Topics: Beads, Tarnish

I have some metal beads that I purchased at a craft store and used in a necklace. They have since darkened considerably to the point where I cannot wear the necklace that I made with the beads. What should I use to clean and seal the beads so they aren't so dark looking--or is there no hope for them?
- Walter
Absolutely not! There's always hope when it comes to beads!

You didn't say what type of metal beads they were so there are a few suggestions but use with caution as the outcome is uncertain if you don't know your metal type.

Tarnishing is a chemical reaction of the silver to the pollutants in the air. This is the same process as iron rusting. To "clean" silver, you want to reverse the tarnish process, rather than remove the tarnish as this can damage the piece.

There are some great cleaning methods listed below in the resource section. You can also make your own cleaning solution:
  1. Wrap the silver object in aluminum foil. Be sure the foil makes tight contact with the silver in at least one place. Make a few cuts in the foil to allow liquid to seep into the space between the silver and the foil.
  2. Place the foil-wrapped object in a large glass, enameled or stainless steel pot that you can cook in.
  3. Fill the container with a solution of water and 4 - 5 tablespoons of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per quart of water. Use enough water to cover the silver object. Let the mixture simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the aluminum foil. Rinse the silver and dry it thoroughly.
I've heard tomato juice baths or Tabasco® sauce works for polishing copper components due to the acidic content. Some folks swear by denture cleaner! There is quite an ongoing debate as to whether or not toothpaste is safe for cleaning silver jewelry or not. Some jewelers claims the pumice in the toothpaste wears away the silver over the years with many cleanings so I'd stay away from this method particularly since you don't know the metal.

The best is to prevent tarnishing to occur in the first place. FMG's anti-tarnish paper works like a charm! You can cut them in any size and place inside a zip lock bag.

There are also anti-tarnish organizers and zip lock bags. All of these work wonders and save you heaps of time cleaning and polishing.

- Kristal Wick, Designer, Author, and Jewelry Making Expert

Materials Resources

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