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topic 52694

Yellowing patch on sterling silver?

A discussion started in 2009 but continuing through 2020

July 22, 2009

Q. What would cause a specific area on the piece to turn yellow?- not the whole piece but 1/2?
it's not full fledge tarnished and can't be polished out.
Would it have anything to do with the paper it has been placed on?
Any help or experiences would be much appreciated.

Lina Dangelo
consumer - West Warwick, Rhode Island, USA

July 27, 2009

A. Sterling Silver is actually 92% silver (in the USA) and down to as low as 80% in Europe. Neither is quite as white as 100% silver, so some sterling is overplated with a thin layer of 100% silver to make it really white. You may have polished through this whiter layer, revealing a yellowish color of the base Sterling. This is most common on European Sterling.

If so, the only remedy is replating.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

July 29, 2009

A. My bet is that the silver plate was thin and you have worn or polished the silver off and the yellow that you are seeing is the nickel underplate.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

A. Hi Lina. Either Jeffrey or James might be correct. However, this is what silverplate looks like when the plating has worn through (inside the bowl of the spoon) and the underlying "nickel-silver" (which actually contains no silver) is showing through ...

worn silverplate

If that's what it looks like, and it has a metallic taste when you put your tongue on the discolored area, I'd be concerned about whether it was really Sterling rather than silverplate. Who said it is? Is it marked sterling? Good luck with it.


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

Leaving sterling silver unpolished

March 15, 2018

Q. Hello. I have an option to buy a pair of sterling silver rings in an unfinished state to save 100 euros. I.e., finishing will cost 100 euros. My question is, what will happen to the silver if I never finish and polish the rings? They are 925/000, without doubt. Must I finish and polish? I actually do not mind the dull grey appearance.

Many thanks!

Bryan Nowak
- Lowell, Michigan USA

March 2018

A. Hi Bryan. As far as I know there is no stability problem to just leaving it be.


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

Solid silver with yellow patches

July 17, 2020

Q. I have a solid silver (has been tested) tea service that has begun to get two types of yellowing that I have never seen before. One almost looks like plating is coming off and the other looks like a lacquer is discolouring. I have never seen this happen on these items before, but until this spring, we lived in a climate with less humidity. I ordered some Hagerty Silver Foam Silver Cleaner, as the local silver auction house recommended it. Any thoughts?

52694-1b   52694-1a   52694-1c  

John Molloy
- Indianapolis, Indiana

July 2020

A. Hi John. If they are not plated then the plating cannot peel; however, there is an off chance that they are sterling silver and were silver plated at some point anyway.

And there might be a chance that you or someone in the chain misunderstood and they tested as "nickel-silver", "German silver" or similar terms describing a material which actually has no silver in it. If they're not stamped "Sterling" or "925" that would be my first guess.

But get some lacquer thinner and see what, if anything, comes off. Good luck.

Luck & Regards,

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

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