HELP: Acid Earring Problem

Hi OzBargainers,

I need your help.

About 5 years back my boyfriend bought me a pair of earrings from Thomas Sabo for Christmas. I loved these earrings and wore them everyday. Because I loved them so much I paid a lot of attention to them. One day I noticed one earring was more cloudy than the other so I used a toothbrush to clean it. The next day I noticed it still wasn't equal in sparkle so I tried cleaning it with a toothbrush again. Repeat for a few weeks.

The back of the earrings is something that looks sort of like a cage so I though maybe that was stopping my toothbrush bristles from scrubbing the right spot. Then I had an ingenious (downright stupid) idea: I could use the same salicylic acid solution that I use for cleaning my retainers (others use it for cleaning dentures) to help me clean those hard to reach spots on my earring.

So I put my earring in acid and after 10 minutes I pulled it out and the metal looked black (not silver) and was soft so the hook part didn't hold it's shape. I've sort of (not really) bent it back into shape and after years of avoiding looking at it the black metal has now turned a splotchy dull grey.

I've had this problem for a long time but still don't know how to fix it. I think my stupidity and shame made me put fixing it off. Hoping the collective mind has some ideas to help me out.

Here are some pictures of my beloved earrings:

TLDR; Put earring in salicylic acid hoping to clean it. Silver metal became black and malleable. Over time black metal became splotchy grey. How can I fix it?

Edit: Thanks for all your comments. Definitely feeling the Ozbargain love even if I haven't found a solution to my problem yet :)


  • +9

    get the stones re-set by a jeweller

    • +5

      Yes - this is THE ONLY solution.

      This metal will absolutely never recover - but if the stone is OK - then you will at least have something to wear.

      Ensure they use either sterling silver or a gold (9ct or upwards).

      In future, clean carefully with the correct jewellery cleaner or just detergent and warm water.

      Never use a toothbrush.

      • OP could have washed the earrings in one of those small containers filled with water, that micro-vibrate and pass that vibration onto the earring. No clue how it's called and too lazy to check google. I hope OP knows what I mean.

        • +6

          Ultrasonic is the method you are thinking of

    • +1

      OP could get it reset/repaired overseas, if they are going there anyway. There are some countries where jewelry workers labour is much much cheaper, but they still are quite skilled.
      Note: I forget which countries are best for cheap jewellery labour. My sister in law bought ordered a very fancy ring from overseas, and due to difference is labour cost, she saved thousands.
      If OP wants a bargain jeweler, that might be the way to go.

  • To the op, toothpaste is an alkalising solution (neutralises acid) with mild abrasive qualities. Its well known as a home cleaning agent for buffing metal

    The problem is we don't know what metal your earings are made out of. I would guess stainless steel, but given the fact they've gone 'soft', I don't know. Without knowing the metal, its just a guess as to what to use. Toothpaste is a pretty safe bet though. Its mild enough that we use it on teeth, but strong enough that it will counteract the effects of the acid

      • +12

        Fluoride is an ion. It does not have a hydrogen to donate. It cannot be an acid.

        • +17

          Fluoride exist in other compounds other than hydrofluoric acid. Even if free ions were derived from an acid, it doesn't make the ions acid.

          It is basic chemistry.

        • +14


          I don't know about you, but I use SCIENCE!

        • +1

          Uh…You also get water out of acids.

        • +1

          @Warier: what makes a typical acid. Hydrogen being released.

          What makes a typical base. Hydroxide being release.

          H + OH = H2O

        • +3

          Yeah, you get other things with it too. Just like in a reaction where fluoride ions are produced.

        • +28

          @Warier: I can't tell if you're trolling or just plain ignorant, but please stop, my wife is having an aneurysm reading this (chemistry phd)

        • +7

          I can't even…

        • +11

          @Warier: " I still don't see how you are getting an alkali solution made out of acids."

          We know you don't. That is because you don't know what you are beabling on about, and more than likely have no idea exactly what the "ph" represents. However, to continue the discussion on your level, it's all measured in moles, and such cute and furry animals couldn't survive in anything so dangerous…

          Sorry to others, but idiots like Warier are (profanity) dangerous loons and the baseless and unfounded "advice" they offer can do real harm at times!

        • +1

          @Warier: You can't get there from here mate.

        • +2

          @Warier: mate just stop! you don't even realize how ignorant you are!

        • +1

          @enzioFirenze: My guess trying to follow Warier: Natural=alkaline, Evil chemicals=acid. From that over simplification all sorts of mental gymnastics are made to create an "alkaline effect" when its convenient.

        • +12


          She can use this formula H + OH = H2O to create water? Then post up the video on youtube I would love to see it…

          Here you go:

          PS: Water occurs naturally it cannot artificially created!

          Let me give you some advice. The greatest challenge faced by stupid people is that their stupidity generally precludes them from recognising their own ineptitude. This is a cognitive bias known to the field of psychology as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

          The first step to solving any problem is recognising the problem.

          Just because you read/heard something on social media doesn't make it true. Truth is confirmed after scrutiny and verification, not authority or popularity — such spawn are propaganda or rumours, not truths.

        • +1

          @tshow: You seem to know alot about chemistry. Lets go for a camping trip to the outback next weekend in my RV.
          BYO methylamine.

        • +1

          I have a shift under the laundromat that weekend. :(

        • +2


          Not sure how you make an alkali product using acid ingredients…

          … not sure you know a whole lot about chemistry…

        • +5


          LOL please stop I'm out of negs

        • +2


          I second this motion.

        • @tshow:

          indeed it is a weak base.

    • I can't find what the earrings are called (to find the type of metal) but from looking on Thomas Sabo's website it seems likely to be sterling silver. It is stamped 925 on the bottom which seems to confirm this. Given that my partner was a broke uni student at the time I suspect the gem is CZ.

      I forgot to mention that when it turned dull grey it seemed to harden up to the same stiffness as the non-affected earring

      • +1

        If its silver then this video will help

    • -1

      Sorry but toothpaste is bad for jewellery.

  • +1

    Salicylic acid is corrosive. Due to different pH and composition of acids, corrosion can occur at different rates for different materials.

    In this case, the solder that connected the earing to the shaft was probably dissolved. You can probably get it resoldered. Alternatively, you can reset any jewels if it is a high value stone.

    • +14

      Your reply is basic

  • +1

    I saw those at lovisa, dont they sell them?

    Edit: Did not see you had a different brand, but if you need new ones, have a look in Lovisa. Almost identical

    • I bought a replacement lookalike pair before but it just doesn't do the original earrings justice and I can't bring myself to wear them when the original was clearly better. I'll have a look in Lovisa though, might be closer in appearance and cheaper than resetting them!

  • +21

    Hi, I am a Scientist. Sorry about your earring, and unfortunately it can not be repaired by soaking in anything else. Acids dissolve metals. The reaction is irreversible. You earrings would have been made from a metal alloy (mix of different metals - the 925 stamp is used for silver jewellery which contains 7.5% other metals to make the jewellery stronger) and 10 mins is more than enough to dissolve different metals out of that alloy. Dipping the earrings in a basic solution will not replenish the metal. Hope you can find an identical pair soon. All the best :-)

    • -22

      It's only surface damage it hasn't dissolved the whole earrings… Cleaning or soaking them with something alkali like a lemon would be the best way to renew and clean the damaged surface without risking further damage by using other acids.

      • +29

        Your logic is akin to "oh dear I burnt my toast, the opposite of fire is water so I'll submerge it in water and my bread will be as good as new"

        Please stop

        • -13

          Acids cause problems, they don't solve problems. And funny enough, the entire pharmaceutical industry is based upon the premise that the manufacture of drugs from acids will supposedly solve people's health problems!

          Unfortunately, it is not possible for chemists to create a true problem solving solution which is alkali because what is genuinely alkali can only occur naturally!

          Let's stop though, we wouldn't want the pharmaceutical industry going bust and someone's wife out of a job…

        • +10

          @Warier: So Sodium hydroxide is a health drink, and Sugar soap is good for cocktails?

          You are the most ridiculous fool I have read this decade…

        • +5

          Huh. I suspected you were a homeopathy "genius".

          I'd refute your claim with some facts but you don't even accept the law of chemical physics, I doubt we can be objective with statistics and data.

        • +1

          @Warier: Are you an antivaxer?

        • +6

          @Warier: Big Pharma, and Big Jewellery, never has a more powerful alliance been formed

        • +1

          @Warier: Is the kool-aid you're drinking acidic or alkali?

          I assume the bullshit is alkali.

      • +5

        Quick science here. Lemon juice is acidic. Ph of about 2 or 3 compared to water (7) or battery acid (1). When digested in small quantities in combination with water 'it can have an alkalizing affect' apparently…. But in this case it would not be a great idea. Rinse in water to ensure no chemicals are left to stop further damage. Then see suggestions below.


      • +4

        something alkali like a lemon

        Lemon is not alkaline

      • +3

        something alkali like a lemon

        “The acid in lemon juice really is a cleaning miracle.”

        From your own source:

        You really shouldn’t be giving anyone advice on using chemicals. You lack a basic understanding of chemistry.

        • +7

          basic understanding

          I had to concentrate, but I saw your excellent pun.

        • +7


          I enjoyed the reaction

    • +1


    • Can't you reverse it with electroplating

  • +9
    • Take to jewelers and have them reset them - can probably show you different types to choose from
    • Take to market and find someone who makes jewellery and ask them how much to replace the mounts
    • If the metal is now strong again, can consider electroplating with silver - would do both so they match
    • In the future, take jewelry to a jeweller to have cleaned, or get an ultrasonic cleaner off eBay and use that with tap or distilled water and a drop of mild detergent.


    • Yes, a manufacturing jeweller - not just the store.

      That stone setting may need a tradesman rather than a a non-tradespersons.

      My husband is in the industry - but another trade. He purchased a pair of earrings and matching pendant for my birthday recently.

      They come from a person calling herself a jeweller and designer but she sells on fb and etsy.

      The way the stones are wrapped into the sterling silver is beautiful and definitely handmade. However, the fittings are not soldered and this will come apart very quickly.

      A good qualified jeweller should use silver (or gold) solder and prevent weakness in joints - yet the solder parts are virtually impossible to see with the naked eye.

      Ask for it.

      A non precious metal solder is useless as it is soft and will also tarnish.

    • +1 for electroplating the fittings

    • +1

      Plate with rhodium.

      • Yeah I agree you need to plate with something harder than Silver

        • Not just harder, but withstands oxidation like a champ. And shinier.

  • +1

    Most silver jewellery are plated with platinum to give them that extra shine and hardness.
    Silver by itself (esp at 925) is pretty soft. My take on it is that the platinum layer corroded off, making it soft.
    Tarnished silver gives off a sort of dirty rose gold look, which I think is what you have on hand.
    Buy a silver cleaning solution from a jeweler and soak it for the recommended amount of time, or have it reset in metal that doesn't tarnish.

    • +1

      I thought rhodium plating is the norm.

      • +1

        Well rhodium is technically in a group of "platinum" metals, so kind of correct? ;)

  • I clean my silver jewellery with baking soda. With plain jewellery you can boil water in a pot lined with aluminium foil and bicarb soda and put the jewellery in. However if it has gems then I just make a paste of bicarb and water and put it on some aluminium foil and either leave it for a day or rub it with my fingers to remove the tarnish.

  • -2

    Buy real ones not fakes next time?

    • +2

      Au contraire I'm glad I only ruined my "fake" jewellery. It's a valuable lesson I'm sure to remember

  • -2

    Get a new boyfriend.

    • Not sure how this is supposed to help?

      • +2

        New boyfriend = New earrings.

        • +1

          Make sure you make him feel like he has done something wrong. Use the old "I shouldn't have to tell you what's wrong" technique.

          Big ass diamonds.

        • +1

          😂 sounds like you're familiar with this technique. I have much to learn.

        • +2

          I am the suffering end of that technique.

          I've said too much. The order that all men belong to will surely be nofutnsnndefjxns

  • Ask your boyfriend to buy you a 24k gold diamond earring.

  • Sorry about the earrings, they are a beautiful classic style! Very similar to what I wore for my wedding.

    I think there has been a lot of good advice so far.

    I'd also second the suggestion to buy a small cheap ultrasonic cleaner off eBay - think mine cost about $30. Our family friend who has been in the diamond business 50 years told me to do this and clean wth a few drops of dishwashing detergent in water. It sparkles my jewelry up perfectly and is very gentle!

  • +1

    I have no idea how trustowrthy this website is, but you could try your luck buying a new pair here:

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