This is a guest post by Helen Plumb of Just Gems. Helen supplies a range of custom jewellery to discerning customers from all over the world. Today she is going to explain the right way to oxidize silver jewellery.
Do you love the way that oxidized silver looks but have trouble oxidizing yourself? No worries because I’ve got a few great tricks that are going to make it a lot easier to get the look you want and help make your jewellery look much better. More importantly, I’m going to tell you the proper way to oxidize silver safely. Remember, safety first. Ok, first off, you need to work in a well ventilated space with a sink, safety goggles gloves and a mask. It’s also a good idea to have baking powder handy in case of a spill to neutralize the acid. You can sprinkle some other baking soda on your work space where ever you think there might be acid. If you get some acid on your skin, put baking powder on it immediately and then rinse off with water. The other materials that we need are sterling silver obviously, and any silver material including beads, chains, and other fixings will work as long as the metal is not plated or treated with some kind of anti tarnish coating.
We will also need an oxidizing agent. For this, I recommend using an acidic solution called silver/black but there are many others on the market and they will work just as well. You also need a tweezer or something like it to grab the pieces. So now that we have all the essentials, we|can get to the fun! Why water down the solution? Well, undiluted oxidizing solution is very strong. A mixture of one part silver black with|one or two parts water is ideal for most projects,and it will allow you to stop the reaction before the silver gets too dark. You can store the watered down solution in a separate glass or plastic container with a lid and reuse it until it becomes too weak. If you use the solution straight from the bottle your silver will turn a really dark, dull black before you can say “tarnished” three times fast. Using a resealable bag is one of the biggest time and money savers for oxidizing Sterling Silver out there for a few reasons. You can pour the diluted solution from earlier into the bag, do what you need to do,and pour it back without lowering the strength of the original bottle. Over time the plastic bags save a lot of solution because it is easy to drain, causes less spills, and allows you to use|the same liquid until all of the oxidizing power has been exhausted. Another important point is that doing|oxidation makes some fumes so doing inside of a plastic bag will keep all those nasty smells inside because you really don’t want to be breathing that stuff. If you’re having problems getting the|sterling silver to oxidize evenly, you can also put the items directly onto a paper clip, dip it into solution, and quickly remove it to get an even color on multiple items really easily.
Having a stainless steel paperclip in the solution will also make the process go a lot faster.
Why? Because science, that’s why! You see, Sterling Silver is a catalyst for the oxidation reaction. This is great for rhodium-plated items because it’s a lot harder to oxidize rhodium than regular sterling silver. You are going to need something to help the reaction go faster so one way is to oxidize with the paperclip, and the other is to oxidize with plain silver wire. The paper clip goes a lot faster and it goes to completion, but the bead with the silver wire doesn’t really get dark at all. Sometimes you oxidize silver and you go a little bit too far. Has it happened to you? If so, then don’t worry about it – it’s okay, there’s a way around it. If you feel like the silver has become too dark, you can lighten it by putting it into cleaning solution and shaking vigorously.
Make sure that you are using new, clean silver cleaning solution for the best results. It won’t go back to the original color,but it will lighten by a few shades and it’s going to give you another chance to get the color you originally wanted. Cotton swabs are great for the times when you don’t need to oxidize the entire piece. You can use the swabs to avoid the stones and other delicate areas, and just keep on going back and forth until you get the color that you want. Then, rinse it off, dry it up with a paper towel,and dont forget to scrub a little bit. This is to polish it up so that the color matches a bit better. By now it looks pretty good – which leads us to our next pro tip; use paper towels to polish the sterling silver and even out the color. Paper towels are obviously good for drying your pieces after rinsing them but that’s not all. Paper towels are also great for removing areas with uneven color if you don’t have a polishing cloth lying around. Keep in mind that a rough paper towel will work better than a soft one for scrubbing, but both will work if you do it long enough. When you see the part of a chain that was scrubbed side by side with the part that wasn’t, you can really tell the difference. And that brings us to the last pro tip, which is to use a hairdryer to quickly dry things off. I’m pretty sure you’ve used one of these before,so I don’t have to explain very much.
It’s a pretty good idea to use a paper towel with it and just gently go around with the hairdryer until all the moisture is gone.
This article has gone over a few easy ways to help you get the perfect silver oxidation job done on your own using common household items. Hopefully it also gives you an important lesson that you don’t always need fancy jewellers tools to help you save time, money, and hassle.