The pickling of silver while working on it is really important. The main reason to pickle silver is to clean it in order to solder it. Often people confuse clean with polished.
Polished silver is not clean silver. This may seem confusing, but let me explain. After silver has been cleaned in the pickle by acid all the oxidized material on the surface is removed. Oxidized silver looks black instead of shiny and copper oxidation looks green. Non-oxidized silver looks white in color.
When you polish silver you are actually adding a chemical, generically called rouge, which does deoxidize the silver but also actually adds more chemicals to the silver to make it look shiny. Why is this distinction important?
Clean silver from which the oxidized material has been removed is what you want when you solder. The oxidized material and any other stuff, like finger grease, will interfere with how the solder flows and reacts. I even use steel wool to remove oxidized material from the solder before I cut it and then melt it.
If you try to solder polished silver problems can often occur, which can make soldering difficult. The chemicals that make the silver shine are not neutral and some them can be toxic when burned. Not only will the chemicals mess up your solder flow and heat distribution they can also cause health problems.
The best way to keep this straight is to remember clean silver is for soldering, polished silver is for the display case.
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