Thursday, February 27, 2014

Finishing sterling silver with liver of sulfur gel

I've known about the option of using liver of sulfur to oxidize sterling silver for a long time but I've never really wanted to try it.  The process looked so cumbersome and there were lots and lots of warnings about ventilation that made it seem like it was more trouble than it was worth.  The LOS I saw came in small rock-like pieces that could be dissolved in hot water (not too hot though - that's when the fumes become poisonous).

But when I was placing an order for sterling I saw some in a gel form that promised an easy process with no waste.  My typical oxidation efforts come from hard boiled eggs that don't produce fast or intense results so I decided to give it a try.

I'm smitten.  I can't believe I waited this long to try it.

The whole process only took a few minutes - the prep really took longer than the oxidation.  I gathered up a few glass containers to dedicate to the process and decided to use fairly cold tap water because the LOS results come more slowly that way.  Since this was my first attempt I wanted to take it slow and monitor the development. 

The set up:
  • Dish one: cool water and eventually the LOS gel
  • Dish two: cool water and baking soda (to neutralize the LOS)
  • Dish three: baking soda only (further neutralization)
  • Wooden sticks - I had some in with my resin materials that I think I got at a craft store
  • LOS gel
  • Two sterling pendant settings

See how shiny that silver is?

I just dipped the wooden stick into the LOS and then stirred it into the water.  Truly, a tiny amount. I think that LOS jar will last for. ev. er.

I saw the changes start the moment I added the sterling pieces to the dish.

After a few minutes and I fished the pieces out with the wooden stick and moved them to the baking soda/water dish to neutralize the LOS.

That's a lot of oxidation for a couple minutes!

I moved each piece to the last dish and rubbed baking soda onto the high spots to remove some of the oxidation - the whole point is to add depth to the piece, so I need some areas with polish and some with oxidation.  The high spots became bright again with almost no effort - that was the part I was dreading because I envisioned a lot of hand polishing. 

Once that was all done I dumped the leftover baking soda into the dish with the LOS in it to neutralize the solution.

I washed the sterling with liquid soap and water, then set the stones as usual.  I ran over them with a polishing cloth as a final step and could not be happier with the outcome. 

The small setting was for a titanium druzy:

And the larger setting was for a labradorite.  (I mean. These stones...I'm in love with them.)

It doesn't make sense for me to keep either of them; they wouldn't get enough wear to feel loved. I'll list them in my Etsy shop and hope they go to a good home.

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