Cleaning and Storing Sterling Silver Jewelry

Many people don't want silver jewelry because it oxidizes and is a maintenance hassle. I understand. In fact, as a child, I recall watching my mother polish her silver flatware often and it struck me as a lot of work for something that was only used a few times a year!

Here are a few simple tips that make cleaning sterling silver jewelry less daunting and how you store it, when not wearing it, can prolong the time in between cleanings. After all the methods I've tried, I now rely on two simple methods: toothpaste and/or baking soda. After either of these methods, you might still want to buff the jewelry with a jewelry cloth. You can Google either of these approaches but I'll just say a few things about them.

Use as basic a toothpaste as possible, without abrasive additives, and a soft bristled brush.

Use as basic a toothpaste as possible, without abrasive additives, and a soft bristled brush.

When using toothpaste, it must be just a basic gel or paste without any abrasives in it. Use a soft bristled brush (again, so it isn't abrasive) and gently brush the silver. Rinse and dry with soft cotton cloth.

There are many recipes on the Internet for cleaning silver using this method.

There are many recipes on the Internet for cleaning silver using this method.

 

The idea behind the second method is that the warm water, baking soda and foil create a reaction. The solution is stirred with the jewelry in it so the jewelry comes in contact with the foil. But some soft stones or glued stones might not react well to this.  Instead, you can simply make a baking soda/warm water paste, use a soft brush, and only brush those pieces of the jewelry that are silver. Then rinse and dry with soft cotton cloth.

Next comes the storage part and, to me, this has greatly reduced the number of times in a year that I have to clean my silver jewelry.  Air and humidity are unfriendly with silver so I prefer a practical approach. My method for storing jewelry involves silvercloth, zip lock plastic bags, and drawers.

I bought brown silver cloth online from a fabric store, which supposedly reduces the amount of oxidation with silver. I cut a piece of the cloth big enough to gently fold around my jewelry, without bending or crimping it. I also bought plastic zip-type bags that have the white label on them so that I can write what is inside.  

Then I have this basic wooden chest with drawers where I store the baggies with jewelry in them. I can easily identify which one to grab based on what I wrote on the bag.

The jewelry is no longer exposed to the air or humidity when I'm not wearing it.  I use this storage method for all of my jewelry and I generally only have to clean the silver once or twice a year (a lot less work than my mother's flatware, for something that gets used a lot more).  For those who live in more humid climates than Colorado, you may also want to include anti-tarnish strips before folding it in the silvercloth.

Of course, if you wear the same item every day, you'll have to clean more often but perhaps storing it in this manner at night would slow down the oxidation process for you as well. It takes a few extra moments to put it away but, I trust, it saves much more than a few moments by cleaning less.

Thanks for tuning in to our 'occasional blog.'

Do-It-Yourself Workbench

Since I recently started silversmithing, we decided that I needed a more appropriate workspace and Jim needed his work table back. Jim was willing to build something for me but, being new to it, I didn't know what I needed and didn't want him to invest a lot of time in it. So, with the Internet and social media so handy, I started looking around.

I came upon something called the 'Frankenbench' by Brian Meek.  His full set of instructions can be found here.  When I saw this, it sparked some interest so I set about checking Craigslist and quickly found a desk similar to the one in the Frankenbench instructions and it was free, as long as we picked it up.  Can't beat that for a good start!

This nice old wood desk came with all the drawers. We just didn't put them all back in for the photo.

This nice old wood desk came with all the drawers. We just didn't put them all back in for the photo.

Following the instructions, we set about to remove the top of the desk and added 1x8 boards to raise the top level.  Jim put in hefty brackets all around so that I'd have a good, sturdy bench.

Following Brian Meek's example, we used the string method for drawing an arc to cut in between the drawer stacks.

Raising the top created a couple cool storage areas above both rows of drawers.  However, it also left a gap where I would certainly be prone to dropping things down into the drawers.  So, Jim added some more boards to close in the two storage compartments and it added further support for the solid wood desktop. Also, the middle pencil drawer is now resting toward the back of the desk and makes another great storage/workspace area.

Voilá! I now have a sturdy workbench that cost about $30-35. Thank you, Brian Meek, for putting your great idea on the Internet!  It seems to me that this project can work for many types of workbench environments and you can modify it to your own needs as you go along.

Of course, finding an inexpensive but supportive drafting chair cost more than the whole desk but we found a reasonable one at an office store for $100.

The height of the desk works great for me because I can use the chair, with the adjustable foot ring, or I can stand.  I'm sure we'll be making other modifications and tweaks along the way but I'll figure out what is needed as I gain in experience.  If you're like me, having the right space to work in aides immensely in the creative process!

Thanks for checking out our blog and if you have something special about your creative work space that you'd like to share, feel free to post on our social media sites.

Enjoy!

 

 

#TellAllTuesday-From Crystals to Jewelry

Thanks for checking out our blog today.  #TellAllTuesday is for featuring all things rock or gem-related and, today, we have a special feature for you.  As you know, we rock hunt and find many of our own rocks and crystals. In Colorado, where we hunt as often as we can during the summer months, we most commonly find smoky quartz crystals. In today's feature, we're going to briefly share with you how we get from dirt to jewelry. In other words, how we get from here, 

to here.

It all starts with rock hunting, where we hike certain regions of the Colorado mountains looking for the right signs of quartz and pegmatite (a coarse variety of granite occurring in dikes or veins). Then we dig. Rock hunting can be a hit-and-miss affair and it isn't uncommon to see all the right signs but not find crystals. In fact, we've experienced long periods of time where our efforts only got us a few odds and ends.

Once we do find some crystals, we check to see if they appear to be gem-quality (i.e. facet-grade). We hold them up to the light to see if they have a golden color and whether we can see into the crystal.

We don't always know the quality of our finds until we get them home and give them a bath. Sometimes they go into an acid bath, if they are coated in iron. Once a facet-grade crystal is identified, Jim cuts a slice of it with the saw.

Next the piece of crystal is put on a dop, a brass pin with wax on the end to hold it in place while it is faceted. Jim sits at the faceting maching (right photo below).

Faceting a stone can take several hours, depending on the material and its quality. It's not uncommon to encounter fractures or inclusions in certain gems, some are acceptable and some are not.  Once a gemstone is cut, Jim sets it and turns it over to Mary.

Unless it is going to be a simple gemstone pendant on a chain, Mary creates the jewelry to compliment or accentuate the stone as a focal point. Many times several different designs are played with before a piece is finalized.

Every stone pendant or cabochon and every faceted gemstone is hand cut by us. As you can see, much time and effort goes into our jewelry, from finding the stones or gems, to the final piece and we enjoy each step of the process.  

We currently have two pieces of jewelry that have gems made from smoky quartz crystals that we found here in our home state of Colorado.  The necklace, in the photos above, can be seen here. And a bracelet, with a smoky quartz cabochon, can be seen here.

Thanks for tuning into #TellAllTuesday and, as always, Rock On!