Large black onyx and sterling silver stacking ring. Ring and photo by Emily Wiser.After taking classes at Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco this summer, I've learned a bunch of ways to pickle jewelry. Pickling is simply cleaning jewelry with acid after you've soldered it. In the old, old days, silversmiths used hot white vinegar. Now, we often use sulphuric acid or Sparex. I used to use sulphuric acid. Then, one day, while I had my pickle pot open, and hot, steaming, sulphuric acid fumes were wafting out, a fly flew through this cloud and just dropped dead right out of the air! "Hmmm," I thought. "Maybe this isn't so good for me, either!"
I've been looking around for healthier and environmentally friendly pickle alternatives. So have my teachers and fellow students at school. Here's the alternatives:
1. Citric Acid. That's right--the kind that comes from citrus fruits. It's available in a powder form from Otto Frei.
2. Hot White Vinegar & Sea Salt. This is what I use. Keep it piping hot in a crockpot. It smells terrible, but works great! Just imagine salt and vinegar potato chips and you won't mind the smell at all.
3. Just Hot White Vinegar. This is what one of my teachers uses. She just adds some water to the crockpot when it gets low.
4. Lime Juice. One of the students I met at Revere uses this. She says hot lime juice works fine.
5. Kool-Aid. This is the best one, yet. I know that you can dye wool with Kool-Aid. It turns out you can pickle jewelry with it, too! It kind of makes me afraid to actually drink Kool-Aid. Just mix the Kool-Aid with water (don't add sugar). You'll have to refresh your pickle often. Thanks to Shirley at Etsy for this one.