Polishing Antique Metals
I have a lot of antiques in my home. I've heard that you shouldn't clean or polish anything. But, on Friday night I'm throwing a dinner party and I've already begun getting out decorations for the event. The silverware is black, the silver tray is black, and the brass candle sticks are black!
Do people really buy black antiques or can I polish these?
Brass and silver need polishing and wrapping in a tarnish resistant flannel cloth--
If polished properly you will not spoil the antique value.
For non-eating items....do like Mike says with the tarnish resistant cloth....for silverwear....if your going to eat with them...polish...wash...dry...use....
Just one note of caution....make sure you use a good polish....you want one that will not be too abrasive and wear down the surface....on items that are just silver coated, you can eventually wear off the silver (one of the reasons some people say don't polish).
I would do a search on silver polish and find one that goes easy on the surface....there are some that is a liquid that jus removes the oxidation without any rubbing (read the fine print first, I have never used it)
Polish and enjoy those silver items....
Definitely use a good polish with a fine abrasive. And soft cloths with no embedded grit. Wright's Goddard's and Weimans have been around for a long time. Be careful of things that are overly acidic like TarnX or at least neutralize the reaction when done.
There are electrolytic ways to remove silver tarnish with aluminum, boiling hot water, salt and baking soda. They sell aluminum plates for this online but quality aluminum foil will work too. The method is great for small items like silverware. Look online for the formulas.
Brass also needs polishing but is a bit more complex depending on its composition and whether plated. Abrasives for brass are sometimes a bit more aggressive. Marine stores will have good brass polish options. I used something out of Germany called Flitz or something that was great on brass and most metals other than silver. Brass polishes tend to come in solvent based suspensions so use with adequate ventilation.
If you live near a museum, they will have recommendations for polishes to use or look on line. A jewelery store that sells silver and silverplate or the china and silver department at a major store like Macy's or something will have polish suggestions.
Generally speaking you should never polish things with an aged patina (not to be confused with tarnish) and never clean things like coins. And if ever in doubt, you should consult an antique dealer or appraiser before proceeding with cleaning, polishing or touching antiques of any kind.
By the way, if you polish and realize the tarnish has eaten silverplate more or less completely, Weibold's around Cincy has a program where twice each year they send things out for replating. It is much cheaper than having them done individually.
Wear gloves especially if you might be sensitive to the dissolved tarnish or the chemicals or abrasives in the polish.
And one final tricky thing to pass on when looking at sales for possible treasures. Carry a couple of cabbage leaves with out. Rub them on a tarnished metal and the metal underneath will reveal itself fairly quickly.
As mentioned, you should follow polishing with a tarnish inhibitor or store dry silver in soft, tarnish pouches or cases. You can find them online or at stores mentioned.
Obviously tarnish happens with air contact so if you take that away it will not happen. Again, making sure items are rinsed and dry, those seal-a-meal things are great for storing silver once cleaned and polished. Consider a purchase if you only bring the silver out for the Holidays? One will save you lots of work polishing at a time when you forgot and have many other things to do.
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