Friday, 24 September 2010

An Experiment in Oxidisation

Recently I found a forum on etsy about how to oxidise sterling silver with a hard boiled egg. 'Really?' I thought, 'Hmm, maybe I should give that a go.' I am always keen on experiments you can do with household objects!

The sensible thing would, of course, have been to try something small and see what it turned out like - however, I don't usually roll like that (impatience).

So, on Monday I finished a necklace (for me, for once) that I liked but thought was just missing a little something.

'Perfect!' I thought. 'Something that has taken me a while and involves a fair amount of silver. Just the thing to experiment on.'

So when Alice decided to save her afternoon nap yesterday for when we got back home from out trip to the British Library (lunch with a friend and a look at the Magna Carta), it seemed like a good time to try it out.

I got all my ingredients, boiled my egg for about 10 minutes (the problem of impatience again), chopped it up with a big knife very quickly, put it in the box with the necklace and closed the box, also quickly (speed is important, I believe).

I waited for the whole 40 minutes the forum recommended, and opened it up.

I don't know what you think, but to me it just looked like I'd left it in a box for a couple of years. Less nicely oxidised and more nastily tarnished. At this point, I began to berate myself for my impatience. Why didn't I try a small pair of earrings first?

However, all was not lost. I dug out my salt and baking powder, put a lining of foil in the plastic container and boiled the kettle (another 'household' method of cleaning jewellery). You put the jewellery on the foil at the bottom, put a bit of both of the above in (2tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt - or in my case, a shake of both containers) and pour the boiling water on. It goes 'FIZZ', and like magic it cleans your silver.

As you can see, it didn't get my necklace back to it's original condition, but it cleaned the chain up a treat and left the flower with more of the effect I was hoping for.

Overall, then, a qualified success. I will have to wear it a bit and see what I think of it. And maybe try something smaller next time!


  1. I suspect that it just needed longer to get a deeply oxidised layer, it simply looks half done to me. But it's a very pretty piece.

    To get a really deep colour on silver, I clean it very thoroughly first (the spots where it has missed may because there is something on the surface, oil from your fingers, polish etc.), get the piece warm and then oxidise it twice, cleaning well between the dippings. The egg process is a significantly gentler one than using LoS, that would therefore need much more time.

    I bet if you'd left it overnight it would have been a much deeper finish, 40 minutes doesn't seem enough for that method.

  2. Oh man! I was too impatient again!

    Thanks a lot for the information Boo, you are right, it probably wasn't clean enough (schoolboy error).

    I will bear your advice in mind the next time I try it. I'm not brave enough to try the necklace until I've done something smaller that I like now - but I will try it again.