After much searching, I’ve finally found a recipe for pickle that’s non-toxic, and actually works! For those of you non-silversmiths out there, in the silversmithing world pickle is used to remove the coating from silver (and other metals, I’m sure) after they’re heated with a torch. It’s a necessary part of the process. But for obvious reasons, I’ve never really been fond of having sulfuric acid in my house.
I’ve tried other non-toxic pickle recipes, and they all seem to work veeeery slooooowly. This one, though, this one is fabulous. You take vinegar (just regular vinegar), heat it up in your pickle pot, and add table salt until the solution is saturated. That’s it! As far as I can tell, it works just as fast as the standard pickle from Rio Grande. The only problem I’ve had so far is that it’s a bit cloudy, so you kind of have to fish around for your pieces. I may have put too much salt in, though. We’ll see if it clears up with use.
Now if only I can find an organic recipe for etching acid……
UPDATE 1: I’ve tried it heated up in the pickle pot now, and it’s fantastic! It’s actually faster than the standard pickle. I can see my pieces turning white as I’m setting them down. And it’s not cloudy anymore, either. Fabulous!
A lovely silversmith named Kimberley Grasing tells me that the perfect ratio is 1 Tbsp salt for every 1 cup of vinegar. Thanks Kimberley!
This pickle works brilliantly on sterling silver, 14K white gold, and 14K rose gold, but I have to leave 14K yellow gold in for a long time before the firescale comes off. If I’m in a hurry, I end up hand-polishing my yellow gold pieces to remove the firescale.
UPDATE 2: After this pickle ate through the stainless steel exterior of my pickle pot, I started storing it in a covered glass container and heating it up in the microwave when I need it (2 minutes in my microwave, your mileage may vary). The microwave method works brilliantly, and as a bonus saves me about $10/month on my electricity bill.
Be sure to check out my posts on oxidizing jewelry with eggs and polishing silver the organic way, too!