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Long lasting black patina on silver?

Hello Jewelers! What ways do you know of to put a black/gunmetal patina on sterling silver that lasts a really long time? E.g. I’ve heard that warm vs hot, allowing it to develop slowly, helps it absorb more deeply and last longer. So far, in my experimenting with Liver of Sulfur, the patina is shallow - shallower than I’d like…

I know there are options like powder coating and waxing, but I am looking for a way to deepen the patina layer…

I am so appreciative of your advice and guidance.


• There are many chemicals for adding patinas to metal surfaces.

For example:

• Rio Grande offers multiple options, in many different forms;

• Otto Frei

• Gesswein, five;

• Contenti, three;

• Metalliferrous, seven;

-or- you can make your own. This is a complex topic and I won’t cover it here because. . .

• Since I primarily use fine silver and sterling silver in my work, I like to use Liver of Sulfur as my preferred patination chemical.

About Liver of Sulfur

• Liver of sulfur (LOS) is relatively innocuous.

• It does generates fumes, so active ventilation is imperative.

• Wear rubber, latex, or nitrile gloves when handling it, or use nonreactive tweezers (stainless steel, bamboo, or plastic). LOS smells like rotten eggs, and will make your ungloved hands smell like that, too.

•LOS is one of the more benign patina chemicals.

• LOS is packaged in three different forms: as chunks, as a gel, or in solution.

• I use the chunks which retain their strength longer than the solution. (I have no experience using the gel.)

How to Use Liver of Sulfur Chunks

• Drop a chunk of LOS into hot water in a small nonreactive (stainless steel or Pyrex) bowl.

• LOS works best when it’s hot, so you can also use a stainless steel pot and heat it on a hotplate.


(It doesn’t need to be boiling, just hot… and ventilate, ventilate, ventilate)

• The color of the solution should be a deep yellow, about like the color of an egg yolk.

(When I’m finished applying this solution I can store it for several days and re-use it)

• Drop a degreased metal object in the hot LOS solution. I generally warm the object under hot running water and then drop it in the LOS.

• Remove the object after a few seconds, either with gloved hands or tweezers.

Rinse the object in hot running water and re-immerse it in the solution.

• Repeat this procedure until the patina pleases you.

• Rinse the object in hot water with a little dishwashing liquid.

•I’ve never coated my jewelry objects with wax or a clear varnish or, etc.


• If you don’t have any LOS and you need to patina a piece, you can use hard-boiled egg yolk

(That rotten egg smell is sulfur)

• Boil one or two eggs

• Peel eggs and break open so that the yolk is visible.

• Place the eggs and metal object in a jar with a screw lid and screw on the lid.

• Wait…wait…wait… until the metal is dark enough to suit your taste

(This may take a few days, depending on the age of the eggs…older = better)


You will always get the best black by having your work clean, grease free and with a “tooth”. You can get a tooth with sand blasting, etching, or, my preference, just out of an abrasive tumbler run. I do it cold. My LOS is mixed with room temperature water, 8oz, 1 teaspoon table salt, 1 drop dish soap and 2 tablespoons of ammonia. After the work has sat wet for a couple of minutes, I use an old brush, natural bristles, and scrub the piece. When bubbles develop, keep going for another few seconds. It seems to make the LOS get into all the tiny crevices. And if that doesn’t work to your satisfaction, dry the stuff and go to your bench and abrade the surface with a red or yellow 3m bristle disc. Repeat process and don’t get your fingers on the surface.


Surface preparation is the key.
Clean metal is fine, sandblasted metal is better.
Oxydizer of your choice to your taste.
I always do a glass bead blast to get an uniform finish. It sort of hammer in the black oxyde, leaving a pearl finish that won’t show any skin oil mark.
Forever nice looking finish.


Been using the Grobet Gel for years…fresh solution every day
easy peasy and inexpensive …small squirt in hot water…using same water to heat piece
make sure to thoroughly clean metal (or not if you want to mask areas)
…sand blasting not a bad idea but if you’re polishing make real sure all of the compound is removed.
Finally, sure you know this but, I would not expect worn surfaces to retain patina unless you protect with lacquer …and even then.

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I’ve had better results from dipping the piece repeatedly into a warm, strong LOS gel bath than I do from soaking it. That said, I did just tonight order a bottle of Black Max from Rio Grande. The LOS tends to give me a lot more purples and reds, and when you need black you need BLACK.

I’ve also tried Novacan Black and had pretty good results as far as color, but can’t speak to durability as it was on earrings that don’t take much wear. The Black Max seems to be a professional step up from the Novacan which is why I decided to get some.

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Thank you all so much for your ideas and suggestions. I am continuing to experiment, keeping in mind all of your great advice.

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