Tarnish Advice.

Q: What am I supposed to do about tarnished small spacer beads? I have several necklaces with silver plate spacers between stones or glass, strung either on silk or softflex. Is there an EASY way to safely remove the tarnish? Is there a way to prevent it from happening? I almost feel guilty now whenever I include small silver beads in a design... and that's a shame. How would you deal with liquid silver?

A: Well, that rather depends on the quantities you're talking about. I use sterling findings (spacers, beads, etc.) a lot. In many cases, sterling findings don't cost that much more than SP and add that much more value to the work. Of course, if you're making a line of inexpensive items to get people wandering into your area at a craft fair, you probably want to stick with the 'SP'. Cleaning: If it's strung on silk, I can't help. What I do to clean my silver beads, chains, whatever, is tumble it with mixed shot, dish soap, and water in a kiddy-style rock tumbler (about $17 at 'Wal-Mart'). You can get the mixed shot (you won't need more than about a quarter pound) at a lapidary shop or from a jewelry supply place, or if you know someone with a vibratory "tumbler," the pieces can be tumbled in that. When I'm done, I use a magnet to move the steel out of the way, leaving my silver on the towel on which I spread my goodies. Preventing tarnish: There's no easy way to do this. That said, what I've done with silver pieces I've made, and not yet tumbled, is to put them in a sealable plastic bag (like a 'Zip-Loc'(TM), only smaller) with a scrap of silver cloth. I found silver cloth at a fine fabric shop (not a chain store) for about $25 a yard. You only need a fraction of a yard. I put about a 2" square in with each silver bracelet. The cloth is impregnated with silver, and the theory is that it will attract the tarnishing agents, leaving your silver shiny. They normally use this cloth for lining silver chests, or making bags in which to store silver vases, tea service pieces, etc. Some of the better suppliers will send the silver beads you buy from them packed with tarnish-prevention paper. You can also buy this paper directly - look at lapidary type sources rather than bead ones. I think mine came from 'TSI' or 'Bourget Bros'. The other option is just to stick to gold - I know at least 2 wire-wrapping artists who work exclusively in gold for this very reason.