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Salt Corrosion on Sterling Silver


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#1 SilverBuff

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 05:04 PM

Hi Everyone,

   I'm new to this forum.  I was reading a thread in your forum from last year that dealt with cleaning silverware with ammonia.  The discussion got rather heated at times.  I didn't understand all of it, but I don't believe any of the thread addressed my problem.  I just came back from the silversmith who charged me $20 to remove a small area of extensive corrosion caused by salt in a sterling silver salt cellar.  Silver polish had been ineffective at removing the corrosion.  I suspect that I got ripped off and believe that if I only knew the proper "do it yourself method", I could probably take care of this prolem in the future for mere pennies, some time, and perhaps some elbow grease.  I did read online that ammonia would work well to remove salt corrosion from sterling.  Can anyone verify this for me, and if it's true, is there a proper procedure and do I need to do something else after the application of ammonia to protect the sterling silver, perhaps an application of a finishing substance?

Sincerely,

SilverBuff


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#2 elementcollector1

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 05:36 PM

How large is the cellar? If it's small enough, I would recommend the classic DIY trick of placing it in an aluminum container filled with a solution of baking soda - works every time for my pure silver bar.

Corrosion on silver (and also on sterling silver) is due to the formation of AgS from sulfides in the air. To protect your silver, I would keep it away from sulfur-related items, such as synthetic vulcanized rubber and such, and storing it in another good container (regulate the air that it touches).

These are all guesses (I'm too young to own silverware!) but I'm sure they should help.


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#3 SilverBuff

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 06:27 PM

No disrespect intended, but I'm looking for answers, not guesses.  And if they're guesses, how are you "sure they should help"?  Sterling silver is about 75 parts out of 1000 elementally different from the pure silver bar you have, though there are some variations in what can be considered sterling.  I'm referring to corrosion from the salt. not tarnish from sulfides in the air.  Aside from those technicalities, as to the DIY trick, what comprises your baking soda solution aside from baking soda?


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#4 John Cuthber

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 07:32 PM

"as to the DIY trick, what comprises your baking soda solution aside from baking soda?"

Water.

"Sterling silver is about 75 parts out of 1000 elementally different from the pure silver bar you have, though there are some variations in what can be considered sterling"

Oops.


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#5 SilverBuff

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 08:23 PM

Actually, I think what they call pure silver is 999 parts out of 1000 silver, so it could be only 74 parts out of 1000 different from my .925 sterling.  Some sterling is 950/1000 silver, etc....



I found this Society of American Silversmith's internet quote inserted as a suggestion in a post from our forum from December 2011 in a closed thread entitled Cleaning Silver.... it was closed because people couldn't play nicely and I guess I'll give the suggestion a try.  However, I am a bit perplexed -- at the end of the post, it says if it still does not work after a three attempts, have the sterling professionally refinished.  I am not referring to silver plate but rather sterling, so what would the professional be doing, covering over the corrosion with a layer of sterling silver?  My silversmith quixotically referred to taking the machine to it and it getting very hot.  He wouldn't exactly explain what went on behind the curtain to warrant the $20 fee.  I just don't want to put it in ammonia and wind up with a bottomless sterling salt cellar because somehow the ammonia ate through the bottom.


Silver Care
Salt Shaker Corrosion
Those crusty corrosion marks on and in your salt shaker can be a real annoyance. One way to avoid this problem from the very start is to empty the shaker after a dinner party and thoroughly wash it; this way the salt doesn't have time to do its damage. Heavily gold plating the interior is the only other way to preserve the finish because gold is impervious to the effects of salt. It is still wise to clean out the shaker at least twice a year and inspect the plate to make sure it has not been abraded by the salt.

There is a simple way to remove the corrosion yourself. Do this in a well-ventilated area and with nitrile gloves since you will be using ammonia.(Silver dips will not perform as well as ammonia.) If you are removing corrosion from a salt shaker, pour ammonia into a container, place the shaker inside, and cover the container. Let the shaker sit for ten minutes, then remove from the container and inspect. If the black corrosion spots remain, place the shaker back in and let stand for another ten minutes and inspect again. If the corrosion is not gone after 30 minutes, have the shaker professionaly refinished.


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#6 John Cuthber

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 08:27 PM

Ammonia solution won't eat through sterling silver. It will dissolve silver chloride but I remain sceptical about the production of much silver chloride by corrosion by salt.

 

I'm also sceptical about a quote from the silversmiths saying "take it to a silversmith".

BTW, the last silver (plated) salt cellar I looked at had a glass liner.

 

 

A coat of suitable varnish would achieve the same effect.


Edited by John Cuthber, 25 April 2013 - 08:42 PM.

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#7 SilverBuff

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 09:21 PM

Perhaps the ammonia would dissolve the silver chloride which is the only thing appearing as a bottom on the salt cellar, but if you think there is likely not that much silver chloride, perhaps what I see is a combination of a little bit of silver chloride and the rest is tarnish.  It does seem that salt does something to a sterling salt cellar unlike typical tarnish, and I have a removable liner for this sterling (not plated) cellar that apparently allowed some salt to fall between the edge of the liner and the cellar itself, and the salt must have been sitting for years on the bottom.  I have another sterling salt cellar that has been pitted over the years from corrosion along the bottom, and it is noticeably thinner along the bottom than along the walls.  These salt cellars are for the most part from a past era, but I like them anyway.  Why may I ask are you skeptical about the quantity of silver chloride produced?  I am also skeptical about the silversmith as the magical solution, and I feel being taken for $20 once is more than enough.  I'm pretty cheap/frugal in general and feel that there must be a do it yourself solution.  I'll try the household ammonia first and may have to move up to a higher concentration of ammonia, if I can find it.  Are you saying a coat of varnish should be applied after it's finally fixed to prevent any further contact with air and or salt or apply the varnish as a solution to tarnish and salt corrosion?


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