Getting a Natural Patina in Sterling Silver

Recently, someone had asked me to take necklace focal piece and turn it into a bracelet. This project led me to do a Byzantine chain maille bracelet and it also led to me antiquing that bracelet to show off the interesting detail of the Byzantine pattern. This project turned out so well I decided to create this blog piece to share how you can get a natural patina in your sterling silver with the simple boiling of eggs. This avoids chemicals and patina agents that can sometimes be a mess.

First, get a couple of eggs and start to hard boil them. It does not matter what kind of eggs, any eggs will do.

Once the eggs are hard boiled, approximately 7 minutes, then you can place them into a plastic container.

Now you are ready to smash them! Using a spoon, ladle or anything that can easily mash up the eggs, shell and all, within the container.

Quickly, while the eggs are still hot, place the metal you wish to patina inside the container with the egg and close the lid.

Let this sit for a good 15 to 20 minutes. For larger pieces, 30 minutes. It is important for the egg yolk to be hot and steamy. Why does egg yolk tarnish silver? I am so glad you asked! 🙂 Because the yolk emits a sulfur-containing gas called hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Silver naturally tarnishes in reaction to any sulfur gases in the air. This also occurs with copper so, you could easily do this same process with copper.

Next you can use a polishing cloth over the surface of the piece and achieve an appearance that serves to give the metal more depth. As you can see the difference in the chain before and after antiquing. With this method of tarnishing, you can achieve a natural patina look with your silver or copper pieces.

Polishing Wire Wrap

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Wire Wrap Pendant

So now you have this beautiful piece of wire wrapped jewelry. It is a treasure and something special you want to preserve and take care of. I receive many questions from people about how to care for the stones and the wire. Wire wrapped jewelry is not something you want to soak in commercial cleaning solutions. Sometimes, a mild soap mixed with water will do the trick.

I usually list in the description of my pieces as to whether or not I have sealed the wire with a clear varnish or clear resin to prevent tarnishing. Even with sealing, metals will begin to show the signs of exposure to the elements of air, sun, sweat and all those other things you don’t necessarily think about like, hairspray or perfumes and colognes. These do have an effect on all metals including, gold.

When you do see a bit of tarnish begin to spread on your sterling silver or copper wire, one of the first steps you can take is to polish the metal lightly with a polishing cloth. Most jewelry stores sell these cloths, you just have to ask for them at the counter.

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Wire wrapped pendant being polished using a standard polishing cloth.

Another step would be a polish that will last longer and protect the metal. There are many products sold for polishing silver, brass and copper metals. These are good polishing products and they put a barrier of protection on the metal so the shine lasts longer. You can use a cotton swab to spread the polish on and buff it off. A rinsing of mild soap and water also does the trick for lesser tarnished areas.

For copper, there are some more natural polishing products you can try such as ketchup and toothpaste. It takes longer with these products but, if you have some time and patience, it can’t hurt!

The best way to preserve any and all jewelry pieces is to keep them in separate containers and sealed. Jewelry boxes are fine but, if you are like me, you know how that goes. I am not the best at keeping things nice and neat and separated in my jewelry box. I am sometimes very bad at quickly throwing my earrings in the box and not thinking anything of it. Well, nicks and scratches occur when we do this so, if you really care about certain pieces, you will want to take the extra time and keep things neat and separated. Little plastic bags are the best for preventing future tarnish.

As far as the stones, you don’t want to put any stones in any harsh chemicals. If you go swimming in the pool, take your jewelry off! The chlorine is bad for metal and stone.

Enjoy that precious piece of history you are wearing and yes, it is a part of history. Metal and stone come from the earth and it has taken some time for both to evolve, grow, metamorphose into the very thing you are wearing.