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Information About Silver

Basic Information
Symbol: Ag


English: Silver
Latin: Argentum
French: Argent
German: Silber
Italian: Argento
Spanish: Plata.


How to care for your silver

Silver is tarnished by sulfur-containing materials, particularly hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The most common tarnish-causing elements are wool, felt, food (eggs, onions), fossil fuels, rubber bands, latex gloves, carpet padding, and certain paints. Tarnish is accelerated in a humid environment. Oily salts from our fingers may, if not removed, show up as corrosion patterns that may have to be professionally removed. If there is no tarnish present on your silver, use a phosphate-free detergent to clean it after use. Silver that is used, then gently washed and dried immediately, will require seldom tarnish removal.

Donít use polishes that have dried-up; the abrasive particles are now much too concentrated and will harm your silver.

You may have noticed after cleaning your silver, that a purplish stain remained. This stain, or oxidized copper, is called firestain, and can be found on many colonial through nineteenth century pieces. It is not generally seen on pieces that have been produced by the large silver companies after the 1800s, though, many one-man silversmithing shops still use this technique. This depletion process leaves the object with a pure silver surface which is more resistant to tarnishing. The stain develops in sterling and coin silver when oxygen penetrates the outer surface of the object during brazing, oxidizing the copper content. Fine silver is left on the surface when acid chemically removes the oxidized copper, though, copper may be oxidized below the surface. These pieces will show this stain after many years of polishing. Do not mistake this stain for tarnish! Attempting to remove it will only damage your prized piece.

Toothpaste as a Silver Polish

Toothpaste should NEVER be used as a silver polish. Some toothpastes contain baking soda or other ingredients which are much too abrasive; even trace amounts may cause serious damage. Only use polishes that are specifically formulated to remove tarnish from silver.

Chemical Dips

Chemical dips work by dissolving the tarnish on an object at an accelerated rate. Dips are used by silver restorers when heavy, black tarnish cannot be removed with liquid or paste polishes. Chemical dips are wiped over the object with a cellulose sponge or cotton ball to avoid over cleaning, for submerging the entire piece for long periods will cause pitting of the object's surface and remove factory-applied patinas. This surface will act like a sponge and more readily absorb tarnish-producing gases and moisture. The object may then require professional polishing to restore the original finish.

Removing Wax From Candle Holders

Do you become frustrated when trying to remove wax from your weighted candle holders? Do you go pawing into your flatware drawer to find just the right size knife to dig out the wax? Do you run the piece under warm water, only to create a big mess? Well, here's a simple, non-invasive technique: use your hair dryer (not a heat gun). Be careful not to get the object too hot especially if itís lacquered. Warm the candle cup or other area that has dripped wax. Lightly touch the area with your finger to make sure it's not too hot, then wipe the area or wrap a paper towel around your finger and wipe out the candle cup. Always support the cup from underneath with your hand. If the opening is too small for your finger, gently stuff (don't force) the paper towel into the cup and twist. Cotton swabs also work very well, especially on Hanukkah lamps with very small candle cups. Use as much fresh paper towel or as many cotton swabs as needed, otherwise, you will repeatedly reapply the wax you're removing. If residue remains use a non-abrasive silver polish and cotton ball or cotton towel to remove it.

Non-weighted candle holders can be put in your freezer. Upon removing them, use your fingernail (not a knife) and delicately chip off the wax.

Use dripless candles whenever possible and remove any wax residue after every use. Using these techniques will greatly reduce maintenance time.

Removing Labels

You just purchased a vase with one of those labels that leaves so much a sticky residue it could be used to wrap a package! Hereís a removal technique: use a hair dryer to soften the label adhesive. The label should then come off cleanly with its adhesive backing. If there is a sticky residue left, use some isopropyl alcohol. Do this in a well ventilated area and with nitrile gloves, then wipe away the residue. There may be discoloration in the silver that was created by the adhesive which can be removed with silver polish.


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