How to Anneal Sterling Silver


If you have done much silver work, then work hardening the silver is something you are probably familiar with. Work hardening is when you have beat, bent, stretched, folded, etc the silver so much that it has lost its flexibility or workability. One example I will give here is I have a piece of shanking material that is too thick, I could solder it as is, but then I would spend a lot of time filing and grinding the metal to size, so in this instance, I roll the piece through my rolling mill to thin the metal to the size I want.

Rolling 1

Great! Now I have the shank to the size I want, but for some reason it is very stiff and hard to work. What I have just done is “Work Hardened the metal. Here is a quick science lesson….. What has happened to the metal is the molecules in the silver, which used to be uniform (and happy), have now been flattened and deformed (and stressed). What must be done now is a process called annealing. Annealing is heat treating the metal and rearranging the molecules in a way that makes them less stressed and happy again. (ok, so I am not real scientific).

Here is quick illustration of what I am describing.

Happy Molecules:


Stressed Molecules:


Happy Once Again:


So here is a quick way to anneal your stressed metal

Use a nice “bushy” flame. (Smith Mini Torch)

Bushy Flame1

You will want to turn off your bench light so you can see the metal change colors better. Apply your nice bushy flame to the silver and watch it. Do not get it too hot too fast. Move your flame back and forth and watch the metal for changing color. You want to try to get the silver to change to a very dull pink color. Try to keep that color for 30 seconds or so by moving the heat away and brushing the flame over again. DO NOT get the silver to a glowing red color. If you do this, quench the silver in water and start the process over again.

Heat 1Heat 2

Now quench your silver in your pickling solution.

Pickle 1

Leave it in your pickling solution (I use Sparex) for a few minutes, remove with Copper Tongs (or plastic tongs). Never use steel tools to remove metal from pickle, it will destroy the solution and you will notice your silver will start to turn pink….. the solution will start to react with the copper alloy in the sterling, turning your silver pink. If this starts to happen, change your pickling solution.

Copper Tongs 1

After a few minutes, remove the silver from the solution, and dip in a mixture of water and baking soda( available at your local grocery store. (approx 1 oz. (shot glass) to 2 cups of water)

Soda Water

The baking soda will neutralize the acid from the pickle and keep from getting on your hand, tools, bench, etc. Always use baking soda/water after your pickle. After that, then dip in clean water.

Finished Happy

Now you have happy silver again.

Now, have a “Happy” Day and go make some “Happy Jewelry”!


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8 Responses to How to Anneal Sterling Silver

  1. linda laird April 28, 2016 at 9:11 am #

    Thank you for the pic of the bushy flame and the formula for the neutralizing solution.

    • Doug Napier April 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

      You are welcome.

  2. Debbie April 28, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    Hi Doug, why do you need to start over if it gets too red? Thanks!

    • Doug Napier April 29, 2016 at 6:14 am #

      Debbie, metal heated to a glowing red color, though now soft, will be more apt to produce an orange peel surface when bent, due to the resulting large crystal size.

  3. Johnna in Denmark April 29, 2016 at 4:21 am #

    Yep, it’s always a good idea to neutralize the acid – untill now we have only used tap water. We have relatively hard water with a lot of chalk/calcium which is a pain in the bathroom but a (more or less) effective neutralizer of acid.
    I’m sure, however, that using a neutralizing solution before the tap water will be a more controlable and secure process – so next time I’ll try out with a little washing soda (as it’s much cheaper here in Denmark than baking soda).

  4. Eva Rodriguez April 29, 2016 at 5:21 am #

    Thank you

  5. Pennee April 29, 2016 at 6:07 am #

    why quench and start over if it gets too red- what happens?

    • Doug Napier April 29, 2016 at 6:14 am #

      Pennee, metal heated to a glowing red color, though now soft, will be more apt to produce an orange peel surface when bent, due to the resulting large crystal size.