Care and Feeding
How to get the most out of your silver goods and leather belts.
Silver is one of the most reflective metals around, but it tarnishes to a black colour if not looked after. This tarnishing is mostly caused by sulphur in the air around us, especially in cities where atmospheric pollution is higher than in rural areas. Although silver can be treated to prevent tarnish, either by plating with palladium or by "activating" its surface, neither of these is a permanent fix and done by manufacturers not for the customer's benefit, but so that their stock will not tarnish before sale.
The goods Christopher sells have not been treated, and as such will need a wipe down with a silver cloth or a dip every now and then. Most good supermarkets will sell Goddard's silver cloths and silver dips which are perfect for this and also provide some protection against further tarnishing. However, it is worth noting that prolonged use of silver dips will result in your jewellery losing its lustre, developing a whitish, powdery complexion. This is easily cleared up with a bit of hard buffing from a polishing cloth.
Silver is not a very hard metal and will scratch. Some like this weathered look, but if one is keen on mirror finishes, then the scratches will need to be polished out, which means removing the metal on the face until everything is level again. For light scratches, a hard and long rub with a silver polishing cloth may do the trick, for more serious ones you will need to contact a jeweller (Christopher would be happy to help here, but it is probably not cost effective).
An alternative is to take this wear into account in the design phase. Christopher will often planish (strike repeatedly with a shallow cusped, polished hammer to leave a faceted face) items which are prone to scratching, as this takes the eye away from these imperfections. Having a "busy" face will also do this, which is why Christopher uses large hallmarks on the front of many of his cufflink designs.
Bear in mind the advice about tarnish and scratches for the silver, but one also needs to look after the leather.
Unless fed, leather will crack like dry skin, so any leather belt will need the equivalent of moisturising. This is what polish is for. Christopher recommends that you use saddle soap if you have it, as this is less likely to cause a mess, otherwise, if you want a high finish, an appropriately coloured polish, but ensure that you buff the belt well afterwards. For a more waxy finish, use a leather cream or dubbing, but leave for about an hour before using so that it has a chance to soak in. Continuing the skin metaphor, pay special attention to the parts of the belt where movement is greatest, as this is where it may crack. Should you need a replacement leather strap, either because of wear or size changes, please contact Christopher and he will give you a quote. You will then need to send him your belt so that he can swap over the buckles.
Firestain, or the grey blue discoloration sometimes found on silver
This is an oxide of copper caused by the 7.5% of sterling silver which is not silver. It develops on the surface during heating, either for soldering or for annealing (softening). Interestingly, it also occurs in steels, and Samurai sword makers regarded the cloudy discoloration as decoration added to the blade by the local earth spirits - their visible contribution to the manufacturing process.
Although Christopher does his best to remove firestaining from the visible faces of jewellery, some will usually remain. As it tarnishes preferentially, a light rub with a polishing cloth will usually remove it's emphasis, and it will disappear completely over time as the item wears with use. In the meantime, please regard this as part of the character of hand crafted jewellery.