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:
- Warm up the liver of sulfur mixture.
- Dip the bead until it is oxidized to your satisfaction.
- 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?