We recently came across some nice Chantilly dinner knives that were in pretty good shape. It was obvious that some of the handles had been cleaned with a chemical dip. In the picture below, the knife on the right is an example. There was one knife in the group that had not been dipped - it's shown on the left. We have not tried to clean them or polish them in any way so far.
Look how "lifeless" and plain the knife on the right looks. The dip has removed all traces of patina and French gray from the knife on the right that the knife on the left still exhibits. And, we still have to polish the knife on the right because the dip leaves a residue on the surface! We'll polish both of these and when we're done, the one on the left will be have much more character than the one on the right. We won't attempt to remove the French gray deep within the pattern of the knife on the left.
Here's an example of another problem - it looks like the person who dipped these knife handles got some of the chemical on the blades. Look at the permanent shadows now embedded in the blade of the knife in the picture below. Beautiful knives were damaged when this could have been avoided.
We cannot tell a lie - we do use chemical dip now and then but not over an entire piece. The most common area is between fork tines where it's hard to polish. We use a Q-tip with the chemical dip to clean between the tines. And, very rarely, we need to remove some excess tarnish from deep within the pattern somewhere. We use a toothpick with a tiny drop of the dip on the tip of the toothpick!
So, please don't immerse your nice sterling in a dip. Let it build up a nice patina over the years.
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