It worked!

I had a great Memorial Day weekend, spending time with friends, baking, and even dancing to a steel band in the fog on the Town Dock. When I did get into the studio, it was super clean and organized, so I got right to work on repairs that had been hanging around for months. These are items that I did not make, but that people asked me to restring or repair, “whenever I get to it.” I’m delighted to say I cleared my bench of 5 necklaces and 3 pairs of earrings, all in the name of studio clean up.

In taking care of this business, I restrung a necklace I had made for my mother. It was a mixture of blue glass beads interspersed with a number of small sterling silver beads that had become quite tarnished. I used to toss those silver beads in a jar for “someday,” and pull out fresh shiny new beads for repairs. With the price of silver, (today $37.70/oz) I have not purchased new silver beads in a while, so it was time to face the dreaded clean up of tiny silver beads.  Have you ever tried removing tarnish from a 4mm bead with a polishing cloth? Hand cramp city. I remembered hearing about removing tarnish from silver by placing it in a pan with aluminum foil and something else. I had saved a little tutorial about this from a Beading Daily update I received by e-mail earlier this month. I followed the directions given by Beading Daily editor Jen VanBenschoten and it worked pretty well. Later, after the polished beads were back in place on my mother’s newly restrung necklace, I looked on the internet for more information about why this process works. I found the explanation I was looking for on I love having this kind of information at my fingertips  just as much as I love not having to hand polish all of these tiny beads.

Before: (If these look clean to you, I suggested clicking on the photo to enlarge it!)


I had stopped wearing this little necklace because I dreaded hand polishing the thin-linked chain. The shiny chain in the middle is for comparison:

Three little bits that were sitting on the windowsill in my kitchen, just waiting for this day:

Those bubbles mean business! Though, this worked better the second time, when the beads weren’t touching each other.


Ta Da!

And Ta Da!

The tarnish removing technique didn’t hurt the freshwater pearls at all. I did wonder why the little saucer beads between the pearls did not get clean (click to enlarge). Then I realized that the pearls kept them from coming in contact with the foil, so the chemical reaction did not work so well there. Still, it was a huge time saver. This trick is good to know.


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11 responses to “It worked!

  1. Thanks for doing the science experiment! I’ll have to try it!


  2. LeAnn

    This is great to know. In packing up our things I just found two silver chains that are disgusting with tarnish. I’m definitely going to give this a try.


    • Barb Fernald

      It worked pretty well. The most tarnished pieces (the lever back earrings) required 3 sessions with the foil. I also dipped a toothbrush in baking soda to help remove the tarnish. It was still faster and easier than working with a cloth. I bet it will work well with your sterling chains.


  3. Susan White

    Thanks for a great lesson. Enjoy the sun!! xo


    • Barb Fernald

      I’ll have to try this with my flatware the next time we have people over for dinner. I finally got out in the garden this afternoon. Weed and snail city!! But I made some progress. What a relief to have sun 2 days in a row, eh?


  4. Stevie

    Hi Barb,
    This is a great way to clean sterling silver but it has been my experience that the process will lift silverplate. I was cleaning my napkin ring collection with this method and some of the old turn of the century pieces actually flaked off the silverplate. Word to the wise!


    • Barb Fernald

      Wow, I didn’t know that about silver plate! I don’t mind using good old cream silver polish on silver plated flatware and hollow ware, or on the few old sterling pieces I have of those. But, on the little sterling beads and the sterling chain, this method saved me a lot of time. Thanks for the warning about silver plate.


  5. Thank you for this. I had been burying silver in baking soda and this removed some tarnish. it did quite well on silver heishi, but this looks like a miracle in comparison. I guess i will dig out all those tarnished silver beads and things,clean and reuse.


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