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Jewelry, Gems, & Minerals/Characteristic of Silver

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QUESTION: Dear Thomas,

My decision to use silver as the keris' ornaments was not supported with adequate knowledge about the silver's characteristic.

The silver now turns to blueish and purple due to the oxidation.

I have some questions about this nature :

- Is the natural oxidation process the same with man-made antique look of the silver ?

- If I want to have antique look, can I just wait for the natural oxidation process ?

- If through man-made process to have antique silver at the end, can antique silver prevents further oxidation ?

- What are the degrees of antique-ness of antique silver ? Can I have antique silver with some shiny properties ?

Regards,
Donny.

ANSWER: Dear Donny,
Silver used for jewelry and high grade ornamentation as on your keris is usually sterling silver.  Sterling silver is a well-known and legally recognized for of silver.  The international numerical marking for this alloy of silver is 925 and this may be more easily understood when thought of as a percent, such at 92.5%.   The metal is 92.5% fine(pure) silver mixed with 7.5% other metal. The other metal is generally copper.  

Chemicals in the air we breathe include fumes from factories, fireplaces, cooking stoves, automobiles and other sources.  These chemicals will react with the silver and mostly with copper in the sterling silver to form the antique darker colors on silver items.  If stored away from air contact and chemical fumes silver will stay bright and untarnished.  The antique process applied by a jeweler or silver worker reacts almost instantly and allows control of where the antique color is placed and allows control of the darkness of the antique coloration. Applied antique does not prevent the oxidation of other areas but if dark to begin, will not become significantly darker. The colors duplicate colors from natural antique tarnish.

I do not know what the chemical is named in your language but a jeweler will certainly know.   In English the chemical is “liver of sulfur” or “potash of sulfur”.   It is purchased in a small container of deep yellow-brown chunks.   To apply to silver, the silver must first be cleaned well to remove any finger oils or other material which prevents complete contact of the chemical with the silver.

To prevent waste and to insure strength of the solution, a small pea sized piece of liver of sulfur is placed in about 60cc or so of hot water. (Mix only a small amount because the remaining liquid  does not retrain strength over time and may be discarded.)  This should be mixed in a glass container.  The water should be quite hot but not boiling.  As the liver if sulfur dissolves, there is a sulfur or old egg smell. The water takes on the color of brownish yellow.  Using a fine brush or cotton swab, the liquid is brushed onto the silver in location for antique color.  Be ready to wash off the liquid when the color is dark.  Antique begins as in nature with a yellowish color and will in time develop to an almost black metallic coloration.I have learned that a slowly developing or slowly darkening color is more durable than antique from a strong solution which suddenly brings on a very dark color.  Rinsing or removing the liver of sulfur stops the development of darker color.  To color certain areas only, the jeweler will polish the silver and the buffing action will remove the antique color, the same work as polishing tarnished silver.  Over time, the silver exposed to the air may begin to slowly show tarnish (darkening) from the natural process.  Generally the antique on a shiny surface will keep the shiny look.  A textured or sanded surface will show that texture.  The antique color does not change the surface below but only adds the antique coloration.

To retain the polished and untarnished area, the silver should be gently polished occasionally.  Some commercial silver polishing solutions provide a small degree of prevention to tarnish in addition to polishing the metal.

When the keris is stored, do not allow contact with rubber bands or brown paper bags. These items emit a small amount of sulfur fumes which will create tarnish. Do not store in newspaper or in thin plastic film for wrapping food dishes because these material will severely tarnish the silver.

Donny, if a jeweler is to apply the antique, be sure it is the chemical sort as discussed here. Sometimes a black flat paint is used but the effect does not look natural and will also chip off in time.  
Your keris is a high quality work of art and the antique coloration should complement the silver to gain the visual look desired.

Let me know if this advice will help you or if more information is needed.

Today, we stay in the home. The streets have a thin but very slick coating of ice from the weather condition.

May God Bless you with joy and peace.  Thomas.




---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Thomas,

Noted with thanks for your valuable reply.

So I have 2 options now : to restore the shiny look of the silver or to turn it to antique look.

I was informed by someone to try the Renaissance Wax to keep the silver shiny.

What do you know about the Renaissance Wax ?

If I have the antique look, should I apply the Renaissance Wax too ?

In your personal opinion, what do you think about the result if I turn the silver to antique silver (still keep the shiny character) ?

Your winter season seem more severe. Here, on early morning of February 9th, Jakarta had 12 hour rain or more of which the rainfall reached the monthly rainfall. With addition of the human mismanagement factor, this raining session caused flood in Jakarta with different level of seriousness. My house was flooded too with average water level less than 5 cm. Don’t worry, me and my family experience flood for several times and not panicked at all. By February 10th’s afternoon, the water receded and the cleaning process started. The meteorological bureau informed that the peak of the rainy season had passed. There are still rains for the next 2 months but not as bad as that day.

Regards,
Donny.

Answer
Donny,

I have not personally but it is recommended to prevent tarnish by many silver workers. A gentle application should not affect the antique patina and prevent tarnish for a reasonable length of time.

My thought on the antique is to use the antique, being selective in application.  The inner part of an open area(as an opening in the metal) will look better if the edge of the opening is antique. Also, if there are recesses in the metal work, use the antique there.  In this way, shape and form are accented and are more appealing to the eye.  

I am glad flooding has not brought serious damage or injury to you and your loved family.

We have been in our home because ice on the roads has made travel dangerous.  We will be out of the house tomorrow, with careful vehicle operation.

All good for you.  Thomas.  

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Have a question about jewelry repair or working with precious metal jewelry and gemstones? For many years up to December 31, 2010, I was a working professional bench jeweler, involved everyday with setting stones in mountings, designing and making jewelry, repairing and limited custom manufacture. If you work with jewelry as a hobby or as a profession, I might be able to help. I deal with the retail business, not mass production. Ask privately if you wish. See the box for that: It keeps your question between us. Please DO NOT ask MAKER'S MARKS, but metal quality marks are fine to ask. Please DO NOT ask diamond prices. See a gemologist for that.

Experience

I have extensive experience in design, service and making of jewelry. I deal mostly with precious metals and gemstones but work with many materials as needed and usable to create an artistic design. My experience also includes freelance photography and photographer of jewelry and similar items for a former employer and individuals. Design of custom items requires reading the desires of the client and being clear on what can be done within that framework...then fulfilling the transition of idea to reality. Effective communications is essential in a working designer/producer and customer relationship.

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Education is English/Physics! Started in human resources, to advertising, to jewelry...wow, what a road. I have had formal training in jewelry work and many shared experiences with top grade jewelers. We just never know were we will go or be. Follow your best, your dreams, with some discretion! Don't let the work tear up your body along the way as it has mine.

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