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Pickling Silver Jewellery

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glossary of jewellery terms

When creating your own solution it is important to remember that you must always add the acid to water and not the other way round, which can cause a volatile reaction.

To remove items of jewellery from the pickle use a pair of clean copper tongs, as copper is unlikely to contaminate the solution.

Another option for dealing with tarnish that is quite severe is using a silver polishing rotor with a padded wheel impregnated with a rubbing compound, such as a block of 'lustre'. The 'lustre' is usually brick red in colour and has a similar texture of frozen butter.

Removing Excessive Tarnish

acid bath for silver jewellery

If you have to remove extremely difficult and stubborn tarnishing then the item of jewellery may need to be pickled. One method is to dunk the item in a heated solution of water and pickle salts or 10% sulphuric acid. It is best to do this in a professional Acid bath, which maintains a constant, operational temperature to the required twenty minutes. (the solution must be kept warm). Pickling is often used to remove excess flux during the soldering process.

Sulphuric Acid or Pickle Salts

Sulphuric acid (it used to be referred to as oil of vitriol) is a mineral acid and its acidic strength vary's according top the concentration of acid to water. The most common place to find it is in a car battery where a concentration of 33% is used. For silver jewellery purposes we use sulphuric acid diluted to a concentration of between 10%. Some weaker Pickling Solutions consist of diluted Hydrogen Peroxide or "Sparex" solution.

Other Methods for Pickling Silver.

If dilute sulphuric acid is unavailable, you can try Acetic Acid, which is generally obtainable from most chemists or home-brew and wine stores. It is nevertheless much slower than Sulphuric Acid.

Another possibility for mild tarnishing is to soak the silver overnight in vinegar.