Dissatisfied with liver of sulfur, how do you do it?

I’m a newb in jewelry making and silver clay and kind of frustrated with the patina process. Every time I have tried liver of sulfur I have come away disappointed. It either refuses to turn black and I end up with a gun metal grey no matter how long it sits or how concentrated, or just plain looks ugly as seen in my picture. I see pieces that are done with it and they look good, I just don’t get it.

I’ve followed a number instructions, it doesn’t seem that complicated, you add to some water and dip, maybe do a few gradual dips etc… then polish off the highlights.

You can see from the pic, the one I did in LOS is simply awful, maybe the ugliest thing I have ever produced. I believe I have ruined this piece.

The big question is, for textured pieces like this, what is a better way to end up with highlights shiny but recessed areas darkened so the piece “pops”? Mine doesn’t pop, it looks like it was dug up out of the mud.

Thanks in advance for any practical tips.


Hi there,

I love LOS best because I think it has a “warmer” tone than the silver Black, or Black Max (which my friends all love and swear by!)

A few tips I have learned along the way.

works well if heated (I use hot, but not boiling hot)

(I place a small jar of the appropriate amount of water (for the LOS solution), into a coffee cup with water (to surround the jar),and place this cup on a small electric mug warmer)

(I use hot water from my kitchen faucet)

too hot, or too strong a solution, and the layer will get too thick(?) and flake off in patches)

I like to put piece on a paper towel, on a paper plate, and use a q-tip to apply warm LOS until I get the color I am aiming for.

I have two paper cups filled with cool water, to successively dip the piece into, to stop the action, when the desired color is achieved.

I like the contrast to be gradual, and my pieces usually have details with rounded “edges”, so I like to use abrasives that will conform to the curves, such as the micro polishing papers (800 grit and higher), or a mounted soft muslin buff or medium bristle brush with tripoli-like graystar compound (which I believe is about 800+ grit). This will allow me to sort of “blend” into the patina coloration, from highlight, to darker grey/ black.

If I am going for a high contrast, super black color I will use Silver Black, or Black Max, with gives me a very black color immediately…and then still use the above abrasive process to remove patina from higher areas, and highlight.

If I am going for a subtle, gradual, vintage, “warm” patina, I will use LOS, which gives a more natural “time worn” patina…and I will stop before dark grey/ black.

I find that it helps if I look at pieces of patina’d pieces (natural vintage, or otherwise), to get an idea of what “natural” looks like, or what I want the piece to look like.


I, too, use metal clay (mostly fine silver. . . PMC3). First remember that LOS works best: 1. when the piece you’re patinating is highly polished/finished; and 2. when the LOS is hot (don’t bring to a boil as the fumes produced are toxic). And make certain that when you use any patina chemical, LOS included, that you have active ventilation. LOS solution should be about the color of egg yolks and should be mixed fresh each time. You don’t need a lot of LOS chunks to produce the right color. I’ve put together a package (ca. 22 pages) on finishing and polishing, including a description of my process for using LOS. I sell it for $15.00, which covers my cost. Email me through my website <lindakayemoses.com> and I’ll tell you where to send check, etc. I can email it to you as an attachment or as hardcopy (in which case I would need a mailing address).
Hoping to help,
Linda Kaye-Moses

I prefer LOS. The patina to my eye is more natural. To me the propriety oxidizers look fake like paint or Sharpies
Jo Haemer uses the “gel LOS and it is quit black. I have no experience with it.

I mix my LOS in a quart mason jar. I use a bit less than an ounce. 24-26gms. to a quart. I put the jar in a saucepan and heat it to 180F or so. I have another pan with boiling water which is 192F at my elevation. I have a piece of clothes hanger bent into a hook. I put several pcs. On the hook, swirl in the boiling water and right into the LOS for 15sec.
That gives me a nice dark grey coating.

Hi LInda,

Regarding your LOS, finishing, polishing handbook…is it applicable to regular sterling silver, as well as PMC?


Hi Julie,

You gave me the idea of using a q-tip! If just the textured areas are desired to be patina’d so they pop, with the rest to be shiny, that seems like a good way to attempt that vs dipping the whole piece then trying to rub it off (which sometimes it stays gun metal grey unless it is sanded).

Very good points Linda, maybe more sanding and prep before I do the LOS.

I’m still trying to figure out how to get highly polished, especially in an area with texture like when using one of cooltools texture mats. Perhaps a very tiny sanding stick. I noticed the steel brush did a lot for me though. Not quite a mirror finish but it really smooths out an area after you get it out of the kiln.