Lately, instead of buying brand-new sterling silver clasps, findings, and beads, I've been turning to a few new sources. First, I've been practicing my wire working skills to make my own earring findings and clasps using my favorite sterling silver wire and beads. Second, I haunt my local thrift shops, junk shops, and antique shops. There are treasures there, and a lot of them are sterling silver! And of course, I go back and recycle findings and clasps from older projects or projects that I never finished (gasp!).
The only downside to using recycled or upcycled sterling silver is that sometimes it's in less-than-perfect condition. When I get a beautiful piece of sterling that looks like it could use a little loving, I'll clean and polish it up. Jean Campbell wrote a wonderful blog about this very topic a couple of years ago, and here's the method that she tried for cleaning tarnished sterling silver:
One word of caution: I wouldn't use the boiling hot water method with any handmade glass beads. If the beads aren't properly annealed, there's always a chance that the boiling hot water can cause thermal shock and your lovely handmade beads will crack.
But if you want an alternative method for polishing silver, try using your favorite tartar control toothpaste with a small toothbrush. I've found that a toddler-sized toothbrush works perfectly. You can also make a weak solution of vinegar and salt using two cups of vinegar and a teaspoon or two of salt.
Do you have a favorite homemade solution for cleaning tarnished silver? Share it here! (Who knows? We might all be making more of our own findings and hitting the thrift stores more often for our jewelry-making needs!)
P.S. If you haven't had a chance yet to vote in the 2011 Bead Star competition, now is the time! Voting ends on May 17, 2011 so cast your votes now! This is the first year that Bead Star has included bead-stitched pieces in the Seed Beads category, so take a look and vote for your favorite entries!