Using Liver of Sulfur to Oxidize Copper

When making homemade jewelry, a beautiful patina adds a bit of interest to the piece. Especially when working with copper or brass wire. Wire wrapped jewelry (like the one pictured below) with layers and depth will stand out when an antiqued finish is added.

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Liver of sulfur is the easiest way to add a patina to a piece of jewelry. The smell can best be described as spoiled eggs, so make sure you are using the liver of sulfur in a well-ventilated area.


Materials You’ll Need:

  • Bottle of liver of sulfur gel
  • Two, small microwaveable bowls or cups (depending on the size of the piece)
  • Tweezers or clamps to remove the piece from the solution
  • Plastic or wooden piece for stirring
  • Cloth for drying the piece
  • Buffing cloth

Clean the Piece Thoroughly

Wire from the craft store can have a layer of oil or dirt on it that will protect the wire from minute scratches during shipping and display, but will need to be removed before you can add a patina. Use soap and water to remove dirt from the wire. Dry thoroughly with a clean cloth, and don’t touch it again with your fingers. Oil can transfer to the piece from your hands.

Making the Solution to Oxidize Copper

Heat one cup of water in the microwave. It should be extremely hot, but not boiling. Liver of sulfur only works in hot water. Add a few drops of the gel to the hot water and use the plastic or wooden stirrer to help the gel dissolve. Fill the other cup with cold water and set it close by for later.

Timing and Color

The color and the time you should leave it in the solution depends on the designer. If you want a darker patina, you’ll want to leave it in the solution longer. It shouldn’t take more than five to ten minutes to get a dark patina on the piece. If you want a lighter color, remove it from the solution within a few minutes.

Removing the Piece and Setting the Color

Once you’ve achieved the desired color, remove the piece using your tweezers. Dip it immediately into the cold water to set the color. This will stop the liver of sulfur from oxidizing the piece further. Remove it from the water and dry it with the cloth you chose expressly for this purpose.

Buffing Your Wire Wrapped Jewelry

The liver of sulfur solution added a patina over the entire piece of wire wrapped jewelry. Now, it’s time to remove much of the patina and buff the piece so the raised parts of the design really stand out against the darker parts. This is how to create depth to your jewelry design. The buffing cloth with remove the patina and make the copper shine.

Liver of sulfur works on other metals, too. It will oxidize brass and silver using the same procedure used to oxidize copper. 

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