MeritMade Lessons - What is oxidized silver?

Author: Amanda Watson

The photos below show a direct comparison between oxidized and non-oxidized silver. Oxidation of silver is simply the process of intentionally exposing silver to environmental factors that cause tarnishing. As you can see, there is a significant difference in the appearance of the two. Let's dive a little deeper...

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The final result of the oxidation process is a very smoky looking blue grey silver that some people find appealing. The best part is that silver that has been finished in this fashion requires less cleaning and maintenance than traditionally finished silver, and further tarnishing of the surface usually results in an even more dramatic appearance. 

There are several different oxidizing solutions on the market that can be purchased specifically for the purpose of this process. Most of them require that the solution be diluted in water. Some are in gel for and can be painted on. One of the weirdest "solutions" is to use a hard boiled egg! Crazy, I know.

In our studio, we use Liver of Sulfur for the oxidation process. Liver of Sulfur is a mixture of potassium sulfide, potassium polysulfide, potassium thiosulfate, and probably potassium bisulfide. All very technical chemical terms, but dilluted correctly and heated just a bit it provides the most even and consistent finish.

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While the underlying metal is still the same material, there are some significant differences in how to care for oxidized silver as opposed to traditionally finished sterling silver. If you clean the oxidized sterling silver as you would with any other type of jewelry, you will find that it completely ruins the blackened look. 

Here's how the best method to clean oxidized silver:

  • Start by mixing warm water and washing liquid in a large bowl. I recommend "the blue" Dawn for this step as I've found it to be the best de-greaser. However, any detergent will likely work.
  • Stir the liquids together. 
  • Place the silver into the bowl, moving it around occasionally.
  • Let it soak for about 20 minutes. 
  • Take it out of the soapy water, and place it onto a soft towel. Gently wipe the silver with the towel, taking care not to scrub. A harsh scrubbing action could also remove the black finish.

As you can see in our shop. We often use this beautiful blue grey oxidized finish in our pieces. We love the look, and hope you do too!

Have questions? Add a comment below or send an email to

Enjoy! Amanda