8 Tips to Oxidize Silver

Silver gets a patina and a dark shade over time. That’s because it oxidizes in contact with the elements around it. Some feel that this gives silver a more distinguished and therefore beautiful look. Others, prefer silver to be shiny and to look new.

8 Tips to Oxidize Silver pin

There’s a way of creating this patina without having to wait years for it to appear. The process for doing so is known as oxidizing and it can be done by an amateur, sometimes even with a few simple items that can be found in every home.

1. Materials you’ll need

Materials you’ll need

There are a few things that you’ll need to have in order for this process to work. These are relatively simple to find and a standard amount that you can purchase online will be enough to work with all the silver that you may have.

  • Safety is the most important part of the process and since there are a lot of chemicals involved, you want to be sure that none of them get in contact with your hands or face. You’ll need a ventilated place with a sink, safety goggles, gloves, and a mask. It’s also useful to have a baking soda with you to neutralize the acid if it spills.
  • This works on sterling silver. That will cover most of the silver jewelry such as chains, necklaces, and beads. It’s important for the silver not to be plated if you want the oxidization process to work. Some gels are used as anti-tarnish cover and if those are used on the jewelry, the oxidization won’t work either.
  • You’ll need an oxidization agent. There’s a variety of them there, but we would recommend an acidic sulfur solution called Silver Black. Feel free to try others as well and to get the best option for you via a trial and error process.
  •  In the end, you’ll need a pair of tweezers made of plastic, so that the mixture you’re using doesn’t affect them.

With all of these materials in line, you’re ready to go and start oxidizing your silver.

2. Diluting the oxidizing solution

Diluting the oxidizing solution
Something Borrowed

The first thing to do is to dilute the oxidizing solution. That’s necessary because an undiluted solution may end up being too strong and may even damage the silver. The goal is to get the piece of jewelry to look slightly tarnished as if it was used for a while and got the patina over time.

That can only be accomplished gradually and by making sure that the mix you’re using isn’t too strong. It should also be applied for a set amount of time. If the jewelry remains in the solution for too long, it will darken too quickly and noticeably.

There are exceptions when the silver has a finish and plating that’s particularly made to stop it from oxidizing. That’s the case when a piece of jewelry has rhodium plating. In those cases, you can use as strong a solution as you have.

3. Using a plastic zip bag

Using a plastic zip bag
Something Borrowed

There’s a variety of ways you can dip the jewelry into the solution without hurting yourself and in a way that will make sure that the whole piece is covered by the solution. For instance, some use plastic tweezers to move and turn the jewelry. We recommend using a zip lock bag instead.

The diluted mix is placed into the bag and a piece of jewelry is then inserted into the bag so that the solution covers the whole piece. That way there will be fewer spills and the bag is easy to clean and reuse without being damaged.

There are also fumes that can be pretty unpleasant that are a common byproduct of oxidization and using a bag is a good way to minimize them and stay safe in the process. It’s still useful to wear a mask while handling the jewelry.

4. Using a stainless paper clip

Using a stainless paper clip
Something Borrowed

Sometimes a piece of jewelry isn’t oxidizing as fast as you would like to. A good way to help speed up the process is to add a stainless paper clip into the bag and leave it there with the silver for about a few hours. Stainless steel is a good catalyst for oxidization.

It’s also a good way to control how dark a portion of the jewelry piece will get. If you poke a piece of silver with the stainless paper clip it will get darker. The areas around the paper clip may get darker as well.

Some put the piece of jewelry directly onto the paper clip, dip it into the solution and then quickly remove it a few times. That will allow you to get an even color on a few items at once.  The paper clip will also help oxidize the items with rhodium plating.

5. Silver cleaning solutions

Silver cleaning solutions

There’s such a thing as going overboard with the oxidization. The silver can become too dark and appear to be old and badly taken care of. That’s something to avoid, but there are ways to deal with it even when you’ve gone too far and kept the gold in the plastic bag for too long.

When this happens you should apply a cleaning solution to the piece of jewelry that’s has gone too dark and for the most, you’ll be able to restore it and give it that fresh and shining new look that it once had. For the most part, you won’t be able to make it look good as new, but it can get pretty close with the right cleaning solution.

Put the piece of jewelry in a different bag with a cleaning solution in it and shake it a few times so that the solution is applied evenly to every part of the piece.

6. Using cotton swabs

Using cotton swabs
Something Borrowed

Sometimes, it’s not necessary to oxidize the whole piece of silver jewelry but only a few specific points on it. That can seem to be a more natural tarnish and therefore it’s a better look for some pieces. In those cases, it’s best to use cotton swabs to apply the solution to a particular point directly.

In this case, the oxidation solution doesn’t need to be diluted with water. Just apply it as is to the tip of the cotton swab. That’s done simply by dipping the swab into the solution as it is and you’re ready to use it on the silver directly.

Touch the piece of silver on the spot that you want to darken and rinse it with cold and clean water once you’re done. Black spots look best on hinges or on parts of the silver piece that’s used and touched the most.

7. Paper towels

Paper towels

In some cases, the color of an oxidized area may get uneven. That’s noticeable, if not at a glance, and there are ways to remove an uneven part. The least expensive way to do it is to use a paper towel. The parts of the jewelry piece that are too dark, are simply scrubbed with a paper towel until the color rubs off.

The rougher the paper towel is the better it will work so make sure that you get a cheap brand that you may not otherwise use to wipe your hands or for any other delicate task. Any paper towel will work if you’re using it long enough, however.

Getting the right shade and right amount of patina is more of an art than science and it takes time until you figure out what your preferences are and how to achieve them.

8. Using a hair drier

Using a hair drier
Something Borrowed

Silver will easily trap water and it will stick to its surface once the oxidation process is done. That’s not usually a problem since water can’t damage silver, but if some of the oxidation solutions remain attached to water, it may cause the piece to darken further, after the process.

Sometimes it’s best to simply dry the water off the silver to prevent this from happening. It’s easily done with a hair drier and its shape gives you movability and a chance to approach the piece of silver from different directions.

Place the piece of silver on a paper towel and gently blow it dry with a hair drier. The paper towel will catch most of the moisture and the process is now completed without any undesired effects.

To sum up

Oxidizing silver is a way to make it appear darker and create a patina that gives it a used look. That happens over time, but it can be done quickly by using an oxidization solution and dipping a piece of silver jewelry in it.

This can be done by simply placing the piece of jewelry in a plastic bag with a diluted oxidizing solution and waiting for the change to be noticeable. There are also tricks and tips to help you get the best result and you should feel free to explore them and find the look that will suit your jewelry aesthetic.

8 Tips to Oxidize Silver pin 2

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts