I wanted to welcome in this autumnal weather with a post about oxidised jewellery - what is it? How is it made? How do you care for it? Oxidised jewellery is the perfect accompaniment to your autumnal fashion with its dark and broody colours showing off those fall tones.
What is oxidised silver?
Oxidised silver has been treated to turn black in a process called “oxidation”. Oxidation occurs naturally over time - you will see this when you leave an item of silver jewellery unworn in your jewellery box for a long time - it will start to turn a yellow/brown colour. By applying a patina called liver of sulphur we can accelerate this process and turn the silver a beautiful dark grey/black colour.
How do you oxidise silver?
Liver of sulphur must be dealt with responsibly in order not to harm the environment, it is both toxic and corrosive. For a more environmentally friendly method you can use eggs to oxidise your jewellery. Place your jewellery in a sandwich bag on top of some kitchen roll, place a freshly hard boiled egg in the bag. Seal the bag, smash the egg and watch your jewellery change colour! This process works well for an “antiqued” effect but for use over a large surface area the results can be patchy. The moisture produced from the heat of the egg can interfere with the uniformity of the patina but can also produce an interesting rainbow effect, or sometimes (more annoyingly) a muddy brown colour.
An antique effect is achieved when the jewellery is oxidised and then the patina is removed from the surface and remains in the crevasses. This creates the look of aged jewellery that has naturally oxidised over a long period of time.
Oxidised jewellery has risen in popularity among contemporary jewellers, using the patina over large surface areas to create a uniform grey/black colour. The oxidised effect masks the identity of the precious materials underneath, putting in to question the value of precious metals.
Caring for your oxidised jewellery
Oxidised finishes wear with time from the most touched areas of the jewellery. It will wear down to an “antiqued” effect - still oxidised in the dips, grooves and crevasses - which is just as desirable as the original finish. I like to think that each person's jewellery will wear to its own unique patina, depending on how that person wears, touches and fiddles with their jewellery. Depending on the type and style of jewellery some will wear quicker than others. Brooches for example should see very slow wear due to being in such little contact with skin and rings will wear very quickly as they are in constant contact with the skin.
Jewellers usually prolong this effect by using a protective wax or lacquer (I’ve always found wax gives the most natural finish, and darkens the silver beautifully). To keep your oxidised jewellery looking its best for the longest follow these simple steps:
- Remove jewellery when doing anything that may cause it to be scratched or rubbed and take it off before getting in to bed.
- Remove jewellery when showering, washing up or swimming.
- If your jewellery needs cleaning, dab gently with a cloth soaked in warm soapy water. Do not scrub or this will accelerate the wear of the patina.
- ENJOY! Watch your own unique jewellery patina evolve and wear with time :)