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Get Ready to Shine — Silver Care

Five belt buckle cleaning and care tips for show-day shine.

Details Count! When you're in the show pen, you want your silver to add glow and polish to your presentation. Here are five tips for polishing your belt buckle to a gleaming shine.

DO be sure you're cleaning real silver. Check that the item is marked 'sterling' or 'sterling overlay' or similar on the back, otherwise you may be trying to clean tarnish off an alloy (mixed) metal. Most western fashion jewelry and much saddle silver falls in this category: Alpaca, Montana, and other trade-marked items contain no real silver, and should be cleaned per the maker's suggestions.

DON'T miss the nooks. All the beautiful fine engraving cuts that make quality silver shine also trap tarnish (a chemical reaction between silver and oxygen that yellows and dulls the silver). To remove tarnish and restore luster, you must get the cleaning agent into the nooks and crannies, then remove it completely, along with the tarnish that sticks to it.

DO use quality polish. Instant liquids can remove tough tarnish, but can be harsh on the silver. Whether you choose liquid, paste, aerosol, cloths, or gloves, use good polish. I prefer Haggerty's spray, applied to a scrap of foam rubber, then rubbed off with another scrap of foam. Find foam rubber at sewing or crafts stores; just rip off little puffs as needed.

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DON'T rush the job. Collect your tack and cleaning supplies, put a towel over your lap, and settle down in front of the TV while you polish. Always apply polish to a cloth or foam first, then to your saddle silver, to avoid getting polish in the leather carving (that leather will never shine like a concho!)

DO keep silver clean between shows. Store individual pieces in special silver cloth bags that reduce tarnish, and give your saddle silver a quick buffing with a silver cloth once a week. Keep trophy buckles in an old tube sock to prevent scratches and reduce tarnish.

Suzanne Drnec is founder and president of Hobby Horse Clothing Co, Inc. Got to www.hobbyhorseinc.com for more handy hints and tips for show presentation.

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