How to Clean Old Silver

What do you want to know about silver? Silver was known in the ancient world as argentum. and was held to be more prcious than gold because it appeared less commonly in nature.

Pure silver, like pure gold, is too soft for most uses and is mixed with an alloy. Though many different metals are used as an alloy, copper is preferred since it is greatly toughens the alloy without detracting from the bright shine charicteristic of silver.

Sterling is the alloy most commonly used in jewelry making and silversmithing. It was adopted as a standard alloy in England in the 12th century when King Henery II imported refiners from an area of Germany known as the Easterling. The product they made was of a consistent quality and came to be known as Easterling silver.

The Silver in Coins

Another common alloy contains slightly more copper, 10 to 20%, and is called coin silver. It melts at a temperature slightly lower than sterling and is more likely to tarnish. A 90% alloy was used in US coins until 1966 but now no silver is used. This trend away from silver coins has been international.

An alloy popular in the Far East uses 90% silver and 10% zinc, producing a metal with a low melting point and a bright, tinny shine.

Why is it that we don't find as many old silver coins? Well, what happened is, that the colonists used to save up their silver coins, and then take them to the local silversmith, and have the silver melted and fashioned into teapots and stuff.

Homemade Easy Way to Clean Silver

This procedure to clean silver at home lends itself to the removal of tarnish from flatware or holloware. In an aluminum pot or a pot lined with aluminum foil, mix a dilute solution of equal parts of baking soda, salt, and liquid soap. A quarter cup of each to a gallon of water would be a typical mixture. Set the sterling into the pot, bring the mix to a boil and allow to stand for a few minutes. Oxides are transferred to the aluminum. Rinse in water and wash before using.

We don't see any reason why this method wouldn't work for cleaning your tarnished silver finds. You might want to give it a try.


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