In General Tips on Oxidizing Silver and Copper, I talked about using general steps and different methods to oxidize (also referred to as antique or artificially tarnish) metal jewelry. In this article, I’ll discuss my tried and true method of using an item that’s probably in your refrigerator right now to oxidize your jewelry — eggs!
I’d used hard boiled eggs off and on to oxidize jewelry, but it’s become my preferred method. While Liver of Sulfur works quickly and effectively, if it’s exposed to ANY moisture at all (even humidity in the air), it breaks down and is unusable.
Plus, if I need more LoS, I need to order it online and wait (I haven’t been able to find a suitable local source). Since our family raises chickens, we have eggs nearly all the time, and if I run out, there’s always the grocery store!
(So…if it’s so easy, Lynn, would you just get to the instructions? )
This method works equally well for sterling silver (Bali and Hill Tribe included) or copper.
Step One: Hard boil some eggs. I usually use 2-4 eggs depending on how much jewelry I’m oxidizing and how big the pieces are. I usually boil my eggs for about 15 minutes, but seriously, unless you are making extras to eat, it doesn’t matter if you over-boil them and get that green ring around the outside.
Step Two: Before removing the eggs from the boiling water, set up your oxidizing bag. I use a quart-sized zippered plastic bag, you can adjust the size depending on how much jewelry you are oxidizing. Place the jewelry in the bag on a countertop or other surface. Make sure each piece of jewelry is separated, you don’t want them touching each other.
Step Three: Use a metal tongs to remove the eggs from the boiling water. Place them in the open plastic bag. Doesn’t matter where they are in proximity to the jewelry. Close the bag almost all the way (leave a little bit of an opening, the bag will expand with the heat from the eggs.
Step Four: Crush the eggs, shell and all. I use the bottom of a plastic cup, you can also use a spoon or anything that will smash down the eggs inside the bag. The trick is, don’t use your hands — remember you just took those eggs out of boiling water!!! Make sure you crush up the yolks, that’s where all that good sulfur-y chemical to oxidize your metal is going to come from. Close the bag completely after crushing the eggs (don’t worry if there’s extra air in it.)
Step Five: Wait. Turn. Wait some more. Turn again. Rinse, repeat. You’ll see your jewelry start turning goldish brown, gradually turning black. I’ve found that the surface of the jewelry that’s on the counter will not get color as evenly, so I turn the bag over a couple of times during the process. It doesn’t matter if the egg gets all over the jewelry (it will get cleaned off), but you don’t want the metal to touch another piece of metal as you reposition the bag. Generally, about 20-30 minutes is enough time to achieve a nice patina, but you can leave overnight or all day if you’d like.
Step Six: Remove jewelry from bag. Throw away the bag, eggs and all (this is one of the reasons I love this method — clean up is so easy!!). Wash off all the egg that’s gotten on your jewelry.
Use the steps outlined in General Tips on Oxidizing Silver and Copper for a final cleaning and care of your jewelry.
Got kids who are out of ideas for summer vacation or snow-day activities? Let them make some creations with copper wire and then let them oxidize using the egg method (or just oxidize some copper pennies!). Supervise the boiling and crushing of the eggs, but it’s a great science experiment for them to see the metal turn color before their very eyes!
— L. Kvigne