What is oxidized silver


From modern jewelry to art pieces and sculptures, you're likely to see oxidized silver a lot these days. It's both fashionable and daring. Its contrasting color makes the gemstones stand out! But you might also be wondering, what is oxidized silver? And, just as important, you should know how it will wear over time?

About oxidized silver

A piece of blackened or oxidized silver is real silver, but its surface has been intentionally darkened through a chemical process. This patina, the surface color that occurs when silver is introduced into sulfides, is an accelerated version of the natural tarnishing process. A layer of silver sulfide forms on the outside of the metal, giving it a blackened appearance.

A quick aside: the term "oxidation" is a misnomer because the process is caused by the introduction of sulfides, not oxygen. Nevertheless, the industry terminology has taken root, although it is not technically correct.

We jewelers use a chemical compound such as potassium sulfide to create a blackened surface on silver jewelry. The range of colors that can be produced from this process is vast. At full strength the color will appear matte black. But with a controlled application, you can get the whole rainbow of colors, including blue, magenta, yellow and red.

Like other types of patina, oxidized silver is simply a surface treatment and does not change the internal color or properties of the metal.


How does oxidation work?

Silver oxidation is a multi-stage process, including the sequential implementation of several stages.

  1. Preparation of a special solution.
  2. The silver item is placed in a chemical liquid.
  3. The solution is heated. In this case, it is necessary to control the interaction of the metal and the chemicals included in the working solution.
  4. After the process is completed, the product is removed from the solution using a special device made of wood, cooled and thoroughly washed in ordinary water.
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To prepare the solution necessary for oxidizing the metal, you should use liver sulfur, which is a mixture of potassium carbonate and potassium sulfide (percentage ratio 1 to 1 or 1 to 2). The listed components are mixed in water until they are completely dissolved, and then the resulting solution is heated to a temperature of 80-90 degrees.

Before subjecting silver to oxidation, it must be thoroughly wiped with alcohol or gasoline. This will degrease it and prepare it for the processing process.

If staining is intended to be done only on one specific area of ​​the product, then using a swab or brush, the solution is applied only to this selective area of ​​​​the jewelry being processed.

In the event that the color of the entire product changes, the entire silver jewelry is immersed in a chemical liquid. Successful fixation of the obtained result is possible only with a gradual decrease in the temperature of the metal after oxidation treatment.

At the end of the oxidation procedure, the surface of the silver jewelry is treated with chalk and wiped with a cloth made of felt. To consolidate the obtained result, polish the finished product.

If the jewelry is inlaid with precious stones, then you should not worry about the integrity of the product when oxidizing it.

During the processing process, only the metal (silver) enters into a chemical reaction, and the appearance of the stones will remain unchanged.

In specialized workshops, oxidation is carried out using electrolytic deposition. The chemical liquid in which the silver processing process will take place is heated to only 18-22 degrees. The time for immersing silver in the solution is no more than half an hour. After oxidation, the decoration is dried at a temperature of 60-70 degrees Celsius.

Oxidized silver jewelry

How to wear and care for blackened silver items

As I mentioned earlier, silver oxidation is only a surface treatment. Only the top layer of metal particles acquired this blackened color. Over time and depending on the amount of wear and tear you subject your pieces to, the oxidized coating will wear off and the true color of the silver will show through.

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The appearance of your blackened silver piece will gradually change over time, so it is best to prepare for the evolution of the piece when purchasing it.

Oxidized finishes have the longest lifespan on items that come into minimal contact with the environment, such as earrings and necklaces. Rings and bracelets typically don't retain their color long enough because they get rubbed off by the things we touch most often. A blackened finish that is applied to the recesses of the design tends to retain its color best while the raised portions of the piece are polished over time.

It is best to remove oxidized silver jewelry before contact with corrosive substances, or when showering or washing hands, to prolong its life and maintain its dark color. As a general rule, oxidized silver jewelry should not be cleaned with jewelry cleaning solutions or aggressive polishing, which will remove the tarnished surface. If cleaning is necessary, use a mild dishwashing detergent and a soft toothbrush, being careful to scrub as little as possible.