What's the Verdict on Oxidized Silver?
Intercept™ finds it ironic that “oxidized silver” has come into fashion in the past few years. After all, blackened silver is what we’ve helped our customers avoid since our foray into the marketplace! But trends oscillate and tastes change - it’s just a part of life and fashion. Let’s take a look at oxidized or - more truthfully - sulfurized silver.
Despite our dedication towards anti-tarnish, we must admit that oxidized silver carries a certain mystique. There’s something magical about a naturally worn patina. It’s a look that many desire, and generally one that can only be achieved with age.
The contrast of the black and silver makes the piece pop. Add gemstones to the equation and you’ve got a real head turner. We must have missed the clandestine global jeweler’s seminar where we all decided that blackened silver was in style. But it’s okay...we forgive you.
THE TECHNICAL STUFF
Oxidized silver has a blackened look. However, as alluded to in the prior paragraph, blackened silver technically isn’t “oxidized” - it’s “sulfurized”. Sure, oxygen is a part of the equation, but it’s not the catalyst. If you’ve read any of our blog posts over the past few years, you know that the darkening of silver is caused by sulfuric gases and not oxygen. But we digress...
The look of blackened silver is achieved through the use of a chemical compound such as potassium sulfide. Artificially oxidizing jewelry in this manner allows you to control the rate of corrosion and darkening. This provides the opportunity for a wide variety of colors and styles. As we all know, customization is highly sought after in our industry and everyone appreciates a different look.
After the sterling silver has undergone the artificial corrosion process, it must be coated with a sealant. While the corrosion process is necessary to achieve the desired look, too much of it is still undesirable. Over time, additional exposure to sulfuric gases can compromise the integrity of the piece and turn it from the shadowy and brooding look we love, to one that’s overly darkened.
A form of protection is needed to prevent further oxidation. The specific form of protection employed will differ depending on where you pick up your oxidized silver piece and its manufacturer. Some opt for a plated protective barrier. However, as covered in a previous blog post, plating brightens metals, gives them a sparking sheen, and in the case of silver, platings make it look like white gold and can cause problems when it comes to sizing and repair..
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when it comes to the look of oxidized silver this effect can be problematic. The intention is to darken the silver, and in plating the piece the silver sheen will be brought back. You can see how this method would be redundant. NOTE: There does exist black rhodium that can be used to plate oxidized silver, but this is often overkill and the color can be overwhelming.
Sealants are the more popular form of protection for oxidized silver, and they vary greatly. In fact, the types of sealants vary so much they can’t all be covered here. Wax, varnish, lacquer, and many other sealants are used in an effort to maintain oxidizes silver’s black look. Do you notice anything in common among these materials?...
THEY ALL FADE AND WEAR OFF.
Despite the presence of sealants, your oxidized sterling silver will change over time.
There isn’t a way to keep oxidized silver jewelry in one static state. You may love the look of the piece when you first purchase it, but know that in time it will slowly change. As it’s exposed to atmospheric gases during storage and wear, oxidized silver’s patina will wear off in high areas.
Perhaps this is another characteristic that gives it such a mystique; its aptitude for change and evolution over time. Yes, it can be frustrating, but sometimes fashion hurts.