Ethnic Jewels

An appreciation of ethnic jewellery and adornment

jewelry collection at year's end- verdigris

Every three or four months I inspect each piece of my collection for corrosion or verdigris. I think that is a very good idea for anybody with an extensive collection that they cannot keep in touch with on a daily basis. This time, I discovered some verdigris on a couple of my older pieces which had been stored in the same package, this told me that I had stored them wrong, not allowing enough airflow to get to them and that I had not allowed them to dry after I had cleaned them the last time. The kind of common silver tarnish that you see on  older pieces is not really an issue here, it does not destroy the piece, but verdigris does destroy the silverwork, and , in addition, can spread to other pieces which may be stored with the affected piece. It is important to always store your jewelry completely dry. Evidently I had assumed that these newly cleaned pieces were dry, but, because of the complexity of the pieces some moisture had lurked in the chains or the inner parts of the amulet. So pieces must be allowed to dry thoroughly, nothing should be stored in airtight containers, plastic bags are ok for storage but they should not be completely closed since that just encourages the growth of verdigris, and all pieces should be inspected frequently to prevent an infection of your collection. I cleaned the affected pieces in a couple of ways, first with the baking soda, tin foil, boiling water method which worked with most of them and second with vinegar which worked for the rest of them. It is good to know that the baking soda solution did not affect the niello piece that I cleaned, nor did it affect any of the old coral on these pieces, although, I must admit, I allowed the solution to cool a bit before I applied it to coral embellished jewelry. Of all the tarnishes. verdigris is perhaps the most lethal to your jewelry because it destroys the silverwork so it is a good idea to keep ahead of it and know how to combat it. Most of my jewelry is of low or medium silver content so application of a vinegar solution is not a problem, silver plated jewelry, however, may have a problem with the solution because it does tend to eat away at the plating, so probably a controlled wash and wipe of the solution is best for such piece.s

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Comment by SARAH CORBETT on March 7, 2015 at 15:41

Labours of love!

Comment by Lynn Ardent on March 7, 2015 at 1:11

I have been going through all of my jewelry after this post and have made a few changes. 

--I am still putting in plastic bags, but now with paper and the silica gel absorption packets that Tsipporah mentioned.  I got a bag of 200 packets for about $10 USD on Amazon.  I will change these once  year. 

--I am now using a hair dryer to thoroughly dry pieces after I wash them.  This seems to have really helped.  Unfortunately I don't have radiators or warm sunlight here which are good solutions too. 

Thanks again Patricia for this great blog!

Comment by ingrid Langerak on March 6, 2015 at 20:53

A good blog to re-read again.  Another way I make sure washed silver is dryed thoroughly is to have it on the radiators for several hours.  And all the points Patricia mentioned are so true.  because also with me especially with the telsums (which are little amulet  boxes in silver) when in a plastic bag you find several are a bit green.  In Ethiopia the jewelers do mix copper with the silver and it is the copper which causes this.  Another way I store is to line a tine or wooden box first with kitchen cleaning paper, which absorbs also the damp.  Like if you have a caraf p.e. and you cannot dry thy inside  roll a piece of the kitchen paper into a snake and let it hang into the caraf and the paper will  absorb the water and dries  it out.

Comment by Patricia Deany on March 6, 2015 at 16:32
If the rice absorbs water, that is great. And the cushions are a good idea as well.
Comment by Tsipporah Sofer on March 6, 2015 at 16:14

To keep necklaces dry I put besides them those moist absorbing cushions or the little boxes you find often together with medicine. Or why not add raw grains of rice into the plastic bag as we are used to put together with salt.

Comment by Patricia Deany on December 27, 2014 at 12:32

The addition of sawdust seems like a good solution -- maybe corn meal would also be acceptable. That would wick any moisture away from the piece. I had always been advised to use plastic but, then, mistakenly sealed a few pieces into the plastic and voila verdigris appeared so I am assuming it is the result of too much moisture and too little air. My son recently told me that verdigris is the copper edition of rust. BTW, although I said tinfoil in my discussion of the baking soda solution I meant aluminum foil, of course, just taking a visit to my past, verbally, that is.

Comment by Leonor Arnó on December 27, 2014 at 8:47

Thanks for the advice!! I didn't know the baking soda solution or the verdigris, I will centainly use it from now on.

I store some of my jewellery in plastic bags, with sawdust. A jeweller told me this was a good way to avoid verdigris, and it's working until know. The only problem is that the item gets a little dusty, but I clean it with a brush when I want to use it.

Comment by Lynn Ardent on December 26, 2014 at 23:28

Patricia, thank you so much for this advice.  As a new collector I have been anxious about the conflicting information regarding what kinds of tarnish/corrosion is harmful, and which are benign.   It is very good to know that verdigris is damaging... I have left it on a few pieces and I will now remove it.  Thank you for your description of the baking soda method!  I will try that out. 

Another way of applying a weak acid like vinegar is to use ketchup.  The advantage it has over vinegar is that you can paint it on just part of the piece with a small paintbrush, avoiding coral or stones.

Comment by Toya on December 26, 2014 at 17:35

Thank you! I will try it today. I bought something online and when it arrived I noticed a tiny bit of verdigris. I have been careful to keep it away from my other jewelry. Your idea of doing frequent checks of a collection is good advice.

Comment by Patricia Deany on December 26, 2014 at 17:30
Hi Toya, the baking soda water method - line a bowl with aluminum foil, shake in a couple of tablespoons of baking soda, add a littl salt. Boil water pour into bowl, add jewelry. Do not add gilt or gilded jewelry, be watchful for natural stones and glass. The chemical reaction should lift common silver tarnish off in a matter of a few minutes. If the jewelry is heavily tarnished sometimes you will smell rotten egg smell. I don't know about the vinegar method and dark spots. I suspect the dark spot may be damage left from the verdigris since it does permanent damage to the silver. Frankly, I do not use these soaks on priceless precious, irreplaceable and super expensive pieces. I would take them to a jeweler to be cleaned.

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