Knowing how to remove silver plating from items like jewelry or other object is useful if you want to remove old, weathered silver as a first step in order to plate the item with new silver. You can also use it to reclaim valuable silver from items you decide to throw away.
Both the application and removal of silver coatings on other metal objects – typically copper – are hazardous processes that involve toxic chemicals and acids. These chemicals are caustic to skin and eyes and toxic if inhaled. So before attempting this process yourself, you must ensure that you have eye protection, no exposed skin and that you can fully and immediately vent the fumes to the outside air.
Wear appropriate safety items. Full goggles to protect your eyes from splashes are a must. Wear an old raincoat or other impervious material to protect your arms, dishwasher or other impervious gloves on your hands, and a plastic apron to protect the rest of your body from splashes.
Mix a solution of 3 parts sulfuric acid and 1 part nitric acid in a porcelain or stoneware container.
Place the container in a larger pot filled with water; this is a water bath. Heat the water in the water bath with a burner until the acids in the container reach a temperature of about 176 degrees F.
Tie a copper wire around the object you want to remove the silver plating from. Suspend the object by the wire in the acid solution.
Remove the goods to be de-silvered after a few seconds. Rinse thoroughly in water of any temperature, then roll in sawdust to dry.
How to Remove Silver Plating from Copper Objects
One way to remove silver plating from copper objects is to use nitric acid, which when mixed with the right metal alloys can release nitrogen dioxide, which can be deadly. Therefore, only experienced chemists should attempt to remove metal coatings with chemicals. However, if you need to remove the silver plating from your copper items, you can do so using a slightly more labor-intensive method.
- Step 1. Put on a pair of work gloves and wear a long-sleeve shirt to protect yourself from the silver dust. In addition, protect your lungs with a face mask and wear eye protection.
- Step 2. Place a 600-grit sanding pad onto your orbital sander and then place the sander on a medium speed setting.
- Step 3. Place the edge of the sanding pad against the surface of your silver-plated copper and then rotate the sander in a circular motion. As the sanding pad sands the silver off, the object will start to turn brown in color. This is the copper showing through.
- Step 4. Move the sander across the surface of the object until it is a uniform brown color.