When my mother down sized to senior living she gave me her silver set. When I opened the chest I saw a piece of chalk. I had no recollection of chalk being in the silverware chest and I know she wouldn’t have it there for no reason, but why?
I set out to solve the mystery and learned a few things on the way. Tarnish is the result of exposure to moisture and or hydrogen sulfide in the air. As it turns out, chalk absorbs moisture preventing tarnishing. By adding chalk you can minimize tarnish and minimize the time spent polishing. An option is those little silica packets you find in shoe boxes or clothing pockets which do the same thing.
MINIMIZE EXPOSURE TO AIR
Storing your silverware in a box or chest, keeping your jewellery in a jewellery box and returning your flute to the case when you’re done playing are all best practices when it comes to combating tarnish and oxidation that can occurs when silver is exposed to moisture and or air. Using a box that has a soft lining like velvet helps prevent the silver from getting scratched.
Caring for Silver
While chalk and proper storage will greatly contribute to minimizing tarnish you can’t completely prevent it, so here are some helpful resources on how to care for and clean your silver as needed.
Check out How to Clean Sterling Silver Cutlery There are some great tips on a quick clean method using an aluminum pan, baking soda and hot water and an overview of polish options and best practices.
Another informative resource is from a museum perspective, The Care and Preservation of Historical Silver By Clara Deck, Senior Conservator, the Henry Ford Benson Ford Research Center pdf
Excerpt 1: Over-polishing results in a loss of detail definition in raised areas of design over time. On plated objects, frequent polishing can actually remove the silver plating, leaving dull areas of exposed base metal that may be mistaken for stubborn areas of tarnish…
Excerpt 2: Page 3
For most polishing, we use fine calcium carbonate, CHALK (“whiting”), worked into a slurry or runny paste with equal amounts of ethanol (denatured alcohol or ethyl alcohol) and distilled water. The paste is rubbed across the surface working a small area at a time with cotton balls or clean, cotton rags…