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Coloring & oxidizing silver

Hello all! I am on the trail of a small mystery (a mystery to me
anyway!). A friend of mine recently purchased a silver pendant that
had the most extrordinary oxidation applied. It when from a deep
purple to a violet. I have been poking around in different books and
have found reference to this color as being possible through chemical
oxidation but none have mentioned what chemicals are used to achieve
it. Any thoughts ?

Thanks in advance!
Shane Morris

It was probably not an oxidation, but a patina. Various colors of
patina are available from RIO and SWEST.

Try this: Cold Immersion solution:

Sodium thiosulfate      240 gm
Copper acetate             25gm
Water ( H2O )               1 litre
Citric acid ( crystals )    30gm

The Sodium thiosulfate and the Copper acetate are dissolved in the
water, and the citric acid added immediately prior to use. A series of
luster colors are produced in the following sequence:
golden-yellow/orange; brown; purple; blue; pale grey.

Hi there! I am thinking it was probably a very smelly substance called
LIVER OF SULPHER. When applied sparingly and patiently it can produce
a very beautiful irredescient (sp?) finish.

  1. Polish the sterling

  2. Boil a little water

  3. Mix a LITTLE bit of Liver of Sulper with the water

  4. Wait for smell of rotten eggs!!

  5. With a very soft toothbrush apply L.O.S. Onto the piece of
    sterling then rince off with very hot water.

  6. Apply again…rince

  7. Continue with this apply/rince procedure until you have the
    desired effect

Hope this helps,

A friend of mine recently purchased a silver pendant that had the
most extrordinary oxidation applied. It when from a deep purple to a

This is the recipe I give to my students:

2 C. hot water
1 small lump (about garbanzo sized-3/8") dry liver of sulfur
1 Tbsp. clear ammonia
1 tsp. salt

Dissolve the l.o.s. in the water, add the other ingredients, stir
well. Dip piece to be patinaed in container of very hot water first,
then quickly dip into the l.o.s. solution, then dip in a container of
very cold water to stop the action and set the patina. Repeat as
necessary to achieve the colors you want. This recipe is particularly
good for the dark purple and blue iridescent colors. Also try
different amounts of ammonia and salt (iodized salt gives a different
color than kosher salt), and make patterns by selectively dipping just
certain areas of the piece into the l.o.s. solution. Have fun, and
remember you have to quit playing sometime and finish the piece!

I’ve used liver of sulfer before and I’ve never gotton colors this
intense. I will have to try your recipe Kathrine and do some
experimenting! I will let you know how it goes!


This could be a liver of sulfur technique that I learned at school.
If you dip the piece and alternate between the liver of sulfue and
the hot water, it strts to get a rainboe effect and if you keep doing
that you can get a nice purplish color.

Hi, You can also use a compound used on shot-guns (it adds a blue tint
to steel). Depending how you use it , it can be dark blue to a light.
Its been a few years since I used it (back in Ireland) but i’m sure a
good gunsmith store would know the product. Watch out though leave it
on too long before rinsing and it can corrode. Ed Dawson Maine Master
Models making models to the trade.

Dear Shane, The range of “oxidation” colors you describe on silver
(deep purple to violet) are not unusual, using "Liver of Sulfur"
slowly and carefully applied. The chemical is sold as “Potash
Sufurated”, with the formulaK2Sn, meaning various Potassium Sufides.
I’ve had some truly marvelous results ranging from blue through pink,
purple, red, orange, yellow, and blue to black. It’s hard to give
you the exact concentration, but many old source books quote a
"pea-sized chunk added to 1 liter (approx. 1 quart) warm water. I
find that it should be fresh (doesn’t seem to last long, either), and
warm,and your silver piece should also be a little warm. It will be a
pale yellow color. (The solution.). If it cools, warm it in a
microwave for a minute or so; you’ll smell the Sulfurous smell of
rotten eggs, which I kind of like. Go very slowly. Dip your silver
piece for about a second. Pull it out. Let it set, and LOOK at it for
a few minutes. You’ll see these colors develop as they want to.
Later, you can “paint” with the Liver of Sufur, by using a “Q”-tip
(cotton on a stick) or a small brush to accentuate the color in
various areas. Again, brush lightly, then WAIT for a few minutes
before proceeding. Surprisingly, it’s one of the few things in life
in which I can be patient! But the results are really, really, worth
it. I use it especially on reticulated silver, and get marvelous
colors, looking like topographical maps from outer space. To preserve
these colors, I use automobile lacquer applied full strength with a
small brush. My pieces have held their colors for several years now.
Good luck. I love the fact that your piece (and its colors are
related to you and your actions, but somewhat independent, as well).
You “helped”, but the end result is more than just you.

Gary Strickland, GJG

I have a vague memory of someone talking about using iodine with
liver of sulfur but I haven’t done so myself.

Marilyn Smith

Hi Shane - I also work with this effect - similar to Katherine
Palochak’s great reply. So far, I have strictly used the liver of
sulphur in a hot solution and then add a splash of ammonia. I’d like
to try Katherine’s addition of salt and see the results. I always do
a pair or set of pieces at the same time - so that the final result is
similar. This is a fun effect and you can stop any step along the way
by quenching in water. It seems to me that there is a point in the
oxidation process where the patina holds very well. If it is a light
treatment - it does seem to have potential to wear off and if it is
submursed too long - it will flake off. Just repolish the piece
completely and try again.

I feel that by lightly buffing with a soft small buff (and - I use
white diamond for silver pieces - but other compounds are surely just
fine), it seems to add a layer of protection that helps the longevity
of the result. Actually, the light buffing helps me to determine that
the quality of the oxidation will be strong and survive the test of
time. The finish can be maintained with a soft commerical polish
cloth. Personally, I don’t care for varish on my pieces. And the
pieces are weathering the test of time quite well. Try it on fine
silver and sterling silver both. Fine silver is a WOW experience!
That’s all. Have fun with it and make sure your room is well


�hola amigos! Talking about finishing after oxidizing the silver, a
great way to do that is with steel media in a rotary tumbler; you can
give a dull or bright finish, depending on the time, without wearing
out the patina. Just be careful to clean very well the media after
that or it will ruin the next batch.

David C. Duhne