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topic 30700

Antique dealer asks how to remove lacquer from silver

A discussion started in 2004 but continuing through 2020


Q. I am an antique dealer and buy old silver pieces. I don't mind the elbow grease to clean some of the black pieces. The thing that really gets me is when they have been lacquered and the piece looked polished and has black spots where the lacquer has worn off. How do you remove this lacquer without damage to the silver underneath?

Kurtis L. Kivi
antique dealer - Iron Belt, Wisconsin, USA


A. You can use fruit stone blasting or plastic media blasting or you can use chemicals such as acetone, MEK / methyl ethyl ketone, or paint removers.

Good luck

Cair Shishani
Khair Shishani
aircraft maintenance - Al Ain, UAE


A. You can use any solvent based paint stripper! Sometimes you can use 4 parts acetone /1 part ammonia (25%) mixture! Boiling in washing soda solution also can help (200 gm soda/1 lit water). Rinse well.

affil. link

Good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia

May 18, 2011

A. Acetone works real well =>

... (not Nail Polish Remover). Rinse with soapy water. Polish with your silver polish. Can be used on Plate as well as Sterling. Works fast, super easy.

William G. Stevens
- San Francisco, California, USA

September 15, 2017

A. lacquer thinner [affil. link to product info on Amazon] will take it off in seconds

Robert H Roberts
- marietta Georgia

October 17, 2012

Q. I took silver candlesticks to a shop to remove the lacquer. It was quite expensive, but the man said my candlesticks were sterling, not plate as I thought.
Can I get rid of the dark spots and really strip and then polish them? They are very old and beautiful.

Thank you

Esther Teller
- Potomac , Maryland usa

October 18, 2012

A. Hi Esther. I'm confused ...

You took these candlesticks to a shop and, after you spent a lot of money on the restoration, he gave them back to you with the lacquer supposedly stripped, but they still need further stripping, they have dark spots, and need polishing? What kind of "stripping" would silver need if the lacquer has already been stripped?

Or do you mean "It would have been quite expensive", so you didn't have it done, rather than "It was quite expensive"? Not nit-picking about your grammar, just trying to understand where you presently stand on this. Thanks.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

October 10, 2015

Q. I inherited a silver tea urn that belonged to my great grandparents brought out of Russia when they escaped like many Jews. My Aunt had some kind of finish put on it which makes it look more like stainless steel (not quite) it is much darker than silver and does not tarnish. I am so curious to know what it should really look like. Would appreciate any input. Thank you so much.

Shirley Good
owner - Dallas, Texas USA

October 2015

A. Hi Shirley. I think you already know what silver should usually look like, because you've described how this item looks darker than it should. But whether this particular urn once looked different than silver usually looks, due to some treatment by the manufacturer, is impossible to say.

Your aunt may have had it rhodium plated, or lacquered, or clear coated, but there are so many possibilities and countless millions of different pieces of silver holloware. She may have even painted it to disguise its value. My personal guess, though, is that it's rhodium plated ... is it the color of a shiny new "white gold" ring?


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

October 11, 2015

Q. Thanks for your prompt reply I really appreciate it. So now is there some way I can do a test area to try and remove the finish? What product would I use? I am just so eager to figure out how to get the silver back to life again. Many thanks.

shirley good [returning]
- dallas, texas usa

July 2020

affil. link
Polishing Sticks

A. Hi Shirley. I understand your question but even still, your question remains: "What chemical will remove an unknown plating or coating from something, without damaging it, which, I think, but am not sure, is silver?" How do you know it's not pewter?

Nobody can suggest such a chemical. But what you could try yourself, or have a local jeweler try, is removing the coating with polishing/sanding sticks (sort of like emery boards, but your jeweler will have them). If you get down to silver, at least you'll know that much as a launching point.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

How to remove blackening paint from sterling silver?

May 3, 2016

Q. Hi,

Any suggestions for removing blackening paint on sections of sterling silver earrings would be appreciated. I'm assuming the dark areas are paint because it's not oxidation/antiquing. The black finish isn't thick, the sterling beneath shows through in spots.

Thank you,

Gerri Glass
Hobbyist - Radford, Virginia USA

May 2016

A. Hi Gerri. The Acetone previously suggested may work. If not, a paint stripper with methylene chloride (aircraft stripper) =>
almost surely will; but as a minimum you need goggles [affil. link to product info on Amazon], Protective Gloves [affil. link to product info on Amazon], and good (outdoor) ventilation. It's really noxious stuff.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

May 3, 2016

thumbs up signThank you, Ted. Appreciate your help.

Gerri Glass [returning]
- Radford, Virginia USA

October 4, 2017

Q. I have several silver and silver plated lamps and cannot find the correct solvent to remove the lacquer. Does anyone recommend a specific brand of commercial acetone or lacquer thinner for removing lacquer from silver and silver plate?

moffat welsh
- Philadelphia Pennsylvania US

October 2017

A. Hi Moffat. My guess is that it is not lacquer if acetone does not remove it. Aircraft Stripper will almost surely remove it, but that is toxic, noxious stuff which you only want to use under a lab hood or outside, and while wearing personnel protective equipment.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

April 9, 2018


- Brooklyn, New York USA

April 2018

A. Hi Tova. Acetone won't hurt silver. Sometimes you can tell something has been lacquered because you see patchiness or peeling in the clear coating from multiple layers of lacquer. Sometimes you can tell it is isn't lacquered because it's black. Sometimes you can tell it's been lacquered or protected in some way because it doesn't tarnish. Possibly you can tell that's it's non-conductive (and therefore lacquered) with an ohmmeter; or that it's conductive (and therefore not lacquered). But usually, if it readily tarnishes it's not lacquered; and if it doesn't readily tarnish it is.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

April 10, 2019

Q. I have 12 silver plated chargers that have been lacquered. They came from India, consequently, they have been silvered over BRASS. I did remove the lacquer (a la your instructions) because they had tarnished badly over the years. However, some brass has started to show through.
What luck have you had with silver plating. There are silver sprays out there as well as silver dips. What about electroplating? For 10 chargers that might be quite expensive. I hate to throw them out. What say you? Patricia

patricia LaPlante
- Danbury, Connecticut

April 2019

affil. link
Electroless Liquid Silver Plating Solution

A. Hi Patricia. You can try the silver wipe-on stuff on one of them and see what you think. Amazon reviews range from 1 star to 5 stars.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

April 25, 2019

Q. Hello my name is Janet I recently purchased a cruet set at an online auction and I have discovered that someone has actually PAINTED over the silver plate with silver colored paint! It is marked Middletown Plate Co (as best I can make out) with what looks like the scales of justice hallmark. HOW CAN I REMOVE THIS PAINT? Sorry 'bout the caps I am just frustrated and confused as to why some one would do this.

Janet Ammons
collector - Rocky Point, North Carolina, USA

April 2019

A. Hi Janet. It's really anybody's guess why some unknown person at an unknown time would put silver paint on silver plate. However, it could certainly be that the silver plating was worn away and the underlying copper or other base material will show through when you remove the paint.

Aircraft stripper (methylene chloride) is one of the most noxious things you can work with, requiring as a minimum goggles [affil. link to product info on Amazon], Protective Gloves [affil. link to product info on Amazon], and working outside from the upwind side. But its strong suit is that it will remove virtually any paint without damaging virtually any metal.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

Haven't been able to remove lacquer from mirror

July 23, 2020

Hi. I have the same issue. I have a silver mirror that has been lacquered. I've tried acetone but only the soft part has come off. The mirror has a pattern and it's difficult to take the lacquer off them. I've got white spirit at home, would I be able to use that instead of paint remover? Many thanks.

Sarah smith
- London, England

July 2020

A. Hi Sarah. You can certainly try it, but I think it's quite unlikely to be of any help. Multi-Strip [affil. link to product info on Amazon] might work, or you can contact Angel Gilding [a supporting advertiser] for both advice and everything imaginable in the way of supplies for mirror making and repairing.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

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