We like to do science experiments related to holidays and such. Here’s a Shabbat silver experiment using simple electroplating. This is a basic chemistry experiment we do every once and a while for Shabbat (and holiday) preparations. Usually we do it when we notice that the silver we use every week for saying Kiddush and lighting the Sabbath candles do not look as nice as they could.
Shabbat Silver Experiment
Basically the experiment uses an aluminum tin, salt and water in order to polish the silver. We use warm water and a larger tin, and rotate the items every once in a while.
Here you can see the difference on the candlestick where we rotated it and there’s a distinct line of polished versus unpolished.
Very simple to do and neat to watch. The idea is basically that the tarnish (silver sulfide) is turned back into silver through a chemical reaction. You could do a follow up electroplating experiment with batteries and coins, although its not strictly necessary.
We often supplement the electroplating with basic polishing. We use the dregs of whatever toothpaste we have on hand. However, it should be noted that silver polish actually removed silver whereas the electroplating process does not. Many years ago I was reading a silver catalog at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and read that the butlers used to polish silver just using their hands. I also remember the curator at the Israel museum polishing the menorahs along with volunteers. Today I think with the new cases it is not necessary to do this as often.