Cleaning guilded silver

Questions on polishing, restoration, conservation + manufacturing techniques
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Location: Denmark

Cleaning guilded silver

Postby Hose_dk » Sat Jan 11, 2014 7:30 pm

In the German section we have gone a bit off topic. I think we should start here-

Francais Wrote:
Re: German? Marks please help ID please.
Unread postby Francais » Sat Jan 11, 2014 4:32 pm

That brings up a topic I was wondering how to introduce, I would certainly be interested in the Danish, and moreover European point of view.
One of the advantages of dealing in or collecting silver, is that we can use, what otherwise might end up behind glass in a museum. Over the years I have made it a practice to always "try out" a new beaker, or goblet. I found that while drinking out of a piece you often notice something otherwise ignored, and in a sense it trains the eye. I think this beaker is totally gilt, although these are often just gilt on the lip and foot, and of course the interior. Even the best gilding will eventually be worn off by over-polishing, but certainly it takes a long time, as there is almost always some remaining even after 300 years. And certainly the silver part of a partially gilt piece is meant to be polished. I should point out that while almost totally French I drink beer like and American, and wine like a Frenchman. I usually drink out of one or another beaker which is gilded. The outside usually stays relatively oxidation free, but oddly the gilded inside darkens. I have noticed this on all gilded beakers. After a while I have a choice of drinking out of a very dark beaker, or brightening up the gilding. Usually I just rinse out the cup a bit with warm water and ammonia. I don't THINK this hurts the gilding, at least I haven't notice any wear. But I would say the odd coating does continue to build up, and eventually perhaps once every several months of so, I use a little silver polish to brighten up the gilding and remove the deposit. I should add, that when I finish a drink I always rinse out the beaker with water. I know a museum curator would have a heart attack, but I don't care, I like to use silver I own. I could comment on what some museums have done to silver is far worse. Finally when I go to bed at night I don't drink out of a gilded beaker. I keep all silver French beaker with water in it, as I understand that silver has a biocidal quality. So while I don't recommend this to the owner, if I owned the beaker, even if I were planning on selling it, I would give it a light polishing, especially on the highlights, being sure to leave any oxidation in crevices. Am I wrong?

A reply from Zolotnik
Re: German? Marks please help ID please.
Unread postby Zolotnik » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:04 pm

Hi Francais -

maybe I can solve your problem with the gilded interior of beakers, spoon bowls, snuffboxes, ciarette cases etc. - in short every gilded surface. To polish it with some silverpolish is dangerous because you polish the gold away sooner or later. Over the last 20 years I found a very useful solution - tile cleaner. Tile cleaner (used to clean glass doors from shower cabins or tiles of lime residues) contains a mild fruitacid which makes your gold shine without harm (gold is acid proof - we all know that). The result is facinating - and being a spray or liquid it reaches every hidden corner - with some cotton or a soft toothbrush you have the best results.


Myself I try to use my silver. At the best I can, but mostly its difficult. Use a beaker for pensils. And have used others for drinking from. Most is however not in use. I also like to know that I have museums pieces - my oldest, a beaker from 1696, I can take it, use it as I please. And thats the fun of collecting (also fun, research is the best)
I also try my beakers - used one for coffee. A piece from the 1730ties. I have a large 200 years old beaker, that I use for beer.
Regarding the subjest of cleaning - I look forward to learn more.


Re: Cleaning guilded silver

Postby Francais » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:36 pm

I tried lemon juice, and it works pretty well, at least when combined with a cotton swab. I may still try a natural tile cleaner, or leave the lemon juice on a little longer.
Thanks for the advice.

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Location: Helsinki Finland

Re: Cleaning guilded silver

Postby Juke » Fri Aug 14, 2015 5:37 am


I heard of a great method to clean guilded silver and it is chalk powder. You mix the powder with water and spread the mix on the guilded parts with a soft sponge, let it rest for a minute then rinse it of with water. Then you just dry with a cotton cloth. It is important that the chalk is powder so buy it from store as powder and don't try to grind the powder yourself.

This works excellently for me, you can clean the plain silver with this method as well. I would always avoid using any liquids with acid as it might harm the silver item. Chalk is excellent as it is a very neutral.




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Joined: Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:47 am

Re: Cleaning guilded silver

Postby AG2012 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:00 am

Whatever gilding method was used (mercury in old silver or electro-gilding) there is actually very thin pure gold deposit on silver.
What do you do if you collect gold coins ? Wash them with soap and warm water, rinse and then soft cloth.
The same with gilded silver. Where gilding is lost, silver patina will emerge, but if washed regularly patina will be kept under control.
Remember gold coins, no chemicals and no abrasives.

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