Thursday, 9 October 2008

How to make your silver black – oxidized silver

Retro hogweed earrings in citrus orange

Just today I was asked how I made my silver work black. So here's a mini tutorial! 

The most professional way is to use Liver of Sulphur – a chemical  you can buy from a jewellery supplier or from ebay – is a mixture of potassium sulphide and potassium thiosulphate. It's not a particularly pleasant smelling compound as you can well imagine, and my advice is that you use it in a well-ventilated room. The following steps can be followed for both copper and silver:

  1. Take a small pea-sized amount of the compound and break it up in a glass bowl which is large enough to hold the piece you want to oxidize. If you are planning to oxidize wire, then I recommend that you coil the wire around and secure it so that it doesn't suddenly spring open mid-process!
  2. Next, add hot water. Break up the crystals with a plastic implement until they are completely dissolved.
  3. Place your metal into the solution and leave it there until you reach the colour you want! The Sterling silver for my earrings (pictured) was left in the solution for about 15 mins.
  4. Carefully remove your item from the solution – I recommend using plastic tweezers for this operation – and rinse off the excess.
  5. I generally find that the metal now has quite a dull lustre; but the use of a polishing cloth and some elbow grease brings back the patina in no time! 

Here are some tips:

  • Keeping the solution warm will speed up the process
  • You can create an antique effect by polishing the raised surfaces of pieces almost back to their original shine, while indentation will remain blackened. This is best created using a tumbler.
  • Oxidize you components and findings before you make/assemble pieces. It's just much easier!

No Liver of Sulphur? Here is a quick-fix:

It didn't take me very long to work out that your normal household bleach has a very similar effect on copper and silver! Again, work in a well-ventilated space:

  1. Pour a small quantity of household bleach into a plastic or glass container.
  2. Add your metal and wait for as long as it takes to reach the desired effect.
  3. Remove the metal from the bleach using plastic tweezers and rinse thoroughly.

These little beauties were created with the bleach-method oxidized Sterling silver

Crystal tiddler earrings

Safety tip: The above processes use potentially harmful substances. Please wear gloves and goggles!

1 comment:

elleabelle said...

If you feel so along: