One of the things I enjoy about creating jewelry is the fact that there are so many styles and so many ways to create things. There are different metals, different stones, and different techniques to try and expand on. The trouble I have with this is when I get an idea in my head, I have to try it. My most recent idea was oxidizing the sterling silver I work with. Oxidation (the exposure to oxygen) causes silver to tarnish (turn a darker color) and deliberate oxidation can give jewelry a whole new look.
Generally, the reason people wear silver is because they enjoy the bright shiny color of it. Ladies work hard to keep their silver from tarnishing as they polish it regularly and store it in protective bags. However, there is a rising trend in oxidized jewelry. This type of oxidation is not from lack of maintenance though, it is done during the manufacturing process.
Before I get too far, let me clarify one item. Sterling silver is an alloy (blend) of at least 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (typically). The copper is added to the silver to make the silver strong enough for use in jewelry and flatware. Silver itself is tarnish-resistant, but the copper reacts with oxygen and causes the metal to tarnish. Some of the other things that can cause sterling silver to tarnish are exposure to pollution, salt, sulfur, and other chemicals.
In the jewelry manufacturing process, I have found two ways of oxidizing sterling silver quickly. The first is a chemical called liver of sulfur The sulfur causes the metal to oxidize quickly and evenly giving it a nice dark color. The jewelry can be left dark, or the high spots can be polished while the low spots are left dark, which adds texture and depth to the piece. The other way I have found is to expose the silver to sulfur in an egg. Using a hard-boiled egg, I put the piece in a container with the egg and the sulfer released by the egg gives the silver a nice dark color. This way seems much safer to me than working with chemicals. And don’t worry…I clean the piece with warm water and a mild soap before calling it done.
With the oxidized silver jewelry, you still have the quality and durability of silver jewelry, but you don’t have to worry about keeping it bright and shiny. I think this gives the pieces a natural feel and allows them to be dressed up or down much more easily than polished silver.
Here are a few pieces I recently created. What do you think?
If you would like more information on them or would like to purchase any of them, they are available on my Etsy site through the links listed below the photos.
What are your thoughts on the oxidized metal? I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but now that I have done these three pieces, I am looking forward to creating some more. I have always thought some stones would look better with a darker metal, but I was afraid to move away from silver. This gives me a solution to that problem.
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