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From modern jewelry to art and sculpture, you probably see oxidized silver a lot these days. It’s both trendy and edgy. Its contrasting color makes gems and diamonds stand out! But you might also be wondering what is oxidized silver? And, just as important, you need to know how will it wear out over time?


A piece of blackened or oxidized silver is real silver, but its surface is deliberately darkened by a chemical process. This patina, the surface color that occurs when silver is introduced into sulfides, is an accelerated version of the natural tarnishing process. A layer of silver sulfide forms on the outside of the metal, giving it a blackened appearance.

A little digression: the term “oxidation” is a misnomer, since the process is caused by the introduction of sulfides, not oxygen. Nevertheless, industry terminology has taken root, although it is not technically correct.

We jewelers use a chemical compound such as potassium sulfide to create a blackened surface on silver jewelry. The range of colors that can be obtained from this process is vast. At full strength, the color will appear matte black. But with a controlled application, you can get the whole rainbow of colors, including blue, magenta, yellow, and red.

Like other types of patina, oxidized silver is simply a surface treatment and does not change the intrinsic color or properties of the metal.



As I mentioned earlier, silver oxidation is only a surface treatment. Only the top layer of metal particles acquired this blackened color. Over time, and depending on the amount of wear and tear you subject your pieces to, the oxidized finish will wear off and the true color of the silver will show through.

The appearance of your blackened silver piece will gradually change over time, so it’s best to be prepared for the evolution of the item when purchasing it.

Oxidized finishes last the longest on items that come into minimal contact with the environment, such as earrings and necklaces. Rings and bracelets tend not to retain their color for long enough because they get rubbed off by the things we touch the most. The blackened finish, which is applied to the recesses of the design, usually retains its color best, while the protruding parts of the product are polished over time.

It is best to remove oxidized silver jewelry before contact with harsh substances, and when showering or washing your hands to prolong its life and maintain its dark color. As a general rule, oxidized silver jewelry should not be cleaned with jewelry cleaning solutions or aggressive polishing, which will clean the blackened surface. If cleaning is necessary, use a mild dish detergent and a soft toothbrush, rubbing as little as possible.

The oxidized coating of jewelry can be restored at any time. Simply ask a master jeweler to re-blacken (I’m happy to re-black any of my collection for free) or contact your local jeweler to see if they can touch up your oxidized finish.

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