Saturday, January 1, 2011

How To Oxidize Silver

Recently I ordered a number of jewelry supplies.  When I received my order, I realized that the antiqued silver bails I ordered were not "antiqued" but were bright silver.  I meant to send them back and get the antiqued version but got busy with the Holidays and did not.  So, I thought why not "antique" them myself?  I had read about this process but never tried it before.

First, one should understand how this process works.  An antiqued finish occurs on silver because tarnish results from a process called oxidation.  Silver will oxidize naturally when exposed to air for long periods of time, but this process can be hastened if you want to create the darkened patina that gives an item an older more vintage style appearance.  Silver will oxidize when it reacts with sulfur.  This reaction produces silver sulfide which causes a darkening and blackening of the silver.

One can elicit this reaction by either using a hard boiled egg or by using a product called liver of sulfur.  Liver of sulfur can be purchased at jewelry and craft supply stores and many on-line sites.  Since I am a beginner in this process, I used the supplies readily at hand - a hard boiled egg and a plastic bag.


  • Sterling silver or silver plated items
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Plastic bag with can be sealed
  • Polishing cloth


Gather items to oxidize.  In my case, these were a handful of bright silver plated bails.
Before Oxidation
Place hard boiled egg into a plastic bag and seal - no need to peel the egg although this might make it easier to chop.  The sulfur is actually in the yoke so theoretically all you need is the egg yolk.
Hard Boiled Egg in Sealed Plastic Bag
Mash the egg within the plastic bag.  Since I did not peel the egg, the easiest way I found was to simply "stomp" it lightly with my foot a few times.  If you have peeled your egg, you can probably just use your hands.
Mashed Egg in Plastic Bag
Next, open your bag and place the item(s) to be oxidized.  Reseal the bag and watch as the process begins.  The longer you leave the silver within the bag, more discoloration will be produced.  I left my silver bails in the bag about 15 minutes.  I also repositioned and turned the bag over several times during that 15 minutes to make sure all surfaces were exposed to the sulfur.
See the Silver Oxidizing Within Bag
When desired level of oxidation is achieved, remove the items and rinse off to remove any pieces of egg.   Next dry the items and examine them.
After Oxidation

Next, polish with a soft jewelry cloth - this removes the "excess" tarnish and restores the shine.  The more you rub with the cloth, the more tarnish you will remove.  See the difference in these close-up photos of a bail after oxidation and polishing compared with a bail before oxidation.

After Oxidation and Polishing

Before Oxidation
I am quite pleased with the results of my experiment, though I will likely purchase some liver of sulfur to try as well.  If interested, provides a nice tutorial on using liver of sulfur.

To see finished jewelry using some of these oxidized items, be sure to visit my shops on ArtFire and Etsy!
Azure Blue Glass Gem Pendant - on Etsy
This tutorial has been featured on!


  1. This post was fascinating. I love things like this. Thanks so much for the great tutorial.

    1. Thanks Maggie. When I wrote this post, I was just learning how to oxidize silver. Since then, I usually use liver of sulfur which is a bit more convenient. But still, I love finding simple ways of doing things using plain household items like these. Thanks for visiting!