Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Caring for Sterling Silver Jewelry

As silver oxidizes it will tarnish. There are differing points of view about tarnish. Some people like a bit of tarnish as a patina. If you prefer a softer silver look, I suggest using a polishing cloth with jewelers rouge embedded in the fabric. In a pinch you can use a bit of baking soda and dishwashing detergent (I use Dawn) or non-gel toothpaste. However, be aware that the baking soda or toothpaste will leave small scratches on the silver surface.

For those that like bright shiny silver I suggest a dip. The layer of oxidation/tarnish can be removed without by simply dipping your silver jewelry in this non-toxic electrochemical dip. Most stones will be fine in the dip. However, do not use this with pearls or opals. Another advantage to using a dip is that the liquid can reach places a polishing cloth cannot.

Here is the recipe
1. Line the bottom of the sink or a glass baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil.
2. Fill the foil-lined container with steaming hot water.
3. Add salt (sodium chloride) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to the water. Some recipes call for 2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt, whereas others call for 2 tablespoons each of baking soda and salt. Frankly, I don’t measure much and find it works fine to just add a bit of each..
4. Place the silver items into the container so that they are touching each other and resting on the foil. You will be able to watch the tarnish disappear.
5. Leave heavily tarnished items in the solution for as long as 5 minutes. Otherwise, remove the silver when it appears clean.
6. Rinse the silver with water and gently buff it dry with a soft towel.
7. Ideally, you should store silver jewelry in a low-humidity environment. You can place a container of activated charcoal or a piece of chalk in the storage area to minimize future tarnish. Some people like to store their silver in plastic bags. This if fine, but make sure the silver is completely dry before putting it into the bag.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Upcycling in Jewelry Design

Austin Birdstone Studio designs are based on the principle of upcycling. We delight in finding new beauty in old and forgotten pieces of jewelry. There is something magical about the hunt for the materials. Sometimes it seems almost as if something leads you into a shop where the perfect piece is hidden away just waiting to be, if not reborn, at least redesigned.

Most of our materials come from junk, also called antique, shops in tiny towns here in central and west Texas. We tour on our motorcycles and stop for lunch or breakfast, or just for a rest and begin the hunt. Piled in cases, lurking in baskets and boxes under the counter or in the case we find sterling silver and sometimes gold or even old rose gold pieces. If the pieces are Mexican sterling or Native American silver, then they become part of the "Cowboy Amulets" collection. Mysterious pieces of silver and gold flow into the "Deep Talismans" collection. And, maybe another collection is waiting to happen.