© 2016

O is for Oxidization (AtoZ 2016)

I’ve touched on oxidation when I talked about liver of sulfur, but didn’t go into the process itself.

Using liver of sulfur to oxidize isn’t pleasant – it smells like rotten eggs – but it’s the best way to oxidize beads, IMHO. So, I just deal with the smell. I could oxidize my beads outside, but it’s for such a short period of time that I’ve never bothered. Instead I do it beside an open window and leave the window open until the smell is gone. Thankfully, it only takes about 5-15 seconds in the sulfur to oxidize a bead, although the smell will linger for at least 10-15 minutes, even with the windows still open. I’ve learned not to do it while my kids are around so that they don’t complain about the smell. ;)

The tools to oxidize are pretty simple:

  • Concentrated liver of sulfur
  • A glass container with a lid to hold the diluted liver of sulfur mixture
  • Tweezers so that you can dip your item without touching it

If you’re oxidizing just a small part of the bead, you can skip the tweezers and use a paint brush to apply the liver of sulfur mixture to just those parts that need oxidization. Then, you have less to polish off! But, since I’ve always needed to oxidize an entire bead, I’ve always dipped my beads into the mixture using tweezers. I have a dedicated set of tweezers just for oxidizing my beads.

Because you can reuse the mixture several times, it’s best to have a container with a lid so that you can safely store your mixture between uses. I store my liver of sulfur mixture in our garage so that it stays undisturbed and isn’t exposed to a ton of light. I labelled it to make sure that my husband didn’t throw it out (or forget what’s in it and open the jar!)

For silver, you need heat to produce the oxidization, so each time I oxidize a bead I warm up the diluted mixture by sticking the closed container in a bowl of very hot water. The alternative is to warm up the bead before you dip it, but that would involve me getting out my torch again and I’m always concerned that I’ll melt the bead. It’s such a small container that it only take a few minutes in the hot water for the mixture to warm up. The need to warm up the mixture is why I’d recommend a glass container to hold the liver of sulfur mixture.

One way to tell that you need to refresh your mixture is if it takes a long time to oxidize your item. Another way is by the colour; when fresh, the liver of sulfur mixture is a pea-yellow colour. If it’s not yellow, then it’s time to throw it out and make a new batch. As you can see, my mixture is not yellow. But there’s no point making a new one until I’m ready to oxidize again!

The process to oxidize is also quite simple:

  1. Warm up the liver of sulfur mixture.
  2. Dip the bead until it is oxidized to your satisfaction.
  3. When the bead is dark enough, wash it off in cold, running water to stop the oxidization process.

As you can see, oxidation is actually pretty easy. It’s getting rid of the extra oxidization that’s the hard part! But, that’s a post for another day ;)

The other option for oxidizing, which I’ve tried, but didn’t find worked, is to put your item into a bag with a mashed up, hard-boiled egg. A few years ago, before I started making my own beads, I bought a cheap silver bead that came unoxidized so I looked up ways to oxidize. I didn’t want to buy a bottle of liver of sulfur at the time, so I tried the hard-boiled egg. Plus, I figured that it was a nice eco-friendly way to oxidize. It left a yellow tinge on the bead, indicating that it was starting to oxidize, but never went beyond that, even after several days in the bag. Perhaps I needed more eggs, or maybe because the bead was cheap it didn’t have enough silver content for the oxidization to work. Either way, I’ve never tried using eggs again.

Are you a DIYer? Do you prefer using eco-friendly options where you can?

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  • 8 Comments

    1. April 18, 2016 | #

      That’s quite a process! You’ll forgive me I’m sure for just skim-reading this post.

      Susan A Eames from
      Travel, Fiction and Photos

      • Tracy
        April 18, 2016 | #

        Sorry, I tried to make it as short as possible! :D It’s really not that bad, I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything.

    2. April 18, 2016 | #

      Definitely don’t fancy the eggs approach! I am in the process of researching a more friendly way to do something that’s often done by chemicals… but no spoilers as not sure if it might come up later or not!

      Mars xx
      @TrollbeadBlog from
      Curling Stones for Lego People

      • Tracy
        April 18, 2016 | #

        I recently read that you can pour the expired liver of sulfur mixture into your garden to help the plants grow. So maybe it isn’t as bad as I thought.

        The eggs are definitely not the way to go, though!

    3. April 19, 2016 | #

      Some of the old ways actually work better than the new ways, but often the new ones are much quicker :)
      Tasha
      Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

      • Tracy
        April 19, 2016 | #

        liver of sulfur is definitely quick! I had read that the eggs were supposed to be fairly quick too, but that was not the case with the bead that I tried. I have the bottle of sulfur now, so I will use it until its done. Maybe by then something new will be out that will be even better :)

    4. Debbie
      April 20, 2016 | #

      I am just catching up on posts so I won’t comment on all if that’s ok.

      Is oxidsing with liver of sulphur the same pieces process as leaving a bead to naturally oxidise or tarnish over time? I bought a lovely fox bead but when it arrived it was so silver it almost hurt to look at it and there was no definition to show the beauty of the bead. I didn’t try to so anything for fear of runining it so I let it sit on my dressing table until it looked oxidised which took at least 6 months. I polish it as normal and it has kept its oxidised look in the nooks and crannies.

      • Tracy
        April 21, 2016 | #

        Yes, it’s essentially the same process, just much faster! In the three or four months that it took me to finally get around to buying the liver of sulfur, my hawk skull didn’t naturally oxidize at all. And, strangely, the cheap silver bead that I tried years ago to oxidize with the eggs I think is still not naturally oxidized. So I think it must have something to do with the silver content. More humid climates, I think, accelerate the oxidization. My house is pretty dry in the winter, so that might be why my hawk skull didn’t oxidize naturally. Although, my copper bangle tarnishes within a day if I leave it out of the plastic bag!