Antique Silver, Identifying and Cleaning.

Bling, Bling, how I love it. I am the child of my mother. Mom collected beautiful things from “junk” stores, antique shops and garage sales. Many of our fun times happened when we spotted a  garage sale sign and stopped. Back in the day, rhinestones were out of vogue. But for us, they were still the shiny object that required our collection. The two of us, especially Mom, collected for over 50 years. Wow, it’s true. I can remember hitting the garage and estate sales with Mom when I was very little.

Sooo, now I have an inventory of bling, cranberry glass, pink (Moms’ favorite color), porcelain, silver beads, evening purses, dolls and clothes and buttons and beads. I cannot keep it all.  Mom is gone. Not only have I lost the best mother but I also lost my expert. The person who knew how to identify glassware and jewelry and knew which pieces would be valuable to the rest of the world. She also knew how to clean most of this “stuff.”

I have been to the library and talked to my shop owner friends and looked on-line, of course. It has been extremely helpful to have resources readily available.  And, wouldn’t you know it, Mom is still helping.  Many times she slipped the date and the price into a purse or left a tag on a plate. A starting point for me. Pricing is challenging.  I am working on this and will let you know if I find really reliable methods.  If you are good at this, write to me  and let me know what you do.


I have many vintage purses; several are  silver. But are they sterling? I researched various identification tests. I found two interesting home tests. One involves dabbing the silver item with yellow mustard. The sulfur in the mustard is supposed to tarnish the silver piece. The other home test was to light one match. Hold the match under the piece. The sulfur from the burst of flame is supposed to leave a black mark on the silver.  Tarnish? I tried this with on a very old silver mesh purse.  My goodness, it worked! I got a large black, (tarnish?) mark on both sides of the silver mesh.  The instructions explained I could easily remove the black mark using vinegar.  The test would not damage the silver piece. Or so “they” wrote.  Sure! After soaking in vinegar, no luck. I then put the item in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaning tool I have. I used the solution designed to clean rhinestones and silver jewelry. The purse looked better a little less dark with age. Some of the silver even looked silver. Great, but the black marks were still there. I took silver polish and used a soft cloth to work the polish into the mesh.  finally, the marks began to disappear. Whew, don’t use this test!

The purse, which was packed away since 1983 when Mom bought it, is less black.  And I do believe it is silver. However, it is still tarnished.  (Picture at the end of this post.)

After my adventure in silver identification and cleaning, I was spending my usual evening, in front of the television, while my 90-year-old father-in-law watched Wheel of Fortune.  As usual, I had my laptop and was perusing the Internet and on-line vintage stores. I saw a silver mesh purse. It was a really beautiful one, similar to an Art deco mesh purse I have. It was shiny and new looking. ( I know, I know – some people do not want to eliminate the patina.) I wondered, “How did she do that?”   So I sent the owner a message. She answered. Thank you, Michelle.  Michelle told me she was unable to  get the vintage purse clean and shiny. Michelle sent her mesh purse to a local jeweler. The jeweler  cleaned the purse.  Well, what do you know? Now, I have new information and perhaps a new resource. I will be calling my local jeweler.


And, after my home identication disaster, I found kits designed to test items for silver content. The kit also includes solution to use to test for gold content. I ordered one.  BUT, before I use this test, I am going to talk to my friend, the local jeweler.  Kind of like, ask twice, test once. Hmm, does that work? It was supposed to mirror measure twice, cut once. Well, maybe. I think it works. You know what I mean. 

What an adventure. Learning about all of the bling I have loved, what fun to learn about my treasures.  More , much more to come! Bernie

About kalanikaichat

My husband Bruce Gainer and I are owners of 209 and S106 at Kalanikai. We hope to chat with other owners and residents to learn more about our complex and our association. We hope Kalanikaichat enhances communication. Who knows we may make some new friends..
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1 Response to Antique Silver, Identifying and Cleaning.

  1. i very interesting about jewellery..thanks for information ..great blog!

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