How to oxidise your jewellery
Have you ever seen the beautiful handmade pieces of jewellery that have an antique look to them and wondered how it’s done? Or maybe you are aware that oxidising your own handmade jewellery is an option, but just not sure how to do it and intimidated if it might be a difficult process. Fear not, because this blogpost along with accompanying video tutorial will teach you how to oxidise your jewellery and the process is much easier than you might expect.
Firstly we need to make sure we have all the materials ready to start oxidising our pieces.
We’ll need three separate containers to make our different solutions and make sure there is no cross contamination between them. I am using some cheap take away plastic tubs. Regardless what containers you use, make sure they are not used for food afterwards. I keep the containers for the purpose of oxidising my jewellery only.
To help mix the solutions together we can use wooden skewers or anything else you have handy that won’t be used for food afterwards.
For protection (mostly to ‘protect’ the jewellery) we can use some disposable gloves while handling it. You can also use some scrap wire or tongs to handle the jewellery.
To help prepare the pieces of jewellery a toothbrush is useful for cleaning them as it will get in all the nooks and crannies. Any cheap toothbrush will work and make sure to not use it for brushing your teeth afterwards.
To use with the toothbrush to clean the jewellery we can use some regular dish soap. This will remove any dirt and oils from the pieces before we oxidise them.
Most importantly we will need our oxidising agent. There are different ones on the market, but I use ‘Liver of Sulpher Extended Life Gel’ as it is easy to both use and store.
To then remove the oxidisation from the desired areas and start the polishing process baking soda is a great product. It is non-abrasive yet still effective.
Polishing pads are used for precise polishing of your pieces.
Finally a jewellery polishing cloth is used to finish off your pieces and make them ready to wear.
At the bottom of the page you will find links to all the necessary products.
The following will outline and explain the whole process of oxidising your pieces of jewellery. It is separated into three sections. The first one goes over cleaning your pieces before starting the oxidisation process. The next section will explain the whole process of oxidising your pieces and finally polishing and finishing. All pieces will need to be made with bare wire such as bare copper wire or sterling silver as coated wire won’t accept oxidisation.
Cleaning the jewellery
First we need to clean our pieces of jewellery before we can apply the oxidisation. This is essential to remove any dirt and oils from the pieces as that can compromise the oxidisation later on. For instance oils from your hands can prevent the liver of sulphur from having the desired effect in some places. Therefore it is crucial to clean every nook and cranny of your pieces.
Fill one of your containers with warm water (so it is comfortable to touch) and add a little bit of dish soap to the water. Use a wooden skewer to mix the soap into the water until it is completely dissolved.
Wear a disposable glove one the hand that you will be handling the jewellery with and put your first piece of jewellery into the soap mix so it gets covered. Remove the piece from the soap mix and start scrubbing it all over with the toothbrush. Make sure to cover all parts including the back and the clasp.
Once you’ve cleaned your piece rinse it under the tap to remove all the excess soap water. Then place it on your prepared kitchen towel and leave it to dry while cleaning the remaining pieces.
Oxidising the jewellery
Fill a new container with warm water and add approximately a tablespoon of baking soda. Mix the baking soda into the water until it has completely dissolved.
Fill a second clean container with warm water and 4-5 drops of Liver of Sulpher. The water has to be pretty warm as that activates the Liver of Sulpher solution and as the water cools down, it will become less effective. Mix the solution into the water using a wooden skewer until it has completely dissolved and your mix has now turned yellow.
Wearing a disposable glove on the hand you’ll be handling the jewellery with, add your first piece of cleaned jewellery into the Liver of Sulpher mix and let it sit in the container for a bit. Your piece will now start to change to a darker colour. Occasionally lift the piece out of the container to keep an eye on the colour changing.
Once you are happy with the colour achieved remove the piece from the Liver of Sulpher mix and gently place it into the baking soda mix, making sure to not touch the baking soda mix with your glove as that would create cross contamination. The baking soda mix acts as a neutraliser, which means it stops the oxidisation from developing any further. This whole process of oxidising one piece of jewellery only takes a few minutes. Repeat with the remaining pieces and you can easily have multiple pieces oxidising at the same time.
Once you have finished oxidising your pieces place them on a clean kitchen towel to dry. Pour some (or all) of the baking soda mix into the Liver of Sulpher solution to neutralise it. It can now be poured down the drain safely.
Polishing the jewellery
To start polishing the jewellery pour approximately one tablespoon of baking soda into your hand. Then add a few drops of water to it and start mixing it together. This will form a paste that we will use to polish our pieces with. Make sure the paste is not to dry or to wet to work with. You can add more water for the right consistency.
Using your fingers rub this paste all over your already oxidised pieces of jewellery one at a time. This will start to remove some of the oxidisation from the high points. Cover all parts of the piece.
Once done, rinse the piece of jewellery under the tap to remove any excess baking soda mix and then place on a kitchen towel to dry. Repeat this process for all your pieces.
When your pieces have dried use a polishing pad to refine the polishing. Make sure to get in all the nooks and crannies of your pieces and don’t forget about the clasp.
Finally use a jewellery polishing cloth to add shine to your pieces and help seal the oxidisation in place, by rubbing it all over your pieces.
To get the most out of your oxidisation solution, it is recommended to do this process in batches. Make several pieces of jewellery ready to oxidise and then oxidise them all in a batch when you have a decent amount ready. This is because as soon as the oxidisation solution is mixed, it starts to deteriorate and will lose its effect as the water cools down and the mixture can’t be saved for reuse.
You have now learned how to add an antique look to your jewellery by oxidising it and you can get carried away oxidising one piece after another.
Below you will find links to all the necessary materials on amazon. (Links are affiliate and help support me at no extra cost to you):
Plastic tubs - https://amzn.to/3bbriMT
Wooden skewers - https://amzn.to/3dhCOIA
Disposable gloves - https://amzn.to/2UmHunS
Toothbrush - https://amzn.to/2U9odYa
Dish soap - https://amzn.to/2IZQLwG
Liver of Sulpher XL Gel - https://amzn.to/2J1ZWwD
Baking soda - https://amzn.to/3a87Ctf
Polishing pads - https://amzn.to/3a87IRn
Jewellery polishing cloth - https://amzn.to/2J3iaxR
Rainbow cutlery - https://amzn.to/2QydVOY