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What would have damaged this item?

Morning everyone,

Amongst the collection I found this piece with unusual damage done to it. Would someone like to comment on how this would have taken place?

Many thanks
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Here is a possibility. That ‘orange peel’ look is often caused by using a device which is promoted as a ‘silver cleaner’ but is actually a mild form of electro-striping’. There were promoted very heavily a few years ago as a ‘magic cleaning plate’. It was actually just a sheet of aluminium. The idea was that you put your silver onto the plate and added the ‘magic crystals’ which were just ordinary washing soda crystals and the silver miraculously became clean. What was actually happening was that the soda crystals in boiling water caused an electrolytic charge to occur and a circuit was established with the spoon or whatever was being cleaned as the positive pole and the aluminium as the negative. This caused molecules to detatch themselves from the spoon and migrate through the electrolyte to the aluminium. This meant that a very thin layer of the surface, along with the sliver sulphide which caused tarnish, was being removed.

This was a commercial and rather misleading use of an old trade method of cleaning very badly tarnished silver, by using simple kitchen foil and soda crystals. It is also a mild form of the method used to prepare pieces for replating. The plating method being the reverse of this action.

Having said all that, we once carried out an experiment to prove that these devices were potentially harmful to silver and kept subjecting a sterling silver tea spoon to this process over a long period of time. The result was similar to the appearance of your spoon, a sort of orange peel effect. This was because the silver, and the copper alloyed with it, had different rates of conduction and therefore were stripped out at differing rates, leaving behind this odd looking surface.

I hope that helps,

Paul.

Paul, thank you very much for your input. Sounds logical to me. It confused the hell out of me because of the way the inside of the ‘bowl’ of the spoon was also affected. My first thought was that someone had scraped the spoon at some stage. Once I saw the bowl that idea vanished quickly. My next idea was some form of acidic solution which was able to stress the metal all over.
You’ll notice the end of the handle is not as affected as the rest of the item so can I assume that it was held or leaned against the side of some form of bowl here?