstick are removed.


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