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Sterling and fine silver patina dilemma

Please can you help with my ongoing patina challenges?

I am weaving earrings with fine silver and sterling silver. I would
like to darken the sterling while keeping the fine silver bright.

The earrings in questions can be see at:

The ones pictured on my website are a combination of copper and fine
silver. I have had a lot of success with patina on copper/fine
combination and would like to get the same results with the
sterling/fine combo.

For the copper/fine, I dunked the piece in liver of sulfur. The
copper reacted quickly, while the fine only got slightly tarnished. I
was then able to go back into the piece and carefully paint "Tarn-x"
on the fine silver to brighten it. Fortunately the dark on the copper
was unaffected by the “Tarn-x.”

However, the same recipe is not successful with sterling/fine combo.
The sterling and the fine darken at pretty much the same rate. So to
get a nice dark sterling, the fine silver develops heavy oxidation.
When I go to brighten the fine with “Tarn-x” it removes the patina on
the sterling as well.

I have tried a water-soluble wax resist to cover the fine while I
darkened the sterling, and then used the same paint-on water-soluble
wax resist on the sterling while I removed any oxidation from the
fine. The problem is that one small drop of “Tarn-x” on the sterling
ruins the whole finish. Going back in to spot touch-up the sterling
with liver of sulfur looks shoddy.

Obviously a problem with this water-soluble resist is that it is
water soluble. I have tried lacquer (nail-polish), but it dries into
the crevices of the weavings and cannot be removed. Is there another
type of resist that I could use?

As for different chemicals, I have tried some products from Jax.
Their Silver Blackener oxidizes both the sterling and fine and is not
easily removed. I have tried their Silver Cleaner as well as soaking
the piece in pickle to remove the Silver Blackener, but it stays
stuck in the crevices.

Any suggestions as to other patinas that might work?

Is there any way to pre-patina 3 oz. of 28g sterling wire?

Any other ideas?

Thank you in advance for you time and expertise.

Anastasia Azure

I am weaving earrings with fine silver and sterling silver. I
would like to darken the sterling while keeping the fine silver

Love your work!

Have you tried painting the liver of sulphur on with a paint brush?
For that to work the metal has to be warm, maybe you could work on a
hot plate/buffet warmer.


you might try “Future floor finish” from the grocery store as a
resist. This is a very durable acrylic that is very easy to strip
later. strip with ammonia in water. This is becoming a favorite
method for print plate etching.

for your purpose you should be able to use it clear. for print
plates I have dyed it with a water soluble dye.

let me know how it works for you.


I am weaving earrings with fine silver and sterling silver. I
would like to darken the sterling while keeping the fine silver

Anastasia, I think what you need to do is change your thinking of the
effect you want to achieve. The earrings you’re trying to do with
fine and sterling silver will be a challenge at best with
traditional patinas, and it may not pay you timewise. I think,
myself, I would check into some of Ron Young’s dyes They’re nice people to
talk with and can probably help you solve your dilemma.

Hi there,

You could pre-patina the sterling by submerging it in solution
before weaving. The weaving process may, by the handling process,
remove some of the patina. I think, if you had it dark enough it
would work fine. I will be at the Craft Center all next week as a
faculty assistant with Betty Helen Longhi. We could experiment if you
want. I’ll be there Sunday afternoon.



I don’t use wire in the same way that you do, but I do use a mixture
of patinated and non-patinated silver wire in some of my pieces, and
for this I just put the wire in the liver of sulphur to blacken it
before I use it, then finish it in bicarb to neutralise the LOS.

Would this be possible for you? You would need a biggish LOS bath,
and good ventilation, but it ought to be feasible.

Hi Anastasia -

Beautiful pieces. I also pre-patina my silver before using sometimes
and it seems to be quite effective. Question though - how is the
contrast maintained? Does the fine silver also end up
oxidizing/tarnishing eventually? Have you tried Argentium wire
instead of fine silver? I am in the process of trying it out, will
let you know the results.


Anastasia, I wonder if it would be possible to color your wire
before weaving, or if the weaving process might remove some of the
patina. An easy way to color sterling or fine silver wire might be to
make a loose coil of it (especially if it’s a large quantity) and
place it in a large ziploc bag with a source of sulfur - some
Orchidians have recommended hard-boiled egg yolks for this purpose.
It’s a bit stinky, but it generally works in a day or two. For
copper, you might experiment with suspending it in an airtight
container over paper toweling soaked in vinegar, which produces a
lovely blue patina. (I’m not sure if that would stand up to extensive
handling, but it doesn’t affect sterling, so you might try it
post-weaving.) I’m keen to see what ideas people have on stabilizing
patinas - coatings, waxes, etc. That always seems to be my problem.

Thanks for sharing your incredible, beautiful work, too! Everyone
should go and have a look :slight_smile:

Jessee Smith
Cincinnati, Ohio