CLEANING COINS, JEWELRY AND PRECIOUS METALS
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20 October 2008
Subjecting a metal to high pressure and high temperature, usually in the presence of a catalyst (often another metal), is the only way to "clean" metals in a manner that does not result in the loss of metal from item being treated. Electrolysis can also be used to replace oxided areas with unoxidized metal but I'd prefer the former method, myself. Neither of these methods is reasily available to average person and each comes at a cost that is usually prohibitive. Use of a cleaning solution is the most common method and the only solution that I know of is a very dilute ammonia solution. Commercial cleaning fluids use this but most also include other agents, none of which have anything to do with cleaning. Fragrance(s) and color(s) are the most common additional agents. The most common reason people want to clean something is that it is either oxidized (tarnished) or it has a buildup of environmental agents, typically soap. This was more common before the advent of the dishwasher but bathing can also cause a buildup. The most important things to remember are these: Cleaning a metal will result in the loss of metal (unless one of the two methods above are used) and cleaning a previous or semi-precious stone can result in a permanent loss of esthetics and of value. Oil is often used in stones to fill cracks (fracture lines) but other materials are also used. (Composites, for example). Some stones are even backed by a colorant; something as ordinary as colored paper can alter appearance and subjecting the paper to an ammonia solution can alter the overall appearance. If the item belongs to you and you are more concerned about its appearance while having less concern about its value, make yourself happy. If the item is not known to be diamond, I'd put it the hands of a certified gemologist. Do your homework and be wary of stones sold by large chains. It is difficult to buy and sell collector-grade stones unless you are the person doing both or you know well, who is doing the buying and selling.
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