Are these shakers real sterling?

Item must be marked "Sterling" or "925"
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AllSeasons
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Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AllSeasons » Mon Jan 17, 2022 4:49 pm

I purchased these shakers online a little while ago. They have a slightly yellowish tinge that I haven't seen in my other sterling pieces. Also, there appears to be some reddish-brown tarnishing on the inside of one of the shakers. They're both stamped sterling on the bottom, but no maker's name/mark could be found. I'm guessing this could be a silver-zinc alloy, instead of the usual copper. Based on my online research, sterling silver with 7.5% zinc does tend to have a slightly yellowish color; zinc rust also has a reddish-brown color.

Again, your expert opinions would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

I've attached 3 images below. The first image is with the shaker in question in the middle, with two Gorham sterling shakers on each side for comparison. The shaker in question also seems to have been roughly/badly cleaned on the outside, with fine lines clearly visible and very little luster. The second image shows the sterling mark, but there're no other marks present. The third image shows the reddish-brown rust in question. I've also seen heavy greenish rust inside other (sterling) shakers in the past that indicate a copper alloy. The reddish-brown rust has me more worried, as that's also the color of iron rust; however, the shakers are very light, about 27 grams each and a little less than 4'' tall.

Image
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AG2012
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AG2012 » Mon Jan 17, 2022 5:29 pm

Hi,
I think shakers were not kept under the same conditions;air-borne sulfurs and chlorides cause a yellowish cast on the sterling silver.
Zinc in the alloy can turn to stable salts when exposed to air, but all zinc salts are white.
If I undesrtood well, all three shakers are marked sterling; show us the marks if possible.
Regards

AllSeasons
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AllSeasons » Mon Jan 17, 2022 10:31 pm

AG2012 wrote:Hi,
I think shakers were not kept under the same conditions;air-borne sulfurs and chlorides cause a yellowish cast on the sterling silver.
Zinc in the alloy can turn to stable salts when exposed to air, but all zinc salts are white.
If I undesrtood well, all three shakers are marked sterling; show us the marks if possible.
Regards


Thank you for the reply. The two Gorham shakers on the side are actually just for illustration purposes, to demonstrate the color difference. I'm positive they're sterling. The left one is marked "GORHAM STERLING 1238," and the right one is marked "GORHAM STERLING 1113." The middle one, which is the one in question, is just marked "STERLING." I'm not sure who the maker is.

AG2012
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AG2012 » Tue Jan 18, 2022 4:19 am

Hi,
It is not uncommon to have silver marked only ``Sterling``, i.e. without maker`s mark.
For me, it is good enough, regardless of the color. You can test it,though.
Regards

JayT
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby JayT » Tue Jan 18, 2022 3:39 pm

Hello
In my opinion your middle shaker has been polished aggressively with an abrasive tool, such as a scrubby sponge, a brush, or steel wool, creating unsightly scratches on the surface. It appears that the shaker also has been dipped in a tarnish-removing liquid, which has left a “skinned” and cloudy appearance. Such harsh chemical products should never be used on fine silver. I believe this chemical product is also responsible for the colour of the interior.
Regards

AllSeasons
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AllSeasons » Wed Jan 19, 2022 2:51 am

JayT wrote:Hello
In my opinion your middle shaker has been polished aggressively with an abrasive tool, such as a scrubby sponge, a brush, or steel wool, creating unsightly scratches on the surface. It appears that the shaker also has been dipped in a tarnish-removing liquid, which has left a “skinned” and cloudy appearance. Such harsh chemical products should never be used on fine silver. I believe this chemical product is also responsible for the colour of the interior.
Regards


Yea, that's what I thought was likely the case, too. It's rather unfortunate. I rarely clean my silver, as I like the patina, unless it's turned the color of charcoal, in which case I do clean it with a homemade solution and a 100% cotton cloth. Nothing stringent, just baking soda, salt, aluminum foil, and hot water. Works like a charm!

dognose
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby dognose » Wed Jan 19, 2022 3:24 am

I do clean it with a homemade solution and a 100% cotton cloth. Nothing stringent, just baking soda, salt, aluminum foil, and hot water. Works like a charm!


Such a method will produce long-term damage to your silverware as it is removing a small layer of silver, in different depths, every time you do it and you will be left with an 'orange-peel' effect on the surface.

Trev.

AllSeasons
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AllSeasons » Wed Jan 19, 2022 3:29 am

dognose wrote:Such a method will produce long-term damage to your silverware as it is removing a small layer of silver, in different depths, every time you do it and you will be left with an 'orange-peel' effect on the surface.

Trev.


Thanks. I guess I could use proper silver polish. But is there a difference between the two? Silver polish also removes the silver sulfide, right?

dognose
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby dognose » Wed Jan 19, 2022 4:00 am

Sterling is an alloy, silver and copper, and the chemical 'electro-stripping' method of using soda and foil transfers the silver onto the foil leaving the copper intact and thus microscopic pitting on the surface which will, in the long-term, effect the colour and the shine.

Yes, polishing will also remove slight amounts of silver, but evenly, thus the surface will shine. The better quality the polish, the less abrasives are contained within it and the less silver is removed.

Always remember, you never own a piece of silverware, you are merely the custodian of it for your lifetime :))

Trev.

AllSeasons
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AllSeasons » Wed Jan 19, 2022 4:22 am

dognose wrote:Always remember, you never own a piece of silverware, you are merely the custodian of it for your lifetime :))

Trev.


Well said!

oel
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby oel » Wed Jan 19, 2022 11:49 am

Hi, as I understood the sulfide is transferred to the aluminium foil, not the silverand. The silver stays on the object. Indeed the silver shine could become a bit dull. I have done it once on a little silver box, with a thick black tarnish of silver sulfide.
I first tried a good silver polish without a to me, satisfying result. But I agree the aluminium foil method is better not done.

Peter.

AllSeasons
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AllSeasons » Wed Jan 19, 2022 8:17 pm

oel wrote:Hi, I understood the sulfide is transferred to the aluminium foil and the silver stays on the object. Indeed the silver shine could become a bit dull. I have done it once on a little silver box, with a thick black tarnish of silver sulfide.


That's what I understood to be the case, as well. I believe it creates a little electrical current that sucks out the sulfides, which are more attracted to the aluminum. The warm/hot water helps speed up the process. That being said, I do notice a different look vs. the surrounding areas sometimes, after doing this. It can appear to be a slightly different color (different shade of gray) and appear a little uneven, like it's missing a layer. For some small pieces like souvenir spoons, it's not as noticeable. And just to allay any concerns, I've only tried this on really tarnished pieces that don't really have a lot of aesthetic or monetary value, i.e. pieces that are banged up or small pieces like spoons.

Is there a chemist in the house perhaps, who can help shed some light on this? Someone who can use more technically correct terms than "sucks out the sulfides." Thanks.

oel
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby oel » Wed Jan 19, 2022 8:33 pm

Google search tarnished silver, silver sulphide;

If you have any objects made from silver or plated with silver, you know that the bright, shiny surface of silver gradually darkens and becomes less shiny. This happens because silver undergoes a chemical reaction with sulphur-containing substances in the air. You can use chemistry to reverse the tarnishing reaction, and make the silver shiny again.

For this experiment you will need:

a tarnished piece of silver
a pan or dish large enough to completely immerse the silver in
aluminium foil to cover the bottom of the pan
enough water to fill the pan
a vessel in which to heat the water
hot pads or kitchen mitts with which to handle the heated water vessel
baking soda, about 1 cup per gallon of water
Line the bottom of the pan with aluminium foil. Set the silver object on top of the aluminium foil. Make sure the silver touches the aluminium.

Heat the water to boiling. Remove it from the heat and place it in a sink. To the hot water, add about one cup of baking soda for each gallon of water. (If you need only half a gallon of water, use half a cup of baking soda.) The mixture will froth a bit and may spill over; this is why you put it in the sink.

Pour the hot baking soda and water mixture into the pan, and completely cover the silver.

Almost immediately, the tarnish will begin to disappear. If the silver is only lightly tarnished, all of the tarnish will disappear within several minutes. If the silver is badly tarnished, you may need to reheat the baking soda and water mixture, and give the silver several treatments to remove all of the tarnish.

When silver tarnishes, it combines with sulphur and forms silver sulphide. Silver sulphide is black. When a thin coating of silver sulphide forms on the surface of silver, it darkens the silver. The silver can be returned to its former luster by removing the silver sulphide coating from the surface.

There are two ways to remove the coating of silver sulphide. One way is to remove the silver sulphide from the surface. The other is to reverse the chemical reaction and turn silver sulphide back into silver. In the first method, some silver is removed in the process of polishing. In the second, the silver remains in place. Polishes that contain an abrasive shine the silver by rubbing off the silver sulphide and some of the silver along with it. Another kind of tarnish remover dissolves the silver sulphide in a liquid. These polishes are used by dipping the silver into the liquid, or by rubbing the liquid on with a cloth and washing it off. These polishes also remove some of the silver.

The tarnish-removal method used in this experiment uses a chemical reaction to convert the silver sulphide back into silver. Many metals in addition to silver form compounds with sulphur. Some of them have a greater affinity for sulphur than silver does. Aluminium is such a metal. In this experiment, the silver sulphide reacts with aluminium. In the reaction, sulphur atoms are transferred from silver to aluminium, freeing the silver metal and forming aluminium sulphide. Chemists represent this reaction with a chemical equation.

3 Ag2S + 2 Al --/> 6 Ag + Al2S3
3 silver sulphide + 2 aluminium --/> 6 silver + aluminium sulphide

The reaction between silver sulphide and aluminium takes place when the two are in contact while they are immersed in a baking soda solution. The reaction is faster when the solution is warm. The solution carries the sulphur from the silver to the aluminium. The aluminium sulphide may adhere to the aluminum foil, or it may form tiny, pale yellow flakes in the bottom of the pan. The silver and aluminium must be in contact with each other, because a small electric current flows between them during the reaction. This type of reaction, which involves an electric current, is called an electrochemical reaction. Reactions of this type are used in batteries to produce electricity.


http://scifun.org/HomeExpts/tarnish.html

Peter.

AllSeasons
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Re: Are these shakers real sterling?

Postby AllSeasons » Thu Jan 27, 2022 1:42 am

oel wrote:3 Ag2S + 2 Al --/> 6 Ag + Al2S3
3 silver sulphide + 2 aluminium --/> 6 silver + aluminium sulphide


Thank you. So I guess my question is around the right side of the chemical equation. The 6Ag that are now free, do they still cling to the rest of the silver item, or do they become dissolved in the water? I've read that metals are held together by metallic bonds. However, the reason why two pieces of metal do not just stick to each other is because there is a thin layer of oxide that separates the metals from forming metallic bonds. So would the remaining silver sulfate (or even silver oxide) prevent the 6Ag from sticking with the silver item?

I wonder if the person who wrote this article has tested the water for silver solutes after performing this cleaning.


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