Jeffrey Herman Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, June 2019, Consulting the Silver Expert

Consulting the Silver Expert

by Jeff Herman

Cleaning and Polishing Silver, Part 1 of 2  

When properly maintained, silver will yield generations of enjoyment. The following cleaning instructions have been tried and proven in my silver restoration & conservation studio. They are suited for gold as well as silver. Silver-plated and gold-plated items should be treated very gingerly, as cleaning them too vigorous can remove the plating and expose the base metal.

As what we are cleaning is tarnish, let’s examine what causes these metals to tarnish: Contact with sulfur compounds, mainly hydrogen sulfide, in the air.

Other common culprits are:

  • Foods (partial list): Eggs, onions, mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, garlic, poultry, fish, cabbage, bananas, coffee, chocolate, nuts
  • Water: Sulfur-rich well water, seawater, hot tubs, swimming pools
  • Fossil Fuels: Natural gas, coal, oil
  • Rubber: Bands, latex gloves, carpet padding, bicycle tires
  • Paint: Check with the manufacturer
  • Light: The sun, light bulbs that off-gas
  • Smoke: Tobacco, exhaust, fireplaces, candles
  • Fabrics and Leather: Most are treated and tanned with sulfur-bearing compounds
  • Cosmetics: Lotions, perfumes

Tarnish formation is accelerated in a humid environment. Also, oily salts from fingers can cause corrosion patterns that may have to be removed professionally.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either contact him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or via email: jeff @

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