We sell many used and vintage pieces that have from light to heavy patina and tarnish on them. We leave the choice of whether to polish or not to the customer.
Patina is the overall uniform darkening that occurs from aging. Patina adds a richness to vintage pieces. How much patina you like is personal preference, there is no right or wrong.
Tarnish, on the other hand, is a thin dirty film that appears on silver as it oxidizes. Tarnish, in my opinion, should be remove regularly using a mild method, such as with a buffing cloth. Each of these pieces took about one minute to fully polish with a cloth.
Here is one of my favorite contemporary Hopi Man in a Maze bracelets (by Cyrus Josytewa) before buffing. Basically a dirty bracelet !
30 seconds later – half done
DONE One minute of polishing
Tarnish on polishing cloth
Hubby’s favorite buckle (Stanley Gene, Navajo) has some nice patina and also has tarnish. I’m on the fence with this piece – I actually think I prefer the overall patina but he volunteered it for an example. A buckle makes contact with a lot of surfaces so even after the tarnish is removed, the buckles still has its character scratches.
Here are some more articles related to jewelry care:
I was looking at the stamped Navajo pearl necklaces and began to wonder – How do you polish these necklaces or are you supposed to polish these necklaces?
Stamped Navajo Pearls by Larry Pinto
It is a matter of personal preference. If you like patina, no polishing necessary.That’s why we leave the beads in our pawn shop as is – so the buyer can decide.
A lot of people prefer patina………and to satisfy those customers, Navajo bead makers also put an “instant patina” on their beads by adding a satin finish and antiquing on some of their beads such as this gorgeous necklace by Navajo Virginia Tso.
If you like shiny, you can use a soft silver polishing cloth. Leaving a little patina in the stamped portions just makes the stamping stand out more dramatically. Very pretty.
You can also keep them in an anti tarnish pouch if you want them to stay shiny.
Do you have any suggestions for removing the price and artist’s name written
in ink from the inside of the sterling silver collar that we just received. We are not
having any luck. Thank you.
Whoops !! First of all, so sorry we missed removing the name from your collar. I know it must seem odd but it is normal operating procedure with Native American made jewelry to write the price and sometimes the artist’s name on the back of a pendant, bracelet, and in your case, a collar. Usually a black sharpie pen is used which is pretty hard to rub off. Some artists and sellers even put a small coat of clear nail polish on the sterling silver and then write on that and/or put a coat of clear nail polish over what they have written.
Anyway, to make a long story short, here we use acetone or regular nail polish remover to take off the marker. You can also use non-acetone polish remover – it will still work but take a bit longer.
Again sorry, that must have been during the holidays when we were wild people.
I bought a cuff bracelet for Christmas it has turned black on the inside on one end, when we cleaned it with silver cleaner some of it came off but you can still see where it was, the black around the inlay on the front is coming off. My husband loves this bracelet and wears it all the time. He works in a office so it did not get damaged at work plus he is partial handicapped so he is not really active at home so we can not figure this out. It just occurred in the past few days. Please tell me I have something that can be done I paid 400.00 dollars for this bracelet. Regina
What you describe are normal signs of wear for a sterling silver bracelet that someone has used for over 7 months. (purchased Nov 2, 2012)
Black on the inside is natural tarnish of sterling silver caused by contact with air, skin oils, soap, lotions, and other elements. We suggest keeping the bracelet clean and using a polishing cloth on a regular basis rather than let the tarnish build up. We discourage the use of silver cleaner.
IMPORTANT NOTE !! Great care should be taken when cleaning any sterling silver piece with stones. The pieces should NEVER be soaked as this would swell the backing (which is often sawdust or leather) and pop the stones out of their settings or damage them.
For sterling silver jewelry with stones and for pieces that I want to retain much of the vintage patina, I usually use a simple wash, dry and light hand buff combo. I use ordinary liquid hand soap (not antibacterial – something more like liquid Ivory) on a cloth or soft toothbrush to loosen debris and clean both the front and back of bracelets and pendants. Then I rinse it well but carefully, avoiding the stone settings. I follow this with a thorough drying and then token hand buffing with a silver polishing cloth. I stop at the point where the item is clean but still has its character.
I use a polishing cloth to maintain the shine in my new beads but if the oxidation gets ahead of me, I spritz them with Windex, taking care not to use too much because I don’t want it to run into the holes. I lightly spritz one section and then wipe right away. Less is more.
Because Old Town Trading Company was in the process of restringing an old squash blossom necklace for me (the subject of a future blog on repair), the topic of cleaning came up and here is what Diane of OTTP said:
While your necklace is disassembled, we’d like to wash the naja and blossoms. As you are definitely in favor of original patina, I want to explain this and get your approval first. I meet many, many people who do not want the surface of their silver touched in any way, not even to be cleaned. To me, there is a big difference in being “cleaned”, being “polished”, and being “buffed”. It’s mostly semantics, but I think there is a lot of confusion about what might be the best way to treat a piece of jewelry.
To me, buffing is something done with a buffing machine, in the shop. Buffing actually smooths the surface of the silver, and removes all those tiny fine lines and scratches that create the soft, beautiful look of a well worn piece. With very few exceptions, I don’t like to see anything buffed. The exceptions would be for pieces that are very contemporary or have a very bad scratch that detracts from the piece. A very few people like their pieces buffed smooth, regardless of the age or history of the piece.
Tiny fine lines and scratches can be replicated by working the surface with steel wool, but a trained eye will spot it every time. It can look nice, but it’s not “patina”… If a piece must be hot soldered for a repair, it must go through the buffing process – no way around it. Our smiths are awesome, but that is one of their biggest challenges – hot soldering on a vintage piece and retaining the “look”.
Polishing is using a chemical agent to clean the blackened tarnish from a piece of silver. Polishing (in my phraseology) doesn’t remove the scratches at all, but it can remove the oxidation that may have been applied to enhance the design of a piece. Oxidation can be very successfully reapplied (chemically) BUT most polishes will leave nasty residues in all the lovely details of this beautiful handmade stuff. The residue turns white or green or pink. One of the few chemical “polishers” that doesn’t leave a residue (Tarnax) will actually dissolve turquoise and coral, among other things. I can’t tell you how many Tarnax victims we’ve repaired here. Polishing with any of this chemical stuff is really intended only for flatter manufactured pieces, like silverware, and even then, just cleaning it will frequently work better.
So, my favorite and most suggested technique is cleaning. A good washing (done properly, of course) will remove all the gunk, label residue, polish residue, grime, dust, cookie dough (yes we’ve removed that) and any other surface stuff that “shouldn’t be there”. The result is a piece that still has all the fine scratches, oxidation, and beauty (the “patina”) of an old piece, but it will show with a beautiful true silver glow, instead of a flat yellow gray appearance. In my opinion, it really enhances the piece.