60-Second Silver: Silver test found in Old Testament

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Q. Is it true about a silversmith’s reflection as told in Malachi 3:3 from the Bible’s Old Testament?

A. Yes, it is true that if a silversmith sees his/her reflection in a crucible of molten silver that it is ready to “pour.” Normally, charcoal or flux is added over the silver to absorb any oxygen away from the silver.  When the impurities have been absorbed, and the silversmith can see his/her reflection (and, providing the metal hasn’t been overheated), it’s ready to pour.

Please keep in mind that safety glasses and proper ventilation are an absolute MUST when working with molten metal.

If you’ve forgotten the entire story, here it is: “There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying Chapter Three, they came across Verse Three, which says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” This verse puzzled the women, and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

That week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that, in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot — then she thought again about the verse, that “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.” She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire, for if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”  He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s the easy part — when I see my image reflected in it.” ?

Q. Short of replating, how can I hide the copper showing on the bottom of my tray?

A. I would suggest having a flat or beveled mirror made to cover the entire tray bottom. Spray the underside of the mirror with polyurethane. Doing this will prevent any liquids spilled on the mirror from creeping underneath and deteriorating the mirror’s reflective coating.

Q. I have a set of 1847 Rogers Bros. flatware.  Is it sterling?

A. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The “1847” refers to an extensive line of plated flatware they produced. ?

Jeffrey Herman encourages anyone with silver-related questions that can’t be answered on his Web site hermansilver.com to contact him. He may be reached at 800-339-0417or jeff@hermansilver.com or at PO Box 786, West Warwick, RI 02893.

Jeffrey Herman started Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation in 1984, and has repaired and reconstructed everything from historically important tankards, tea services, and tureens to disposal-damaged flatware. Herman has worked at Gorham as a designer, sample maker, and technical illustrator and at Pilz Ltd., where he learned the fine art of restoration. Herman has a BFA degree in silversmithing and is the founder of the Society of American Silversmiths.


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