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Silver tarnishing tips, applications, and terms

Three ways to oxidize silver and boost interest in your silver jewelry and findings. Plus, find silver terms and tips of the trade.

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Sometimes jewelry is intentionally oxidized to create a dark color (patina) on metal. Jewelry with oxidized silver has become popular because the contrast between dark and bright areas allows for unique designs. In addition, it eliminates tarnish concerns. The disadvantage is that scratches are more noticeable on oxidized surfaces, which is one reason that oxidation is sometimes limited to the recessed areas of a jewelry piece. 

 

Here are three common ways silver can be oxidized:

Liverofsulfur
1. Liver of sulphur method

The most common way to oxidize silver is Immersion in a liver of sulphur (potassium sulfide) solution. The longer the metal is left in the solution, the thicker the coating of oxide. Metal that is to be oxidized should be completely cleaned beforehand. Before turning gray, sterling progresses through these colors: yellow, brown, crimson, and electric blue.

 

For step-by-step instructions, click here for a video on how to oxidize with liver of sulphur by Casey Sheppard.

Chlorideofplatinum
2. Chloride of platinum method

Silver can also be oxidized by applying a solution of chloride of platinum (1 ounce chloride of platinum to 1 gallon of water) onto a silver piece with a brush. Only a small quantity is required.

oxidizingflame
3. Torch method

An oxidizing flame is used to heat the metal. The heat from the flame combines with the oxygen in the air to form an oxide film on the surface of the metal.  However, it is usually difficult to control this process. 

For a video on this process, spend two minutes with Richard Lewis as he explains crucible absorbing heat” and more.

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“Square Sea” by So Young Park features garnets, peridot, and oxidized silver.
Artistic Application

So Young Park is one of many contemporary jewelry artists who are creating unique pieces with oxidized silver. She often adds silver beads to hammered oxidized silver. Her cuff, shown here, also includes garnets and peridot.

Terms to know

Tarnishing is a surface discoloration and mainly results from the formation of silver sulfide, Ag2S, although other compounds such as sulfate and chloride can also contribute to tarnishing.

 

Patinating means to give an object a patina.

 

Oxidizing takes place when a chemical reaction occurs on the surface of silver while oxygen is present. Electrons move from the metal to the oxygen molecules during this process.

 

For more gem and metal insight, you can purchase Renée Newman's books at JewelryAndBeadingStore.com or ReneeNewman.com.

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