Over the last few years, I have spent so much time and money buying things at thrift stores and flea markets only to get it home and realize something was wrong or broken….it wasn’t actually tarnish, the silver plate was worn off. Or the area I thought was just dirty is actually a stain. Or what I assumed was solid brass turned out to be brass plate.
I finally got wise and put together a little make up bag I carry with me now when I am out scouting at Estate Sales, Flea Markets and Thrift Stores. Here is a peak inside my magic goodie bag:
So many times I have looked at something and assumed it was dirt and got it home to find out it was actually a stain. This comes in handy also when you are looking at artwork and need to clean off the image or glass to see if it is discolored or just dirty. You don’t need anything fancy - I usually grab a big cheap bag of rags at Harbor Freight.
2) Pencil Eraser
Did know that a pencil eraser will remove grime on silver? Erasers can be abrasive so I wouldn’t recommend using this as an actual cleaning technique but if you are looking to see if one spot is tarnish or the silver plate rubbed off, this works perfectly! Use a soft one and not one of the hard brick ones that don’t bend.
I’ve mentioned this before in this post when I talked about what I bring with me to Flea Markets, but I almost always carry a magnet with me. I lost mine recently but usually use a very heavy duty one like this.
If you get a pull on the magnet, chances are it is brass plated. Brass, itself, isn’t magnetic. So it would mean the piece is plated in brass and the element under it is actually what is magnetic.
4) Simichrome Polish
I LOVE this stuff. Like, if we have another child this is a strong contender for a middle name kinda love.
Buy it in bulk, friends.
If you carry nothing else with you, carry this and a rag in your bag. It cleans ALL metals and you can even use it to test for Bakelite. To do this, use a Q-Tip (or rag) and add a small dab of the pink polish to it and rub on a hidden place on the item you are testing. Take the clean side of the Q-Tip and rub the the polish into the item. If the Q-Tip turns yellow, you have Bakelite!
I am not hard-core enough to carry around a jeweler’s eye loupe with me, although I should. And, to be honest, a magnifying glass would probably be a smart addition to this list. But, I find my iPhone to usually be enough to handle any magnifying needs I might have. Simply take a picture of it and blow it up on the screen.
Do you have some tried and true tools you carry with you when you are on the hunt?
(I also give a full run down here on my tips for Navigating a Flea Market)