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[Tip] How to use Liver of Sulfur


Liquid oxidizers (Win-Ox, Silver Black, etc.) are easy to apply
but are too easily removed. The chemical also tends to creep out
long after the work is finished unless the piece is rinsed very

Liver of Sulfur is the most effective oxidizer of sterling
silver I know of in both cost and performance. It, unfortunately,
is the least easy to apply. It penetrates and thus is the most
resistant. We usually finish our work with tripoli then scrub it
clean in hot soapy water with a brass brush and then oxidize.
This way the areas needing to be polished can be stripped easily
without having to apply pressure on the buff that may gouge out
recessed areas that are intended to remain oxidized.

You can achieve an extremely good antiqued effect by partially
removing the oxidized surface using very fine steel wool. Next
buff the piece with a new muslin wheel without any compound. This
removes the steel wool scratches. Finish by hand rubbing with a
rouge cloth. This gives the piece a nice glow.

One ounce will make about a quart of solution. Dissolve the
mineral in warm water. Make up only what you need at one time.
Both the mineral and solution forms will stay preserved if they
are kept in air tight and light proof containers. Opaque or dark
brown “medicine” bottles are good choices. A yellow color tells
you that the solution and / or the mineral form is still potent.
A clear solution with grey flakes at the bottom means it’s time
to make a fresh batch.

To get Liver of Sulfur to work the solution and/or the metal
must be heated. Heat the solution until the first whiff of
steam appears. Never boil it. Large quantities can be held at the
proper temperature in a crock pot. I use plastic mesh grape bags
from the grocery store to dip multiple small items. Small
quantities can be heated in an old tin or aluminum can then
poured back into it’s air tight container. Also the metal can be
continuously torch heated and dipped into a cold solution to
quickly do small jobs. Never dry out or boil the solution if you
use this technique. Keep it wet and dip again when steam

One can tell the right amount of time to treat the metal by
observing the color change. The desired effect is to achieve a
solid blue-black appearance. A colorful rainbow effect means that
you must do one of the following… Prolong the treatment,
increase the temperature or make the solution stronger by adding
more mineral Liver of Sulfur.

Over heating or prolonged treatment should be avoided at all
cost. Black, blotchy flakes will begin to appear on the metal’s
surface and the oxidization will become very difficult to remove.

Rinse thoroughly and avoid skin contact. Liver of Sulfur fumes
are both smelly (like rotten eggs) and toxic. Use only in a well
ventilated area and never leave the lid off the solution for long
periods of time.

John Foutz
550 Silver & Supply

Phone: 505/598-5322
Fax: 505/598-0974


J,foutz… Thanks for the best overall description
of using Liver of Sulfur I’ve ever seen. All the info in ONE
place. One of the neatest ways of keeping the solution hot was
used by Justine Milgrom in the first silver class I ever took.
She’d keep the solution in a glass dish about the size and shape
of a meat loaf, and heat it (in the absence of a good temperature
controlled heat source) with an immersion heater. For the
uninitiated, an immersion heater is a small heating element,
usually coiled, with its own line cord. Its intended use was to
submerge it in a cup of coffee or tea to enable heating or
keeping it hot at your desk. They used to sell for less than a
dollar but they are probably higher now. Sol K.