We’ve all been there.
You know you really should keep your silver jewelry clean to keep it from becoming tarnished. But it takes time and effort and, well, it cleans in the bath or shower, doesn’t it?
As a result, favorite silver jewelry pieces end up never being worn, left in boxes looking dull and sad.
Never place silver in areas exposed to large amounts of oxygen and keep in special silver storage containers. If you, like thousands of others, have been simply lumping yours in with your other jewelry, it’ll be another reason why it looks old before it’s time.
Cleaning and taking care of silver jewelry can be a drag, polishing tiny pieces more so.
But what if you didn’t have to?
Enter Oxidized silver jewelry.
Trendy, edgy and contemporary, oxidized silver has become extremely popular. You don’t need to polish or clean it often and can be left in any type of environment. You can even put it safely with your other jewelry.
And you won’t have to worry about it tarnishing.
Used in anything from sculpture, home wear, art designs to jewelry, this blackened silver has really got everyone’s attention. But what is it exactly?
What is Oxidized Silver?
Blackened or oxidized silver jewelry is a process performed on sterling silver.
The silver has its surface intentionally darkened through by a chemical process, but it remains true sterling silver.
To achieve this fabulous look, jewelers use a chemical compound such as liver of sulfur, or potassium sulfide. A silver sulfide layer forms on the outer surface of the metal, giving the jewelry piece a blackened look.
At its strongest, the color on oxidized silver jewelry appears a matte, gunmetal black. It’s contrasting color makes gemstones and diamonds really come alive.
The full range of colors which can be achieved through this process can be extensive. With controlled application, yellows, reds, purples, and blues can all be brought to the fore, making pieces exciting and different.
The choice is immense, and gorgeous.
All this, just from speeding up the natural tarnishing process!
Can sterling silver oxidize?
Yes, it can, because tarnish and oxidation are essentially the same thing.
If you want your sterling silver to oxidize naturally, this might sound like a great idea. Before you abandon your best pieces to the elements though, bear in mind they may not turn out how you want it to.
When your beloved piece of silver tarnishes naturally, you don’t get to choose where and how much. Mostly, naturally tarnished silver just looks dirty and unattractive.
Rather than waiting around for unknown and probably disappointing results, invest in new, artificially oxidized pieces. Artists apply tarnishing exactly where they want it and strategic polishing highlights the technique and the piece, making it truly unique.
Does Oxidized Silver Wear Off?
Oxidized silver pieces can have a very long life.
As it’s merely a chemical method of speeding up the tarnishing process, you may be wondering, does oxidized silver wear off?
The patina on earrings and necklaces will last the longest as they take longer to interact with your surroundings. The patina on bracelets and rings, on the other hand, has a much shorter lifespan as they constantly rub on things.
Tempting though it is, don’t clean with polishes or dips for silver. They can be too aggressive for oxidized silver. Remember, polishes and dips are for removing tarnish!
You can take measures to keep the patina for as long as possible. Here are some suggestions.
Warm, soapy water
Clean your pieces carefully by mixing a little dishwashing liquid into a bowl of lukewarm water, stirring it in without creating bubbles.
Add the jewelry and gently move around for a few minutes. Leave for about half an hour or until dirt floats to the surface. Take the pieces out and place onto clean towels where you can gently wipe them dry.
Do not scrub!
Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with warm water until it forms a soft paste. Gently rub onto your pieces and wait for about ten to fifteen minutes or longer depending on how deeply you need to clean. Gently wash off in warm water and use a soft cloth to dry.
Coat your pieces in toothpaste and run warm water over until the toothpaste foams. Using a brush with very soft bristles, brush as you would your teeth, only very gently.
Toothpaste removes dirt, grime, and stains. Just don’t use the brush for your teeth after!
Some people say that renaissance wax can protect it as well as deepening the contrast. Others say you can coat your jewelry in varnish or enamel. In all cases, the effect will eventually fade or even wear off completely.
The good news is, you can have your pieces re-oxidized.
Or have a go yourself.
How To Oxidize Jewelry
In case you were wondering, oxidized silver is just a surface treatment. It doesn’t change the internal color or properties of the silver itself.
You can buy liver of sulfur in dry lump-form, liquid pre-mixed or gel. You don’t need a lot of equipment, but as it’s a hazardous material you should be cautious.
Take a look at this great guide on how to oxidize jewelry.
You can also have a go at the boiled egg method.
- Place a peeled hard-boiled egg into a plastic bag, seal, and mash using the palm of your hands.
- Open the bag and place your silver pieces to be oxidized inside.
- Reseal the bag, sit back and watch as the process begins. More discoloration will be produced the longer you leave the silver in the bag.
- While the egg is doing its stuff, shuffle the items around inside the bag and turn over to make sure the silver is completely exposed to the sulfur.
- Once you have achieved the desired amount of oxidation, remove your newly oxidized silver jewelry, rinse off to remove any egg and dry.
- If you’re happy with the result, polish with a soft jewelry cloth, working the tarnish to gain the effect you are looking for.
- Bear in mind when polishing that the more you do, the less tarnish you are left with.
If you are still unsure about having a go yourself, there are plenty of places that offer silver jewelry-making classes. Look up online for courses near you and ask about silver oxidation.
Why is Oxidized Silver Popular?
It’s said that Queen Victoria invented a new style of jewelry after Prince Albert died. Called ‘silver mourning jewelry’ her pieces were blackened oxidized silver set with dark gemstones.
With its unique look and versatility, it’s easy to see why oxidized jewelry is still so popular today.
Wear on their own or team pieces up with other bracelets or necklaces to keep in line with this years layering trend. Oxidized pieces look great worn with precious jewelry too.
Statement earrings, necklaces, and rings made with tribal motifs are popular among those fashion-savvy amongst us,
Oxidized silver jewelry is available in any pattern you want. Delicately carved designs, stonework, and enameling are only a few ways items are created. Buy from an artisan jewelry maker and you can guarantee your piece will be unique only to you.
Bursting with a vintage, raw charm that women are finding irresistible, oxidized silver jewelry is in high demand.
Women who love the ethnic, folksy, artsy one-of-a-kind look, whilst being on-trend make oxidized jewelry their first choice. Appreciating that it’s cost-effective and affordable, they know this trendy fashion jewelry still allows them to look utterly glamorous.
Wear with plain whites and pure blacks for the sophisticated look. Mix with monochromes and flowing prints for the more boho and hippie effect. Oxidized silver jewelry plays with shadow and light on fabric, so wear rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings that accentuate this look.
Good luck charms, beaded necklaces, and rings are popular with the younger among us.
Brides are also looking at oxidized silver jewelry as a means of wearing something different and more and more jewelers are stocking oxidized pieces.
Designed to mimic tribal, Meenakari, Kundan, Mughal, and Temple among others, you can also find oxidized jewelry such as pendants decorated with zodiac signs. Gemstones such as Rubies, Pearls, Garnet, Emeralds and superior grades of cubic Zirconia are also used. The oxidation of the silver really bringing the gems to life.
dAgDesigns on Etsy has some fabulous Artisan handmade Sterling silver jewelry.
BoutiquebyMaryam makes beautiful Afghani, Egyptian, Indian, and Tibetan among many other styles of beautiful Oxidized silver jewelry. Find them also on Etsy.
Looking for something bespoke? JewelStreet have some amazing items from pendants and cuffs to necklaces available online to buy or to make to your specifications. Create and design your own oxidized item from scratch.
It’s important to remember that although oxidation of silver is not permanent, it will wear beautifully. Over time, the wear of your item will reflect the love you’ve had using it.
Do you love oxidized silver jewelry? Have you ever tried oxidizing your own?
Share in the comments below!