5 tips to protect your precious metals and keep them precious

July 29, 2015

Have some iron, bronze, silver and other precious metals among your collections? If you do, you're no doubt interested in preserving their appearances, quality and value. Here's how to protect your precious metals, and keep them precious.

5 tips to protect your precious metals and keep them precious

1. Keep your mitts off the metal

  • Most metal artifacts should not be handled with bare hands.
  • Salts and oils from your skin may etch into polished and uncoated metals and can even cause permanent damage.
  • It's best to wear cotton gloves when handling any precious metal object or to grasp the object with a clean cloth.
  • Lift objects from their centre of gravity, and avoid lifting objects by limbs, handles, spouts, or other extended areas; metal joints can develop undetected weaknesses over time and may break off if stressed.

2. Say “no” to latex

  • If you're looking for a common cause of tarnish around your home, look no further than the latex gloves you normally wear while washing your silverware.
  • Latex, which is also found in rubber bands and other elastics, contains enough sulphur to cause silver to tarnish.
  • Remove all elastics from your silverware, and pick up a pair of nitrile gloves at your local drugstore or pharmaceutical-supply outlet instead — most stores that carry latex gloves offer this option for those with latex allergies.

3. Wrap up silver to fight tarnish

  • Keep tarnish at bay by wrapping silver jewellery, eating utensils, coins, or artifacts in silver tarnish-inhibiting cloths, also known as Pacific Cloths or treated-silver cloth (sold at higher-end fabric stores).
  • After wrapping, place your silver items in clear polyester (Mylar) or polyethylene bags. Silver kept wrapped and stored in this fashion requires a minimal amount of polishing and can be taken out and enjoyed as often as you like.

4. Protect the patina

  • The light green to dark brown patinas often seen on bronze arms and armour can be intentionally added with chemicals or can occur naturally over time.
  • Although it's tempting to clean off the discolouration to "restore" the object, it's usually best left alone.
  • You could wind up drastically altering the condition of the item — and significantly impacting its historical and monetary value.

5. Wax your irons

  • The best protective coating for your historical iron pieces is wax. It's easy to apply and can be often renewed without causing any harm to metal.
  • Many museums use microcrystalline waxes (the wax of choice is Renaissance Wax), which will not yellow over time like many other types of wax.
  • Apply the wax to your iron pieces with a clean cloth, and buff it out with a rag or bristle shoe brush.
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