Bright, shiny silver jewelry looks great and certainly has its place. However, sometimes you might want a more aged or antique look for a certain piece of jewelry or project that you are making. Creating an aged finish on silver – also known as a patina – is actually relatively easy to do and can be done in a matter of hours or days instead of the years that it would typically take. Here are some ways of aging silver that should help you learn how to age silver and get beautiful antique-looking pieces.
Liver of Sulfur
Probably the most common method of aging or oxidizing silver and creating an antiqued finish is by using liver of sulfur. Liver of sulfur, which is actually the chemical potassium sulfide, reacts with the silver and creates darker areas. Liver of sulfur certainly does a great job of creating a patina, however it also release harmful toxic fumes as it reacts with the surface of the silver. If you use it you need to make sure that you are in a well ventilated area to avoid breathing in the fumes.
It is quite easy to use. You start by dissolving a small piece of liver of sulfur in water. The less concentrated your solution the more control you will have over the final finish. Avoid using metal objects such as spoons or tweezers with the liver of sulfer solution since it can darken them. Instead, opt for a plastic spoon for mixing and plastic tweezers.
To oxidize the silver, place your jewelry item in the liver of sulfur solution for a few seconds, take it out and rinse it off under clean water. Check to see how dark it got. If you want it darker dip it for a few more seconds at a time until you reach the desired level.
To create the highlights and shadows that you see in patterned antiqued jewelry, use a piece of steel wool and rub the surface of your piece. The patina should be removed from the higher areas and left in the lower areas creating highlights and shadows that showcase the pattern or texture of the metal.
Remember to work in a well ventilated room and avoid touching the liver of sulfur or breathing any dust from it. Also avoid getting any un-used liver of sulfur wet since it will cause it to become inactive. Always store it in a cool dry place.
For a more accessible alternative to liver of sulfur, you can try aging your silver with bleach. Simply place your item in a cup of household bleach and allow the patina to develop. Since the bleach is not as strong as the liver of sulfur it will take longer to develop the patina. However, you should still check your piece regularly to make sure the aging is not getting to dark.
Although I have never tried this method, I have heard from several people that you can create a patina on both copper and silver using an egg and an air-tight container. You boil the egg, then break it into pieces and put it in a jar. Put your jewelry piece in the jar with the egg, seal it and leave it overnight. It should develop oxidation without the need for harmful chemicals or fumes.