How to Oxidize Metal Hand Stamped Jewelry
What is Oxidation
Oxidation is a chemical process where your metal jewelry is tarnished or discoloured, leaving a desired patina or finish. Oxidized jewelry is gaining in popularity along with the popularity of other products with antiqued finishes and vintage feel. This article focuses on the oxidation options to darken hand stamped letters on your sterling silver pendants or charms.
Eggs? Who knew!
One of the most environmentally friendly ways of oxidizing your jewelry is using eggs. Yep, eggs! The sulfur (or sulphur) in the egg yolk is what ages your jewelry. Here are the steps:
- Make hard boiled eggs. For a chain and a pendant, you can start with 2 eggs.
- Place your jewelry in a zip loc bag, move it to the corner of the bag.
- Once the eggs are cooked, place them into the ziploc bag where your jewelry is, zip the bag shut. I find if the jewelry is placed directly on the eggs, it oxidizes faster. Alternatively, you can leave your jewelry on a paper towel so the eggs and jewelry don't mix.
- Mash the eggs up. You want to make sure to get the yolk all mashed up.
- And we wait...
Depending on the desired level of discoloration and the amount of eggs in the bag, it can take from an hour to overnight to darken your jewelry. I like to take my jewelry out after the eggs are cooled to check on its oxidation. If it is not dark enough, I'll zap the eggs (with eggs still in the zip loc bag, but jewelry out of the bag) in the microwave for 15 seconds or so to get the eggs hot again and put the jewelry back in to further oxidize it. I would usually need to do this a couple of times to get my chain a light gray color.
Finally, wash your jewelry with soap and water and you are done.
Oxidize with Sharpie
I love oxidizing using permanent markers. If you are looking to only darken stamped letters but wants to leave the chain and metal blanks shiny, using Sharpie is so easy! You can use either a fine point or an ultra fine point black Sharpie to go over your stamped letters. I like the ultra fine point Sharpie marker to ensure ink gets into all the tiny crevices. Wait for ink to dry before finishing the piece. Some readers have asked me about using colored Sharpie. Although I have not seen that being done, colored Sharpie should work the same way as regular black ones. You will finish the oxidized piece the same way.
Just a quick note on finishing your jewelry after the ink is dry on your stamped letters. A popular way to clean up the ink and finish the piece is using Pro Polishing Pads. They are inexpensive and polishes your metal to a nice mirror finish very easily. If your desired look is a brushed finish, simply use sandpaper to sand your piece. I like using 320 grit up to 600 or 800 grit, sometimes all the way up to 2000 grit sandpaper. Another option is to use really fine 0000 steel wool to clean up the excess ink.
Silver black is a solution that contains hydrochloric acid and is a more controlled approached to oxidizing your jewelry compared to using liver of sulfur, however, silver black is more hazardous than using a permanent marker. Caution: Silver black is a hazardous chemical solution, you need to read all safety guidelines that is enclosed with the bottle to ensure you do not get chemical on your eyes or skin or near children or any animals or breathe in excess fumes. Here are the steps:
- Ensure the room you are working in is well-ventilated.
- Place your metal blank on paper towels or old rags.
- Dip Q-tip or very fine brush in silver black and rub it on your stamped letters. Use a small amount to start and wait for oxidation to take place. Repeat if you need a darker patina.
- Rinse your metal blank with water a few times until solution is rinsed off.
- You can then finish the piece with very fine steel wool or sandpaper.
Liver of Sulphur
Live of sulphur is a highly concentrated chemical solution for oxidizing your jewelry. Caution: You will need to follow safety precaution enclosed with the bottle prior to using it. Wear rubber gloves and only use liver of sulphur in a well-ventilated room. Ensure no children or animals are near when you are using liver of sulphur.
Liver of sulphur comes in solid or rock form and liquid form. I personally prefers the liquid form as I can skip a step of waiting for the solid to properly dissolve in water. Here are the steps:
- Mix a capful of liver of sulphur with 2 cups of hot tap water in a container.
- Gently mix it with a chopstick.
- Put your metal blank in the solution and wait.
- Let your piece sit in the solution for a few minutes. The longer you leave them in, the darker your piece will be.
- When you are satisfied with the patina, with your rubber gloves on, remove the piece from the solution, rinse with water and let it dry.
Oxidizing Metal with Liver of Sulphur
Oxidizing can be as easy as using a permanent marker to darken your stamped letters to using a chemical solution to patina your entire piece. The end result is never the same which makes this art form very appealing. I hope you will have fun trying out the different ways to oxidize your jewelry.
Thinking of Selling?
If you are thinking of selling your handmade products to the world and making money, you might be interested in the course I am working on.
I am looking to see how many people are interested before publishing more content for a course. The benefit of signing up and be my first group of people to see my course is you might get a lot of the content for free. Still interested? You can sign up here.
Futher Reading on Crafting your Jewelry
This is a great book by Lisa Niven Kelly on stamped metal jewelry. It has detailed description on 19 metal projects, extensive tool section and even comes with a DVD!
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