Liver of sulphur crystals

I rarely apply a LOS finish to my work and when I do, I usually discover that my LOS gel is out of date. I am curious if anyone uses crystals and just makes it up as they need it? Do the crystals have a shelf life? Thanks…Rob

1 Like

I use the crystals and it works great. I only make as much as I need and I find using a heat gun helps it to take really well. When the metal is brought up to temperature it seems to work better.

I’ve only ever used crystals. Never saw the point of gel or other products. They’re easy to dissolve in some warm water and work well. And they shouldn’t have a shelf life that matters. It’s basically raw sulfide salts and I can’t imagine it’s likely to change much sitting in the can. I’ve had the same supply for nearly a decade…

1 Like

I’m not a scientist, so I only know what I’ve been taught. The last time I bought liver of sulphur crystals was in the 1980’s or 90’s. Since then I’ve kept it sealed in a cool dark place and it’s still good as new. Meaning the LOS crystals are still a deep yellow, without any hint of gray.

I bought this LOS from a chemical supply house in the SF Bay Area called Bryant Labs. Bryant Labs not only specialized in serving the scientific community, but also the artist/jewlery/sculpture community for etching and patinas. Sadly, Bryant Labs is now out of business. When I picked it up decades ago, Bryant Labs explained to me that LOS degrades when it is exposed to light, oxygen or water. As far as I know, shelf life isn’t as important as how the LOS is stored. I’ll be honest, I’m amazed by how long these LOS crystals have retained their potency and yellow color, but I’ve consistently followed Bryant Labs instructions and have always kept it out of light and the container tightly sealed.

LOS crystals still work after they turn gray. Just not as well.

In my teaching job we just switched to the LOS gel because I was told that it’s easier keep from deteriorating. In our school scenario, it’s been impossible to keep the LOS crystals from turning gray. We’ve only had the LOS gel for a month or so, so I can’t attest to its longevity.

Hope that helps.



Thanks all for the replies. I am about to order some crystals. The gel that I have is shot. I do clean and then warm the piece before I run it through the LOS solution. I then remove the piece and rinse in warm water and then repeat. I have found that, if I just leave it in the solution, the finish flacks off. Thanks again…Rob

1 Like

I’ve found that the Science Company has the best quality liver of sulfur crystals. These folks supply numerous patina chemicals for metal and jewelry artists.

It’s important to remember that with liver of sulfur you’re creating a chemical reaction and building up an oxide coat. It’s usually best to pre clean the metal as best as possible, then build up the oxide coat slowly with repeated short dips and water rinses instead of one long one. Usually when it flakes off it means that the oxide coat is too thick.

Good luck Rob!!



I prefer the gel. It’s easier to measure and it does have a long shelf life. As Jeff suggested… in addition to cleaning the piece I have made, I heat my LOS solution, and do a quick dip and rinse in hot water. If the piece is not as dark as I like I just repeat. Before dipping I warm the piece a bit with the steamer which seems to improve the process. When wet the oxidation looks really black. However it turns a bit grey when it dries. So I use wax to make the black pop. I find that Renaissance is not very durable, so I use liquid Meguiar"s carnauba wax. The same stuff i use to protect my tools.


Jo, those masks are super cool! What a fantastic use of LOS :astonished:.

I imagine the gel really comes in handy when you need to be that accurate on the location for the patina as well. Do you clean the wax off of the stones after protecting the finish or just put a layer over the entire piece?

Hello Orchidland,
I switched to the LOS gel, oh probably 15 years ago. At last use in June, 2023, it worked quite well. I DO keep the container well sealed between uses.
My technique is to warm the LOS solution before dipping the silver. I used a 400 watt microwave in the studio just to heat the water, then stirred in a little LOS gel. Doesn’t take much.
Judy Hoch gets some gorgeous iridescent results with LOS. She said that she uses solid LOS. If you’ve seen her work, you know why she doesn’t mess with success.
Judy in Kansas, where the winds are whipping across the prairie. Enjoying the nesting orioles and house finches.

1 Like

I didn’t use wax. Just nail polish to mask off the areas I wanted white. That said I did use a very fine brush to apply the diluted and heated gel.
For this project I used my favorite silver alloy Continuum silver. It takes to oxidation really well. It’s also a brighter white than sterling thus making the color contrast really sharp.


What color should the crystals be when new?..Rob

Ideally the crystals are yellow, not gray. Turning gray is a sign they are deteriorating. They may still work, but are on their way out.

I stopped buying liver of sulfur crystals from jewelry supply companies a while ago because they often came gray. That’s why I think the Science Company is a good source. They’re a chemical supply company. Selling quality chemicals is their business.


1 Like

Great! The ones I just received are yellow. That makes sense since sulfur is yellow…Rob

I’ve got a jar full of gray ones, now I know!

They deteriorate with exposure to light, moisture and oxygen. Cool, dark and dry will keep them fresh. Like I said, I’ve got some that are 20-30 years old that are still yellow. I keep them sealed in a dark corner of my basement.


LOS or K2S is easily oxidized in the presence of oxygen and moisture, turning it grey…potassium sulfate is the ruined product. It also breaks down in strong sunlight. Keep LOS in an airtight, moisture proof bottle or can. I have a 1 oz can with a tight metal stopper that is still good after 20 years. A little goes a long way. adding a moisture absorber, like a small packet of silica gel that comes with some dehydrated foods can help also. Blackened silver is siliver sulfide tarnish, only controlled. Beautiful effects from blue tints to dark black can be achieved by controlling the concentration of a dipping solution, number of dips, or exposure time if painted on. Takes so experimenting at first to get the desired results. Good luck!

my supply is just as old and just as fresh. small tightly sealed metal can of 1 oz.