Hi, guest blogger Rita here, with some information on cleaning, polishing, and keeping your metal jewelry clean.
There are a variety of products out there for cleaning and polishing, and whether you are trying for a specific finish, or wanting to keep your jewelry creations pretty after sale, knowing what to use can be very confusing.
Ultra Polishing Pads (also known as Pro-Polish pads) are fantastic for cleaning up purposeful oxidation (like Liver of Sulfur or Win-Ox) from metal. These 2×2” tight-bond foam pads are permanently bonded with micro-abrasives. They come 20 to a package, and will polish the high points of an oxidized metal including silver, copper, brass and bronze like a breeze.
3M™ Wetordry polishing papers allow for fast and easy finishing and polishing on flat and contoured surfaces. Working from the coarsest to the finest grade will remove oxidation and produce a bright shine on the high points of a piece.
For large productions, the easiest way to clean up purposeful oxidation is with a tumbler. Load in your oxidized pieces, stainless shot, and Shinebrite. Seal the barrel, start the tumbler, and let it run for about 2 hours. When the time is up, strain out the shot and the pieces, return the shot to the tumbler barrel with clean solution, rinse and dry the pieces. You can shake the pieces in warmed sawdust, or speed up the drying with a heat lamp to prevent water spots.
The cleaning methods above do not leave any residue to prevent further oxidation, so you may want to follow up with a sealer such as Renaissance Wax. It is a micro-crystalline archival-quality, pH-neutral wax that freshens colors and imparts a soft sheen without discoloring. Apply a thin layer, and buff to a full luster with a soft cloth.
For removing oxidation from regular exposure to the air, there are also a variety of solutions.
ShineBright Silver Dip easily removes tarnish to restore shine and brilliance to all metal jewelry. It is especially effective on Sterling Silver and works on 14K and 18K Gold, Platinum, and Copper. Do not try to use dip if your jewelry contains pearls, opals, coral, some genuine stones, painted or enameled surfaces. I choose not to use it if there are any genuine stones in the jewelry. Better safe than sorry! Dip will strip off all the tarnish in a matter of minutes, without much labor. It will also remove any intentional oxidizing, so pay attention to whether you want a completely shiny silver piece or not. It is very handy for chain and delicate items. Just place jewelry into the jar, immerse for 2 minutes, rinse with hot water, and wipe clean with a soft, lint-free cloth.
Polishing cloths (pads, gloves) all require a little bit of elbow grease. Unlike liquid cleaning solutions, they clean only the raised areas, leaving antiqued crevices unchanged.
This is the Brilliant Polishing Cloth that I’ve been using at my desk for about 4 years. Even after the cloth is dirty, it continues to work. Just don’t wash it. If you do, the chemical agent will be gone. The 7-1/2×12” cotton cloth is treated with a non-toxic, non-allergenic chemical agent which cuts through tarnish, and leaves an undetectable residue which inhibits tarnish from reappearing. It can be used on brass, copper, chrome, sterling silver, gold-filled, and gold vermeil.
The Jewelry Care Cloth is quite similar. The inner 6×8” cotton flannel cloth is treated with non-toxic cleaning and polishing agents and tarnish inhibitors especially formulated for fine jewelry. The outside layer is for buffing, but without the chemical agent. It will easily remove tarnish, makeup, fingerprints, dirt, and oil. It is not recommended for use on emeralds, pearls, onyx, opal, lapis, malachite, ivory, coral, or 24kt gold. We can even special order these by the gross (144 pieces) with your logo printed on them for no additional cost.
The #63-532 Dri-Shine Silver Puff is 2-1/2” in diameter. It is ideal for polishing small items. Silver Puffs were first introduced in 1975. The inventor was in the Indian Jewelry business and had his own special solution to clean and polish his products. One day, he was shining up a few silver pieces and his buffing rag fell into his special formula. He wrung the rag out and set it on a shelf to dry. A few days later, he had a piece of tarnished jewelry he needed to clean. Before placing it in the solution, he grabbed the buffing rag to dust off the piece. To his amazement, most of the tarnish was already gone! He realized the secret ingredients of his polishing solution were now embedded into the rag. Wanting to experiment, he searched the house for something more absorbent and came across his wife’s powder puffs. He soaked one into the solution and allowed it to dry. It worked like magic and Silver Puffs were born.
Dri-Shine Silver Polishing glove is “one size fits all” and ambidextrous. Treated with the same solution as the silver puff, it is great for shining all your larger silver pieces. If you have a platter or silver pitcher to shine, put one on each hand, and shine away!
Both the puff and the glove come in handy bags to keep them clean between uses. They are great for all types of precious metals, jewelry, gold, silver, copper, and musical instruments. With a non-abrasive, non-toxic, patent pending formula these products are sure to please everyone. “JUST RUB AND SHINE”. They can be used long past when they are black. Do not wash your puff or glove, or it will lose its magic.
Silver Shine Jewelry Cleaner is a non-toxic silver cleaner using traditional electro-chemical properties to remove tarnish on silver, but without the need for boiling water. It has no foul odors and removes tarnish from silver without damaging the surface. Each box of this silver jewelry cleaner contains a 4″ x 6″ two-ply treated silver buffing and polishing cloth, three special trays, a basket, and a ready-to-mix, proprietary silver cleaning solution. It all comes packaged in a wide mouth jar to easily clean larger pieces of silver jewelry.
There are plenty of methods for removing tarnish from silver, using materials typically found at home. For one popular method, you’ll need an inert bowl (such as glass or ceramic), 2 cups very hot water, a teaspoon of table salt, a piece of folded up aluminum foil, and a tablespoon of baking soda. You can also add a teaspoon of vinegar to acidify the solution and speed up the reaction. This reaction only works with silver, so don’t use it on other metal types. The more silver in your item, the better this process will clean it. Here is a video with the process:
Other methods include polishing with ketchup, lemon juice, toothpaste, and various other items. #62-690 Jewelry Fix-ups lists a number of these home remedies.
Now that your pieces are clean and shiny, there are products available to help keep them that way.
Anti-Tarnish Strips are made from a special paper material impregnated with 3M™ TarniShield™ technology. One strip protects one cubic foot of air space for six months. Eight 2×7″ strips come per package. It protects silver, nickel, copper, bronze, tin, gold and plated metals from tarnish. Non-toxic, leaves no residue. Simply place strip next to polished metal in an enclosed area (jewelry box, storage bag, china cabinet, etc.)
Silver Protection Strips by Hagerty are non-toxic, and will neutralize tanish-causing sulphur gases inside enclosed storage or display areas. They are designed to keep all polished silver-plated and sterling silver shining and ready to use for 6 months. Each pack includes eight translucent white strips measuring 2×7″, enough to protect 8 square feet of display/storage area. Cut into small pieces and package with finished jewelry to retain its lustre.
Also available are these treated polyethylene anti-tarnish plastic lock bags. These re-sealable bags are manufactured with Silver-Guard™, an exclusive film that neutralizes the corrosive gases that attack silver plate, sterling silver and other precious metals. They keep findings and jewelry tarnish-free for 18 to 22 months, even when the bag is opened multiple times. Crystal and gemstones are safe in these bags, which keep working four times as long as anti-tarnish strips and tabs. Do not store below 5 degrees celcius (41 degrees farenheit). Package your creations in these special bags and remind your customers to use them for storage.
Enjoy your clean and shiny metals. ~ Rita