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Coloring Silver - Advice Please

– I have beening working with liver of sulfer to create a black patina on
a pair of silver (sterling) earrings. I am having trouble getting
uniform coverage with out streaks. I have also heard that the color pink
can be achieved on silver using liver of sulfer. Any information
regarding the above and any regarding other methods/chemicals
to color silver will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

San Francisco

i take a piece of sulfurated potash the size of my pinky, a 1/4 cup of
ammonia and hot water from the tap. add the solution with a paint brush
and sit there and watch it slowly turn. when the desired color is reached
stop it with running water from the tap, and then fix with whatever
sealant will give the desired finish. (hairspray, clear auto enamel, wax
[heat piece lightly and rub with wax] etc) hope this helps. the weakness
of the solution is what gives you time to stop the reaction when the
desired color evidences itself. robb.

The Book " The Colouring, Bronzing and Patination of Metals," Richard
Hughes and Michael Rowe, is the best resouce I have found on the subject.

Ed Colbeth Metalsmith, Motorcyclist
Deer Isle, Maine "With a view of the harbor"
93 K1100RS "Wanderer III"
ICQ# 6247734

To get even color on silver with liver of sulphor I use a warm solution.
Wet the piece before you dip it and also use a soft toothbrush to scrub
the surface with the solution. This generally gives me an even surface.
Sometimes you need to dip several times. Don’t let the solution get too
hot or too strong. Good luck - Deb , in the midwest where the heat is
running in June!

I use liver of sulfur heated in a glass bowl. I put the silver piece in
it for maybe a minute until it darkens. I am not concerned at this point
if the color is even. I remove and rinse the piece, then take a fine
brass wire brush (a platers brush) loaded with soap and burnish the
surface with it. This will remove some of the patina. I keep repeating
this process until I achieve a finish that I am happy with. A bit of skin
oil on the surface of the piece will give it a bit of shine and protect
the patina. It helps a bit to have a matte surface when you begin (like
the white surface that appears after annealing and pickling). My final
step is to use a rouge covered buff to remove a bit of the patina and
expose the metal beneath.

You can achieve various colors by dipping very quickly and/or using a
dilute solution of liver of sulfur. Mixing in a bit of amonia will give
some some additional variations. Experiment with scraps. The color can
be made semi permanent by coating with wax or a sealing spray. –

Steven Brixner - Jewelry Designer - San Diego CA USA

– I have been working with liver of sulfer to create a black patina on
a pair of silver (sterling) earrings. I am having trouble getting
uniform coverage with out streaks.

G’day, Stephane; To get a good black the silver must be scrupulously
clean and grease-free. After washing carefully so as not to scratch the
high polish which you must also have, de-grease the work in acetone which
you can apply (also carefully) with a piece of soft tissue. The ‘liver
of sulphur’ (potassium polysulphide) should be fairly hot, and the work
totally immersed until properly black all over. Rinse well under a tap
and allow to dry - a little gentle heat from a hair dryer helps.
Unfortunately, with constant wear, the black begins to wear off quite
quickly - which is why I don’t like to use it these days, but earrings
don’t get a great deal of rubbing. Have you thought of making patterns
in the black silver sulphide? You can paint the pattern with - for
instance - nail polish after the cleaning job, then get the polish-resist
off afterwards with acetone or nail polish remover. And by the way, the
"lime-sulphur’ solution obtainable in all gardening shops works just as
well as ‘liver of sulphur’ but is far cheaper. But the rotten eggs smell
of both of these chemicals is hydrogen sulphide, and is quite as poisonous
as cyanide, so work in a well ventilated area and don’t breathe it in more
than you can help.

I have also heard that the color pink can be achieved on silver using
liver of sulfer.

If you suspend your earrings above the surface of the hot ‘liver of
sulphur’ in a glass jar, you will see a gradual colour change, from pale
fawn right through to black, and stop it when you have the shade you want.


       / \
     /  /
   /  /
 /  /__| \      @John_Burgess2
(______ )       

At sunny Nelson NZ (in winter)

Ammonium polysulphide, available from Chemical suppliers. this is a liquid.
can give great browns on silver. Follow usual safety requirements etc

Felicity in rainy west oz

I usually just heat the piece and apply the liver of sulfer with a q-tip,
unless it’s a chain, and then I dip it into the liver of sulfer solution.
The only time I have uneven results is when the solution has white stuff
floating atop it (assuming it’s some sort of skum and it’s too old to

Hi Stephane

One method I use is to take 'Flat Black Automotive Engine Enamel Paint’
spray it into a jar and paint it on. You can either wipe off the
highlights with a paper towel or rag immediately, or wait 10 minutes for
it to dry and use acetone to wipe off the excess. I find Kragen’s Auto
parts stuff, called plasticoat, works best- not too runny or thick.
Haven’t found this in a non- spray paint.

This process yields a relatively chemically resistant and even, dark
layer. It’s much superior to the paint-on compounds I’ve tried from supply
catalogs, but do all your polishing 1st and don’t leave the piece in the
ultrasonic afterwards to clean. It’s good, but not perfect.

I hope this is helpful, Tom

The Artisan Workshop
8298 N Dearing Ave
Fresno, Ca 93720

Schooling, Services & Custom Work

have beening working with liver of sulfer to create a black patina on
a pair of silver (sterling) earrings. I am having trouble getting
uniform coverage with out streaks.

Use a chunk of Liver of sulfer with just a bit of water (I keep mine in a
plastic film container, fill half of the container with HOT water, drop in
a good sized chunk of liver of sulfer.) HEAT THE PIECE to be patinated on
a hot plate (you can use old coffee makers, without the pots, just drop
your items on to the heating plate . . . I usually cover the heating
plate with about three layers of aluminum foil . . . because it seems that
the liver of sulfer eats through the heating plate its self.) Anyway,
place your jewelry item usually sterling silver upon the hot plate,
apply the liver of sulfer solution with a q-tip, don’t be conservative!
Use LOTS of the stuff! It should turn a great shade of charcoal black!
Sorry, I don’t know about “pink!” Maybe the metal needs to be something
other than silver or copper?

Have fun!

Hi Stephane
I am using potassium sulfide with 1/4 water. I agree with John Burgess’s
technic and I noted that if I let the sterling pieces more 30 to 45
seconds the patina is peeling and leaves unequal black. You have to rinse
it fast because the reaction is continuing. You will also have unequal
black if there is solder on the surface and even fire stain, all these
stuffs must be remove before. I obtain the best results when I sandblast
the surface before and wash it in ultrasonic then rinse it in water and
dry it with the steam cleaner. I drop it into the bath without touching it
with fingers. Many grays can be obtain by the action of rubbing with
pumice in powder. Bye Vincent Guy Audette

Have been reading a lot of stuff on the coloring of silver and how to get
different colors pencils, liver of sulphate, and many more. Her is one
that people over look that works on most if not all meatal. I guess I
should say two things. One is the fun but time consuming high fire
enameling and us it to high lite area like you would paint. Put it down in
cracks or in flowers to add color.But with this you have the problem of
solder. The second way where solder dose not matter is to use Ceramit.
This two part resin enameling is great for adding color to a project I
have also used it to repair rings and pendants from years gone past that
the artists used high fired enameling to add color. It comes in a kit from
jewelry suppliers for about 50 to 60 bucks and you get several colors
opaque and transparent. This stuff is very durable you can sand and polish
it. I use it on very large Biker Rings that get abused like you would not
believe and it holds up great, never had a problem with it. Hope this
helps someone…