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"I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." by William E. Henley

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to get that really dark oxidization?

I've gotten a lot of questions about different techniques or advice on how you get that really dark patina on silver. So I figured this will be my first "secret sharing"!

What I have found to work the best is Liver of Sulfur. It seems to hold up better than Black max and those other things. What I do is to tumble my jewelry well to make sure it's clean or I use rubbing alcohol and then just wash it with hand soap or dish soap and rinse well. The key is to not touch the jewelry as it's clean. I always wear plastic gloves. Also cause I don't think yellow stinking fingers is very attractive. And neither does David :o)

I prepare my liver of sulfur using hot water and a couple of chunks of loS (make sure you store that stuff air tight so no moisture can get in and it will last forever! And store it somewhere dark). Don't make it too hot or too strong as the patina will flake off. It's better to keep it at a medium temperature and instead you can let your pieces sit in hot water before you put them in the solution. And here's really the trick! Don't let them sit in the solution too long. I put my things in for maybe 20-30 seconds. Then I take them out and rinse them with hot/medium water. I put them back in for another 20-30 and then out again and rinse. Keep repeating until you get it as dark as you want it! You will get a rainbow of colors before it get to that dark black stage. It's quite fun to watch!

After you have your really dark pieces, don't be afraid to throw them in the tumbler for about 15 minutes. Only use Dawn original soap and no burnisher and you'll get a really shiny dark finish.
To achieve that really black look I use some Renaissance Wax as a finish to protect the patina more (I obviously don't rub that on any ear wires as you don't want wax in your ears!). As with any patina wear and tear will eventually wear off the patina but if you follow these simple guidelines (especially the tumbling after finished oxidization) you will get the darkest and longest lasting patina!


  1. Terrific advice. Tumbling really sets the patina nicely!

  2. Thanks for sharing this information.

  3. Tess, thanks for answering my question about why my patina flaked off. I labored over trying to get it really dark and sit in bubbling los and all for flaking. Will never do that again!

  4. I'm happy you've found it useful!

    My next one is going to be a little torch enameling tutorial!

  5. Thank you for posting this.

  6. Thanks so much for this post!
    Is tumbling safe for jewelry with stones like Labradorite and Chalcedony? Do chains get tangled up in a tumbler?

  7. I would oxidize/tumble before I set any stones.
    Chains can get tangled up in a tumbler but you can either "thread" wire through the chain to keep it from getting all tangled up or (the lazy way) I just roll it around one of those plastic thread holders (bobbie is that what they are called?).

  8. Great tips - I'm going to post a link to this from my blog, I think some of my readers would enjoy this tutorial.

  9. Great tips, I use LOS but didn't know about the tumbling after, I'll try it, thanks!!!

  10. this is a great post...thanks from a novice at LOS.

  11. Thanks for answering my questions. I don't have a tumbler yet, but this is very helpful for future references :-).

  12. thank you! when you say don't use burnisher.. do you mean don't have steel shot in the tumbler? will the silver still work harden? sorry... i'm a beginner at this... thank you!

  13. hi tess- i followed your tutorial step by step, and when i tumbled me pieces for just 15 minutes, the oxidation came right off! when i rubbed the piece against my finger it came off and turned my finger black...... any tips?

  14. Hi!
    Sorry you are having problems with your patina!
    When I say no burnisher in the tumbler I mean no burnisher liquid, just steelshots and some dawn soap.
    If your patina is flaking off try cleaning it better before start oxidizing. And try shorten the time in the liver of sulfur. Using a brass brush between the dips can also help.


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love ~tess