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In the jewellery workshop – making your own pickle

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Anna Campbell discovers the contents of her kitchen cupboards can be useful in her workshop too.

Jewellers pickle is an acid used for getting rid of firescale on metal, particularly after soldering. Many people are wary about having it in the home, especially those of us with small children or animals. I made do without having it in my home jewellery studio for quite a while because I work in professional jewellery studios where I could easily just pickle my pieces when I was there for teaching. However, I had an urgent commission recently and found I didn’t have time to get to the studio.

So, what to do? I googled it (of course) and found that there are ways to make pickle from substances that you have in the home. And so I had a go at making it myself and found that it was very effective and had other benefits. So, this is how I went about it.

I found this blog post by jeweller Jo Hollingsworth about using vinegar and salt to make a pickle, so I had a go.

You will need
240ml of white vinegar to 1 tablespoon of salt
Microwaveable bowl
Tweezers
Jam jar

jewellery making silver

If you love fish and chips you may already have pickle ingredients in your kitchen

Making the pickle
Make up a solution of vinegar and salt in the ratio above that will cover the piece/s you want to pickle. The amount you need will obviously depend on the size of the piece or pieces. I didn’t have white vinegar at home so I used malt vinegar (I do love chips) and it worked fine. I put the solution into a microwaveable bowl and stirred the salt in for about a minute until it had mostly dissolved.

Heating the pickle
I put the bowl in the microwave on full power for two minutes. That was how long I found it needed but microwaves vary so I recommend you check your own microwave. Try for 30 seconds to a minute to start with.

Using the pickle
I found that I used it effectively when the solution was steaming. After taking the bowl carefully out of the microwave (you may need to use your oven gloves for this) I dropped the silver pieces (I have only used this with fine and sterling silver so far) into the solution and left them for 20 minutes. Remember to take the pieces out using tweezers, don’t put your hand into the hot solution.
With this method there isn’t constant heat as there is in a pickle pot so it saves on electricity because you are only heating it up while you need it.

Reheating the pickle
If you feel your pieces could do with a little more – if you can still see the firescale – take the silver out of the solution (with tweezers) and do another blast in the microwave. Do remember to take the silver out of the bowl. You can’t put metal in the microwave.

However, I found with the small pieces I have used it for such as stud earrings and cufflinks, I haven’t needed to reheat the pickle.

Finishing
When the pieces are clean of firescale run them under the tap to rinse off the acid. And voila! Done and ready for polishing.

Re-use
I pour my used pickle into a jam jar to keep it for the next time I need it. I haven’t had to dispose of it yet but I plan to dilute it in a large bucket of water before pouring it down the drain.

This is an eco friendly way of making pickle which uses inexpensive items you already have at home. It also saves on electricity compared to using a pickle pot.

Do you have a ‘ home remedy’ you can recommend to other jewellers? Please do add your advice in the comment section below.

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