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Purple patina on sterling

I recently saw a piece of silver (could have been sterling or fine)
that had a graduated patina that resembled raku. The colors ranged
from blue to brown to purple. Any idea how this was done?

Bill Malatesta

Hello Bill and Thank you,

I am a greenhorn here, it made my day to know the answer to your
query. Sounds as if you are desribing a liver of sulfer patina. I
was able to reproduce such a patina by dipping, pulling out, letting
dry, brushing several times in succession, this seems to increase the
range of play in the colors. I have done this now on several pieces
sterling and fine. I have the most range in color on the fine silver.

Going to get some big britches now (Laughing)


A patina such as you described can be achieved by heating your
finished silver piece in hot water and brushing on liver of sulfur,
rinsing and re-applying the liver of sulfur. You may have to repeat
this process several times. If you rinse quickly, your piece will more
gradually go through several color morphs, gold, magenta and blues and
finally dark grays. The colors are frequently multi-colored rather
than uniform…part of the charm and serendipity of this technique.

Since These patinas are difficult to control and can change quickly,
if I have than one piece, e.g., earrings, I find that it’s best to
patinate both pieces at the same time. It’s almost impossible to get
the same level of patination on two pieces separately treated.

As soon as you achieve the color you want, rinse well and dry the
piece. Be sure to use rubber gloves and work in a well ventilated
area. Long term, these color will likely change if unprotected. I’ve
had some success spraying pieces with Nikolas Clear Lacquer. However,
with some of the magentas, you may notice a change of color.

I’m interested in hearing about any other techniques to color silver.

Pam Lund

Hello Bill,

I’ve been working on a mixture with vinagar and ammonia (LJ july
chibuiche)) and for some reason this did not work with me.However,I
went back to my watersolution and liver of sulphur.I don’t know
why,but this how I guess how people get their little secrets.Anyway,
I added some ammonia to the solution (smell’s like hell!!)and dumped
my piece with shibuiche and silver in there.I observed that both
metals reacted to this solution,getting yellow, brown, black and then
the chibuiche did not change it’s color,but the silver started
turning into a nice purple/blue kind of color.I can not describe you
exactly the color,but this is how I determined this patina.I toke the
metals out of the solution and with the shibuiche the patina just
wipped of,nothing really happened to it.The silver otherwise just
stays the way it is.I tried to rub it of with my fingers …no
way,not even with a tooth brush.I can not explain how this process
works but it did.I have a piece of silver over here which is treated
like this and it still has the same patination as it was before (more
then 3 months now). I do not think that there is any potential danger
by using these solutions other then inhaling this ammonia,but still I
take all the precautions I can and use a well ventilated area and
gloves.If you want to try it out,be rather save then sorry and make
sure that you’re doing it without causing trouble to yourself or
anybody else. Maybe somebody shows some interest in this subject and
jumps in to explain what’s going on.

Regards Pedro

   I recently saw a piece of silver (could have been sterling or
fine) that had a graduated patina that resembled raku.  The colors
ranged from blue to brown to purple.  Any idea how this was done? 

If you use Liver of Sulfur on fine silver you can get this effect.
You have to play with the temperature of the bath and dip it quickly,
then flush with clear, cold water to stop the process. You can keep
doing it until you get the effect that you want. I do this often with
my Art Clay Silver. If it gets too dark, or if I don’t like the
mixture, I just refire it in the kiln for 10 min. and then start all
over again. Happiness!

Vinegar, salt and ammonia are traditional mordants used primarily for
dyeing yarn, to help deepen and retain the colors. They serve the same
purpose with liver of sulfur solutions producing interference colors
on silver, copper and to some extent red brass. Different ratios and
combinations produce different results, part of the serendipitious
process. Other factors which affect the process is whether you utilize
a “wet” dip or a “dry” dip (if dipped in water before dipping in the
l-o-s solution), the temperature of the metal before dipping and
stopping the action with a dip in cold water. You can get unusual
effects by selectively dipping some parts of the piece, as the patina
develops in a graduated manner according to the length of time in the
l-o-s solution. On silver, you will get the best results with fine or
depletion gilded silver. A barrier coating, such as laquer, needs to
be used when your piece is finished, or the natural process of
oxidation keeps deepening the color of the metal and you lose your
wonderful colors. Natural abrasion also causes loss of color, so
things like rings need to be protected by a metal rim, similar to an
inlaid band. Have fun experimenting, and remember to use ventilation.
K.P. in WY

Hi there! I have been reading through the forum and other resources without finding a protective coating for iridescent patinas on silver that doesn’t dull it or totally change the color. So far I have tried Protectaclear (lacquer type coating) by Everbrite and Renaissance Wax with unsatisfactory results. Does anyone found something that works well for this?

I make a spiral earring and curved earrings that have the patina on the inside, I have sold them coated and uncoated, with the warning of storing them (the coated ones) so they can’t scratch in airtight ziploc bags. Does anyone have the experience to know how stable these patinas are if they are uncoated? Thanks again for sharing, love the forum, Nicolina

1gr potassium sulfide - 1ml ammonia - 8oz h2o - apply warm