Shimmering shining silver
Okay, it's very possible that I love silver a bit more than what's 'normal'. But I'm willing to bet that whether you’re a silver person or a gold person - or you don't wear jewellery at all - there are still some facts about this shiny white metal that will make you go ‘oooh’!
For instance, did you know that a single ounce of silver, about 28 grams, can be drawn into wire that is 2.438 km long (or 8,000 feet)?? That's a decent run... (ha - well it is for me!)
Silver is the backbone of Luminous Design Store and it’s literally all around us every day. I reckon there are bits of it lurking around you at this very moment... (where's your smart phone?)
But how much does the average person know about it?
To the pictures!
This is a beautiful rounded nugget of the precious metal in its natural state:
And this crazy cool bundle of wire filaments is also naturally occurring silver:
And this is yet another specimen of silver - this time a man-made version :)
Silver is really beautiful but not just a pretty face - she has talents!
As well as being the second most ductile (stretchable) element - behind only gold, fittingly enough - silver is highly malleable. If you had arms like Thor and maybe some frustration to vent, you could hammer a tiny grain of silver (ie 65 microgram) into a sheet that is thinner than printer paper by 150 times over. That’s kind of hard to imagine, really. Then again, if you’ve ever used silver or gold leaf you’ll have some idea - even the slightest movement of air can ruin everything :S
For reflectivity, silver takes the gold medal - it is the most reflective element in the periodic table. When highly polished, it reflects 95% of the visible light spectrum (apparently it sucks with UV but hey, noone's perfect). Also, silver and electricity get along reeeeeeally well - so well that it’s conductivity is the basis by which every other element is measured. Hmm, maybe no jewellery making during intense storms?! ;)
With talents such as these as well as its stunning beauty, it’s not surprising silver turns up literally everywhere around us. Some applications are obvious and visible - jewellery, tableware, mint coins. Others perhaps less so - mirrors because of its reflectivity, also microscopes, photo-voltaic cells for the same reason. Even less obviously, silver has myriad applications in electronics, jet engines; dentistry; and you know those little wires on the back window of your car that defrost the panel? Silver. Who knew? I love those little guys on frosty Canberran mornings!
But wait, there’s more. Silver has medicinal applications. It's used to kills bugs! As with almost anything in the health industry there are mixed reports but people without medical degrees have been successfully using silver for hundreds of years to kill viruses, bacteria, and aid cell regeneration.
Before refrigeration, when coins still contained significant amounts of precious metals, people used to plonk silver coins in their milk to keep it fresh as long as possible. Its antimicrobial properties mean its commonly used these days in water filtration systems and air conditioning units to ward off horrible things like the bacteria that cause Legionnaire's Disease. It is said to kill bacteria without causing them to mutate - meaning with careful use it could be better than antibiotics for long term treatment of infections. Now that is cool.
And obviously… to my total delight and hopefully yours too, silver gets turned into utterly gorgeous jewellery (if I do say so myself!):
Are there any downsides? Well yes there is one thing about silver that is a bit of a pain in the butt, until you know how to conquer it. Tarnish! The metal reacts to sulphur compounds in the air and on our skin, and forms a dark oxide coating. It can be quite hard to get off intricate silver or large pieces. Even cleaning small bits of silver can be annoying; it takes time, effort and leaves black smudge on your fingers.
However, it doesn't have to be a chore, in fact I now find cleaning silver fun - for reals. Yes, I do need to get out more, but that does not diminish my point! Alright, maybe satisfying is the word I need. Anyway, I discovered the panacea some years ago, a primary school chemical reaction, so let me step you through it :)
First, grab your oldest dirrrrrrtiest silver that has been languishing in the back of some draw for who knows how long. Get yourself a pot, some metal tongs, a piece of aluminium foil, some boiling kettle water (doesn't have to be boiling but, if it is, there's less waiting around) and a tablespoon or two of bicarbonate of soda / baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
Fold the foil up and place it in the bottom of the pot - I like to lay my jewellery on this but as long as its all in the pot together this method will work. Cover the foil in hot water, and plop your dirty silver in. Turn the heat on and bring it up to a simmer...
Then add your bicarb soda - at least a tablespoon or more, it doesn't hurt - and its going to fizz right up for a bit, so be ready for that!
If its reeeeeeally tarnished you should let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Then, to be extra thorough, you can turn the heat off and let it rest for a while longer. You'll see the tarnish transfer from your jewellery onto the aluminium foil, and the water will get all scummy.
Tip out most of the hot water into the sink, run cold water in until the pot and your jewellery is well rinsed and cold, then you can fish it out with your fingers. Wipe it dry with some paper towel. Your pieces will have gone from this:
Much better, right?!
If your silver is scratched, you can use a polishing cloth to get it super smooth and shiny again, but this technique banishes most if not all of the grey tarnish, easy peasy.
Now people say they don't recommend using this technique on anything that contains stones so let's stick with that for now, but I'm going to get my Myth Busters on, test that out, and get back to you about it.
All plain silver items made by Luminous Design come with instructions for this little experiment, and if you ever need a reminder on how to just pop back here.
Join me on Instagram to go behind the scenes at Luminous: http://bit.ly/letsbeinstamates
So, who knew silver was quite that awesome!? I hope you enjoyed the read and learnt a thing or two; I learnt some things writing it! I’m going to conduct some experiments on boiling silver that features gemstones and keeping milk fresher… and in the next post I'm going to show you exactly how I turn metal clay into jewellery. Until then my lovelies, stay shiny ;)