Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Liver of Sulfur

OFFICE MEMO Liver of Sulfur Date: 10/24/96

Dave, M.G. and John,

Thanks for the replies.

As John described, the Liver of Sulfur is used for oxidizing/antiquing silver
and other metals. I use it with pretty good results, although I haven’t
worked with it enough to describe how to get a really even coloring. I
typically heat the piece I am oxidizing and heat the liver of sulfur mixture
then apply it with a brush where I want it (usually in recessed areas like
engraving) then buff off what I don’t want just leaving the detail
highlighted. Sometimes I have to apply multiple coats in order to get it to
the color I want. I am very interested in other alternatives.

John’s message was very insightful. I keep the liver of sulfur in its
original container it was shipped in, a white plastic Tupperware type
container. I don’t think it seals too well.

Below is part of an article I found in the tips from the jewelers bench which
describes a method for applying the liver of sulfur. See what you think…

excerpt - do a search on “liver” to locate the full article

  1. The finished piece may now be colored with liver of
    sulfur and ammonia. My experience is that most control is
    achieved in this case by using an alcohol lamp to heat the
    object with. This provides more or less heat as one needs.
    One begins by pouring some ammonia into a small container
    (household clear ammonia is best) and then painting the
    ammonia on. Keeping the metal surface moist the whole time is
    important. A tiny amount of weak liver of sulfur solution is
    introduced to the ammonia and this is painted on the same
    way. The color begins to develop slowly, first oranges, reds
    and so on. If it has gone too fast or is unsatisfactory one
    can anneal, pickle and start over. It is also possible to
    heat the double surface until the oxidation begins to
    disappear and then plunge it in to liver of sulfur solution
    which can produce a ‘solarized’ look to the areas around the
    exposed silver. The pin shown in the post card dated 1984 is
    an example of this. Exposed silver areas will turn black as
    is usual with liver of sulfur. The surfaces could be waxed
    slightly or otherwise sealed. I leave my surfaces unsealed.

There does not seem to be much of a problem with color
fading. One silver piece I have oxidized yellow/purple/red is
still unchanged after eight years without protection. This
could vary with the surrounding atmosphere. As a final touch
lines may be emphasized on a paper rolled finish by lightly
burnishing them.

In my class, we were taught to do it a couple of ways (these
only apply to Sterling, unfortunately):

For a really dark black, heat the piece gently and apply the
liver of sulfur. If the liver boils off, your piece is too hot
and the black will flake off eventually, and you should do it
again with a softer flame. Then, just rouge or ZAM the raised
parts with a harder buff (a soft buff will get in the cracks and
take off all your hard work :slight_smile: ) You can also heat the liver
itself on a hot plate in a heatsafe container, and dip the piece
into the hot liver. Both methods are followed with a rinse.

For blues, greens, reds purples etc. you can use the hot dip
method. Run a very hot stream of water in the sink, dunk the
piece, then apply liver (the piece should go yellow) and rinse in
the hot water. If you do this enough, you get a rainbow effect,
or a solid bright colour, finishing with a rinse… you have to
wax/lacquer it right away, though, or the colour will eventually
darken into black as it oxidizes naturally in air.

Hope this helps. :slight_smile:

I’ve seen some WILD colour effects with the hot water method.