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  1. #1

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    Default Clean black spots from silver plate

    I need some help on a method to clean black spots from silver plate.

    I've got a nice satin silver Buescher with close to 100% intact plating. But it has many tiny, tiny black spots that are not easy to clean away. First I thought it was small pittings in the silver, but when I put the horn under my microscope (being a microbiologist I usually solve most problems under a microscope) I see that the spots consist of a black crust on top of the silver. The silver under it is intact. The spots do not react to normal silver polish, silver polish containing ammonia or an acidic copper cleaner. The black ( maybe I see a green shade in the black ?) crust has a greater hardness than the silver and can be removed with a sharp object like a needle, but the resulting silver surface is not pretty after a needle job. From these observations I guess the spots are not made of silver sulphide.

    Can anyone tell me what these tine black spots are and how I could clean them off the silver plate ?

    Thanks
    ToreH

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2010 DaddyRabbit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clean black spots from silver plate

    I also have a Buescher satin Silver (recently replated). I always keep it in the case with paper anti-tarnish strips. I never leave it out on a stand or exposed except when playing. (Which I should do more.) I don't know if it is a tarnish problem, but the strips work great for me.

  3. #3
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Technician
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    Default Re: Clean black spots from silver plate

    Maybe a little Tarn-x will work.

  4. #4
    Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist
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    Default Re: Clean black spots from silver plate

    Just a few thoughts:

    1. ".. The spots do not react to normal silver polish, silver polish containing ammonia or an acidic copper cleaner...

    Could it be that the manufacturer coated the silver finish with a thin lacquer (or other material - wax?) to protect it from tarnish (until it is sold!). A silver plated sax presumably not so young, with an almost "100% intact" finish" sort of suggests that.

    Sometimes finishes have microscopic porosity, and tarnish can begin through a microscopic hole, and spread under a finish, which would explain why the silver cleaners do not work? Have you checked for a slight blemish in the centre of each black spot, that might be present if this is happening?

    2. There are other silver compounds apart from the sulphide that turn black on exposure to light, eg the other halides. Could salty sea spray react with silver? How about mist from a spa pool?

    3. Some forms of silver tarnish are very superficial, and are quickly removed (or converted back to silver) by chemical means. However, others seems to penetrate deep into the surface, and resist chemical attack. Perhaps it depends on the porosity of the sliver plating.

    4. "crust has a greater hardness than the silver". I thing that is normal for most corrosion.

    5. Perhaps these sites may give you some ideas.
    http://www.silversmithing.com/care.htm
    http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-silverch.html

    A point for others considering buying a satin finish... It would seem that with a satin finish, chemical cleaning is your only option. Perhaps a reason for not buying a satin finish.

    BTW, are these black spots over the entire surface? Keys as well? That may give you a clue as to how they occur. Some case materials can cause corrosion. Some cleaners used on case linings have caused corrosion. Perspiration can cause corrosion....
    Contentment is not the fulfilment of what you want, but the realisation of how much you already have.

  5. #5

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    Default Re: Clean black spots from silver plate

    Thanks Gordon for your thoughts.

    As always you have a very practical focus based on great knowledge.

    Just a few thoughts:

    1. ".. The spots do not react to normal silver polish, silver polish containing ammonia or an acidic copper cleaner...

    Could it be that the manufacturer coated the silver finish with a thin lacquer (or other material - wax?) to protect it from tarnish (until it is sold!). A silver plated sax presumably not so young, with an almost "100% intact" finish" sort of suggests that.

    Sometimes finishes have microscopic porosity, and tarnish can begin through a microscopic hole, and spread under a finish, which would explain why the silver cleaners do not work? Have you checked for a slight blemish in the centre of each black spot, that might be present if this is happening?


    This is a 1936 Buescher with no lacquer or wax on top of the silver plate (although after cleaning up my silver horns I always put on a hard wax – an automobile wax in an organic solvent – to make the silver water repellent ). With a high magnification in my stereo microscope I can see that the tiny spots consist of a hard crust on top of the silver and no visual changes in the silver under it. Even with a concentrated effort on a single spot with different silver cleaners on a Q-tip, I do not see any reaction even in the microscope. But I wonder if some micro pores could bring copper to the surface and that the spots consist of a copper salt (sulphide ?).

    2. There are other silver compounds apart from the sulphide that turn black on exposure to light, eg the other halides. Could salty sea spray react with silver? How about mist from a spa pool?

    This horn comes from the US Military Academy band (years back), and could have got some ocean spray during it's long history. This will be the same as the Salt shaker syndrome (silver chloride), which should dissolve in strong ammonia. I will try this

    3. Some forms of silver tarnish are very superficial, and are quickly removed (or converted back to silver) by chemical means. However, others seems to penetrate deep into the surface, and resist chemical attack. Perhaps it depends on the porosity of the sliver plating.

    Silver dips and cleaners like TarnX ( which I don't find in Norway) consist of thiourea in an acidic solution. It will transform silver sulphide to silver and hydrogen sulphide (smell !), and should also work on a porous surface. I will try to find a good one and try this again.

    4. "crust has a greater hardness than the silver". I thing that is normal for most corrosion.

    5. Perhaps these sites may give you some ideas.
    http://www.silversmithing.com/care.htm
    http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-silverch.html

    A point for others considering buying a satin finish... It would seem that with a satin finish, chemical cleaning is your only option. Perhaps a reason for not buying a satin finish.


    Do not agree. The final result after cleaning up satin silver is well worth the work - I think

    BTW, are these black spots over the entire surface? Keys as well? That may give you a clue as to how they occur. Some case materials can cause corrosion. Some cleaners used on case linings have caused corrosion. Perspiration can cause corrosion....

    No spots on the keys, just on body and neck. But do not know what that means yet.
    Soprano : 1926 Buescher TT, Greiffenhagen 0.065, SAXXAS lig, Gonzalez 2.5 Alto : 1926 Buescher TT, Morgan 7L, SAXXAS lig, Gonz2.5 Tenor : 1936 Buescher Aristocrat, Morgan 8*MLL Marc Jean lig Rigotti 2.5strong Bari : 1949 Buescher bigB, Greiffenhagen 0.100 Fibracell 3.5

  6. #6

    Default Re: Clean black spots from silver plate

    Anyone tried liquid form of 'toothpaste'?

  7. #7
    SOTW Contributor 2011 jbtsax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clean black spots from silver plate

    Try some Barkeepers Friend for the frosted or satin finish areas of the sax. Moisten a medium bristle tooth brush and then dip it in the powder and brush the finish gently. Do not use on the shiny silver areas, just where the surface is porous. I have cleaned several old silver saxes this way along with using a silver polish to remove the tarnish.

    John

  8. #8
    Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist
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    Default Re: Clean black spots from silver plate

    "... No spots on the keys, just on body and neck. But do not know what that means yet... "

    You put wax only on the body, rather than the keys? Even if you if you apply it all over, the plating on bodies often behaves differently from that on keys. Perhaps because of a different plating bath; hence different plating conditions. Indeed, the keys may be made in a different plant.

    "... But I wonder if some micro pores could bring copper to the surface and that the spots consist of a copper salt (sulphide ?). ..."

    "... (although after cleaning up my silver horns I always put on a hard wax – an automobile wax in an organic solvent ... '

    There are quite a range of coloured copper compounds, some involving ammonia, which is often in cleaners. I wonder if it is also in the formulation of the wax application... so copper there may be other possibilities apart from copper sulphide.

    It's possible that the silver plating has micro-pores as you suggest, and something on the surface, such as your wax application, has access to the copper at these locations. Perhaps zinc is also involved.

    After all, I doubt that automobile waxes are formulated for application to copper. I guess there are many other possible chemicals participating apart from ammonia.
    Contentment is not the fulfilment of what you want, but the realisation of how much you already have.

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