What You Need to Know About Silver Polishing

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Silver is a great precious metal; it’s beautiful, it’s shiny, and best of all it’s very affordable! But unlike gold and platinum, silver can tarnish over time from exposure to chemicals, air, and sweat. So how do you get it back into its original sparkling state? Here’s what you need to know about silver polishing.

Sterling Silver and Oxidation

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These vintage pieces of jewelry show wear and oxidation.

Silver forms chemical reactions when exposed to air. This darkens the surface of the metal, forming black or reddish-gray colors over time. This oxidation varies from item to item and can happen more quickly with individuals who do not wipe down their jewelry after wear.

While polishing cloths and other household solutions can remove the tarnishing, we don’t recommend these at-home solutions for a few reasons. Polishing cloths can only take off oxidation, but they can’t remove scratches. Household solutions like toothpaste can remove oxidation but it damages stones, scuffs the metal, and gets stuck under settings.

So what to do when you need silver polishing? Pass it over to a jeweler.

The Silver Polishing Process

When the jeweler first receives the item, they’ll examine the piece. Is it solid silver? Silver-plated? Or gold-plated sterling silver? This affects the process of repair as the jeweler needs to know how to restore the item to its original state.

If it’s solid silver, the jeweler simply buffs it with a polishing wheel, which takes off an extremely thin layer on the surface to reveal the untarnished metal underneath. The item is then professionally cleaned via ultrasonic and steam cleaning to remove dirt and polishing residue.

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This silver onyx ring was thoroughly cleaned and polished. It makes a huge difference!

If the item is silver-plated, this is more difficult. The jeweler has to assess what the metal is underneath the silver plating. The item is polished to remove all remnants of the original plating. Next, the jeweler submerges the item in a plating tank to reapply the color via rhodium plating, which gives it the same bright white shiny appearance.

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A pendant before and after rhodium plating.

Finally, gold-plated silver items can show tarnish through the gold plate, creating a dingy yellow brown color. To remove this, the jeweler has to polish the entire piece, removing the gold plate, and replate it in order to restore the original look of the piece of jewelry.

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This ring was plated with 18k yellow gold

Cost and Turnaround Time

It’s typically $29 to polish an item, although larger pieces such as necklaces will be more expensive. Silver and gold plated items will also have additional charges due to the extra labor required to restore these pieces. In regards to turnaround time, silver polishing takes about 1-2 days.

Now you’re all set on silver polishing! If you want to get started, comment below and we can help you out.

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