There is a lot to be said for teaching, not least of which is that I learn as much from my students as they do from me. During one class I was showing a design for a new class that calls for un-foiled crystal Chaton. Once the design was completed, I soon discovered that, while we can buy foiled crystals, un-foiled ones in a variety of colours are much harder to find. Class discussion led to a recipe that is tried and tested, and the discovery of many blog posts on the topic.
Why? I have bags of vintage crystals foraged from dealers in all things old, I love them, but the foiling is often scratched and damaged. How lovely then, to be able to bring them back to life. Also, because I’m loving my new light and airy bezels and the play of light they allow on un-foiled stones and can’t wait to teach the new designs.
The ingredients are simple and readily available: Vinegar and salt. Coarse Sea Salt or Rock Salt works the best, because the texture helps to loosen the foil when you get to the swishing part of the process. Some recommend Apple Cider Vinegar, others Malt vinegar, honestly I used White Malt Vinegar as the cheapest (and least smelly) available, and it works just fine.
What many of the posts don’t get into is some basic home safety. Most Foiling uses fine layers of Silver, Copper and Brass, but who can be sure what alloys were used with really old crystals. Please wear rubber gloves and work over newspaper that can be folded up to capture all the metal flakes, then discarded.
Cautionary tale: this process works for regular crystals, but any with a secondary coating will loose that too. Most coatings (Aurora Borealis, Iridescent, Shimmer etc) are created by passing the crystals through a metal vapour or PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition), to leave a light coating of the metal. As such this too will be removed by the process.
How: Take a small glass bowl, fill the bottom with the salt. Put in the crystals, then pour in the vinegar until the crystals are covered. Cover the bowl with film, then wait. Patience is required, 24-48 hours worth. Next, swish the solution to move everything about and help the salt to loosen the metal.
Wipe the foil off with a dry cloth or paper kitchen towel. Some foils slide off most satisfyingly. Others may only partially come off, so just put them back in the solution for a further swish and 24 hours.
Went all the foil is off, wash the crystals in warm soapy water and polish them dry.
I confess that this is a new and addictive side hobby and deeply satisfying.