Yes silver plating can wear off. Some people will have had the experience of seeing silverware that has worn through. Others might not even realise it’s possible. Or else they don’t realise that the brassy colour showing through is the metal that was once covered by the silver plating.
Why does silver plating wear off?
Because trophy engraving is our main line of work, we see a wide range of silver trophy cups in various conditions. Some are only a few years old and the silver has worn through. We also see trophy cups that are very old and the silver hasn’t worn through at all. So we’ve done a bit of research to find out just why this happens. The silver plating can wear through on trophy cups for a number of reasons.
Firstly, don’t use toothpaste or any novel cleaning ideas
When doing research to find you the best cleaning methods we came across some shocking recommendations. For example, this blog about cleaning silver with household solutions such as ketchup or toothpaste shows just how misinformed some people can be. Tests like this don’t take into account the long term effects. They only go by the present results.
You’ve tried some novel idea and think you’ve got stunning results
You might have used toothpaste to clean your silver and not had any problem. So you’re wondering what the fuss is all about. But toothpaste can contain grit and abrasive substances that will wear the silver down over time. Each time you clean your silver using these novel methods you will be removing a small amount of the silver plating. Spare a thought for future winners. They will still want the silver plating on the trophy cup when their turn comes around.
Only use cleaning formulas that are made for the purpose
Keep the toothpaste for teeth. That’s what it was made for. The toothpaste manufacturers never intended their product to be used for cleaning silver. Therefore it has not been formulated with silver in mind. Silver cleaning products such as Goddard’s or Hagerty’s cleaners and polishes have been tested and developed over many years especially with silver in mind.
Cheap trophy cups have a fairly thin layer of silver plating
We often see trophy cups coming in to be engraved that have the silver worn through when they are only a few years old. It makes you wonder how they have deteriorated in such a short time. Even if they do have a thin layer they should last longer. We now believe those cups are the victim of cheap or novel cleaning methods such as toothpaste.
Trophy cups were made with a thicker layer of plating in early days
We’ve engraved a few cups that date back to the 1930’s that are in better condition than the ones that are only about 10 years old. In the early days trophies couldn’t be acquired so cheaply like they can today. They were made to high standards and built to last. Many of these older trophies would have come from England where only the best is acceptable.
Silver plating can be redone
If you’ve been unlucky enough to wear the silver through with harsh cleaning methods they can be replated. Professional electroplaters like Progressive Polishers and Electroplaters will replate your trophy cups with a heavy and durable thickness of 20 microns of pure silver. However, it is quite an expensive process that you’d probably only use for trophy cups of great value.
Finally, the best advice we can give you is to only use tested and proven cleaning methods. With proper care you should be able to make the silver plating last longer. Fortunately there are expert electroplaters available to restore your valued trophy cups if they’ve been the victim of misinformed cleaning methods.