Oxidizing Sterling Silver - A Step By Step Do It Yourself Guide

Aged Black Oxidized Graved Copper Slim Cuff Bracelet, by Anna Harper

Love the look of blackened metal, but hate the idea of wearing jewelry made using a toxic process, keep reading. It is an easy, 100% non-toxic process you do at home with items in your kitchen.

One of the things I love about oxidized metal is you can take a piece of old jewelry and give it a new look. You can use this process on copper jewelry too, the only difference is it has a slightly warmer tint to oxidation.

Almost all sterling silver materials findings, beads, wires, and chains will work as long as the metal is not plated or treated. Plating and anti-tarnish treatments will react with the metal, and usually cause uneven coverage. The only sterling silver that won't work is argentium. Argentium is a type of sterling silver that contains a small amount of additional alloys that resist oxidation, or tarnish.

Oxidized metal is not a metal finish and therefore it is not a permanent finish. Oxidation will fade over time. And that makes it a forgiving process. For example, say you oxidized a piece of jewelry and it came out with uneven results you don't like, not a problem, the oxidation can be removed with an anti-tarnish treatment. It's not permanent.

How long it takes for the oxidation to fade depends on how much wear and how you care for it. For example, washing your hands with a ring on will make the finish fade faster. Pieces like rings, that get the most wear fade faster.

I don't see it as a defect, it's a feature of the rustic beauty in nature and part of it's natural charm. A very zen quality. I love that the process is not toxic to the environment too. Oxidizing your jewelry will not hurt the metal, and when it wears off it can always be oxidized again if you like. I personally like to watch in wear off and then start all over again.

Step By Step Do It Yourself Guide

1. Clean your jewelry. Use a mild liquid soap, rinse well.

2. Boil 2 raw eggs in water with their shells on for ten minutes.

3. As soon as your eggs are finished, drain and place them in the ziplock bag with the shells on.

4. Next smash them into small pieces to release their naturally high sulfur content.

5. Add your clean jewelry. If you have large pieces with flat even areas it can result in uneven oxidizing if it comes in direct contact with the eggs. So push the eggs to one side of the bag and place the jewelry on the other if you need to. Since most jewelry is small you don’t have to do this.

6. Don’t worry if the finish doesn’t come out as well as you would like you can clean it off with a anti-tarnishing cloth or anti-tarnish liquid and do it again.

7. After about 20 minutes, take a look. There is no need to open the bag if you want the pieces darker, just let it sit longer. I have let mine set for up to 6 hours with great results.

8. When you’re finished and have the desired dark finish to your oxidized sterling jewelry, to stop the oxidizing process place it in a small container of clean water with a spoonful of baking soda for couple of minutes, rinse and pat dry. Your jewelry is now ready to wear!

9. This step is optional. I use a very small amount of warmed beeswax, or you can also use Renaissance micro-crystalline wax polish. The wax makes it look a bit darker and helps it last longer.

This goes without saying, the used eggs are not toxic to the environment, but they are not fit to eat after using them in this process and must be discarded. However, they are still useful and should be composed, the calcium in the shells is great for vegetables and roses!


Did you forget a step? Did you forgot to clean your jewelry first or trying to do too many pieces at once?

Another alternative is using liver of sulfur. It is quicker, but can give off more fumes because it has a higher sulfur content. I use "Liver of Sulphur Extended Life Gel" in my studio. Just make sure you follow the directions and have plenty of fresh air or an exhaust fan. I use an old glass container with an airtight plastic lid to contain the vapor while it works.

If you would like a quicker method you can try your hand at a more professional method by using Liver of Sulfur Patina Oxidation Gel. Keep in mind, you will need good ventilation to use it and wear protective gloves.

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