Many find the silver to be beautiful because it’s shiny and clear. This is what makes its intricate design more beautiful to look at. However, there are those who take the opposite approach entirely. They feel that silver should have dark tarnishes in a few places.
That gives a piece of jewelry a look and feel of an object that has been used and that has a history of its own. It’s something that can be accomplished artificially by tarnishing (or oxidizing) the jewelry. It’s simple enough to do and it can be done with items that almost anyone has in their possession.
It’s best if tarnishing is done safely and in a manner that is the least likely to cause you harm. That’s relatively easy to accomplish but you’ll need to take the precautions and have a few items on hand before you start. Use a well-ventilated space and a sink so that you don’t have to worry about acid damaging anything in your home.
It’s also useful to have safety gloves, goggles, and a mask and to wear them at all times during the process. Have a baking powder ready with you, since it can be used to neutralize the acid.
1. Using boiled eggs
Boiled eggs can be used to tarnish silver since they contain sulfur and in contact with the silver, it will darken it and give it a patina.
Start by hard boiling the eggs for about 15 minutes. It’s important that all other steps are completed as soon as the eggs are boiled. Cut the eggs in half and remove the yolk from them. The yolk should then be placed in a zip-locked plastic bag. Break the yolk in the bag.
Wash the silver gently and wrap them into paper towels. The silver wrapped in this way should then be placed within the plastic bag. Place the bag aside for about 24 hours and check on it afterward to make sure that it’s dark enough. If it’s not leave the bag and the silver pieces in it for about a day or two more.
It’s also possible to do so with the silver being placed in the eggs directly. That will darken it faster but it will also be uneven, so you’re risking it with this approach.
2. Using liver of sulfur
The liver of sulfur is also known as potassium sulfide and it’s a mixture that’s used for this purpose in particular. It’s popular amongst jewelers and amateurs alike because it’s easy to mix and use and it can create a look of patina on a piece of silver jewelry with ease.
Silver will react with the Sulphur and it will oxidize, and turn dark in the process. That’s the same thing that happens when silver turns dark over time, but in this case, it’s sped up due to the direct contact with the substance.
Before you start applying the sulfur, make sure that the jewelry is cleaned, brushed, and polished. Mix a teaspoon of bicarbonate in a few drops of water and use this to clean it with a toothbrush. It’s best to wear rubber gloves while doing so to protect your hands from the smell.
- Drop about ten drops of liver sulfur in a mug of hot water. The water shouldn’t be brought to a boil. Swirl the liquid around for a little bit, using a pair of plastic tweezers. It’s essential that they are made out of a material that won’t be affected by the mixture.
- The liquid should turn black rather quickly if it’s fresh. If it’s more than a week old, it will take a longer time to turn black and you’ll need to mix longer. Dip the silver in the mixture and remove it once the color you’re looking for is achieved. Clean it with ordinary, but clean water.
How to achieve different colors?
It’s possible to achieve a range of colors with your silver, by applying a liver of sulfur and adding a few tweaks to the mix before the metal turns black. This will give a piece of jewelry a used look that has a charm that can’t be matched by a brand new piece.
The process can be slowed down by adding a bit more water to the mixture first. That will lead to the silver being less dark since the mixture is less potent. The opposite can be achieved by heating the piece of jewelry with a hair drier before placing it in the liver of sulfur.
The piece of jewelry could be dipped in the substance and then quickly removed. That way only a minimal effect will be achieved. Repeat this until you’re satisfied with the results.
If you want to tarnish only a few points on a piece of jewelry you could apply liver of sulfur to it with a small brush, instead of dipping it whole.
3. Using a luster gel
Luster gel is a product that’s used to color pieces of silver. It’s used by professionals but since it’s simple enough to figure out, it can also be used by an amateur that’s careful and follows instructions. This product isn’t just used to tarnish a piece of silver but to change its color.
That means that it can be used to achieve a dark look that happens when silver has a patina but it can also be used to achieve other colors by timing for how long the gel has been applied to the piece of silver.
- 100 ml of warm filtered water.
- 30 ml of Luster gel that you’ll need to stir before use
- 1/2 teaspoons of Luster activator in a powder.
Dip the piece of silver in the mixture using a plastic hook or a piece of string so that you don’t touch the solution directly. It’s also possible to use gloves to accomplish the same since it’s a useful safety measure and the solution can be quite harsh on the skin.
Over the period of 30 minutes the silver will change color in the following order: yellow- gold – orange-red – brown – purple – and finally blue.
If a piece of silver is left longer it will go through the same process and the colors will become darker and more iridescent.
Once you’re happy with the color you’ve got with this process, you should rinse the piece of silver with clean water, leave it to dry, and seal it with wax to protect the finish.
4. Going to a spa or a hot spring
This isn’t an option that’s available to anyone and in fact, most people won’t tarnish their silver in this manner. However, there’s a reason why this method should be taken into account. It’s a method that’s the most historically accurate.
Silver has been around forever and the chemistry behind tarnishing it wasn’t clear to anyone. Instead, pieces of jewelry that were worn in spas and hot springs have gone darker and ancient peoples have noticed that even though they didn’t understand the reason why.
Spas and hot springs have naturally high levels of sulfur which is what causes the silver to turn black over time.
How to keep tarnished silver looking good
Most cleaning products used on silver are made to clean the tarnish of the jewelry and to make it appear as if it’s brand new at all times. This is exactly what you’re trying to avoid if you want your silver to have a patina to them. That means that you’ll need to find another way of taking care of and cleaning your silver.
- Start with something as simple as soap and water. In most cases that will be enough to keep the silver clean and it won’t damage it or the patina in any way. Use a mild soap and rub the jewelry gently with a cloth.
- Baking soda and water is another good option and it’s a bit harsher than using soap but it still won’t damage the patina that you’ve created by tarnishing the piece of silver. Rinse it with warm water when you’re done.
- Use a pre-loaded jewelry cloth. There’s a variety of them online and most do the job.
- Green pads are used to clean jewelry so that it keeps the patina. There are a few brands of them out there and you’ll need to check and see which one works for you. They are used for polishing rather than cleaning so you’ll need to use them together with one of the methods from above.
To sum up
Tarnishing silver means making it appear darker as if it has a patina that would otherwise appear over time. Some find that this gives a piece of silver a better and more distinguished look. There are a few ways to accomplish it and they all rely on oxidation.
It can be accomplished with a premade mixture that’s used for this purpose in particular or with a few ingredients that you can find at home. How you’re tarnishing your silver jewelry and why?