Although the household baking soda solution and aluminum foil method is one of the safest ways to clean silver jewelry, things get trickier if there are gemstones involved. Most gemstones do fine in baking soda and water, but the method should be avoided for jewelry set with corals. For opals and turquoise, there seems to be some controversy over whether saltwater baths are safe with some saying yes and others, no. I don’t own any opals, so that’s not even on the table, but I do put turquoise in baking soda solutions. It does fine, but I generally need to re-polish it when I am done.
Today’s piece is a near-antique, heart shaped Chinese Export pendant with, as you can see below, a delicately traced ink painting on ox bone. What idiot, you might ask, would put *that* in a baking soda solution???? Well . . . given this is a blog about the stupid stuff I do, who do you think?I too was worried about the painting’s integrity, but the silver was incredibly tarnished. With all that silver mesh, hand polishing just wasn’t going to clean it well. I know there are people out there who like their silver well-patinaed, but I’m not one of them. I decided to carefully place the pendant into a warm (not hot) baking soda solution to a level just below the bone. Unfortunately, thanks to the miracle of capillary action, all of the solution ended up on top of the bone painting anyway.
Only, it looked great when I was done! I mean really great. The solution had lifted off approximately 100 years of grime and slime, and suddenly the painting looked vibrant and fresh. Furthermore, by lifting all that grime, the soda solution had uncovered red accents in the painting that were breathtaking.So I did it again. Because all the solution had ended up on top of the painting the first time around, the silver was still tarnished. Therefore, this time, I didn’t bother with putting in a little bit of water. I completely covered the pendant and let ‘er rip. 10 minutes later, I got what you see below. Much paint, including all of the red, had been lifted away. The ink that was left diffused out of the painting and settled into grooves in the bone. In a word, I ruined the pendant.
Next time I will either remove the painting first or stick to hand polishing after all.