Liver of Sulfur: Not as Weird as it Sounds

We love shiny metal components as much as anyone — faceted beads, etched chain & pendants with interesting texture all add great sparkle to a jewelry piece. But what do you do when you want to tone down a bit of the bling factor? Just add a tad of Liver of Sulfur to create a dramatic, darkened look to silver, copper, brass or bronze. (Click on the photo below for a larger view.)

The sterling silver chain maille necklace (top) was dipped in a Liver of Sulfur solution. The sterling chain maille bracelet (bottom) is in its original, shiny state.

Liver of Sulfur is a mix of potassium sulfides & sulfates. Apparently, exact ingredients are hard to define, but one thing is for sure: all forms of Liver of Sulfur smell like rotten eggs. But don’t worry — the end results are worth the stink!

We obviously recommend using Liver of Sulfur in a well-ventilated area, and we recommend using the stabilized gel form of Liver of Sulfur. The gel is ideal for several reasons:
1.) It has a much longer shelf life than the rock form. You should still keep the bottle of gel in a cool, dry place away from pets & children.
2.) There is no danger of inhaling Liver of Sulfur dust when you use the gel.  The rock form of Liver of Sulfur can cause an inhalation hazard due to the dust created by handling it or breaking the larger chunks into smaller pieces.
3.) It is easier to control the intensity of your patina with the gel, and you have lots of choices when it comes to applying the Liver of Sulfur. Mix a mild solution or one that is highly concentrated, dip your jewelry in a solution or paint on the gel, etc.

Every bottle of Liver of Sulfur gel comes with detailed procedural & safety instructions, but here’s the gist: put on some plastic gloves, pre-heat a cup of water, add 4 drops of gel, and stir thoroughly. Using tweezers, dunk the piece you’d like to oxidize into the solution. Remove your piece quickly and dunk in a neutralizing bath (2 cups water & 2 tbsp baking soda) to stop the oxidation process. Depending on how warm your solution was, the results will vary from a rainbow of colors to dark gray or black. Don’t like how your piece turned out? Dip it in a tarnish remover, or just polish off the patina and re-dunk your piece until you like the results.

Warning: using Liver of Sulfur can be habit-forming. 🙂 Not literally, of course, but once you see the instant results of adding patinas, you’ll want to dunk all of your jewelry! If you have housemates, we suggest warning them of your Liver of Sulfur plans. Otherwise they may think you’re cooking up something REALLY nasty for dinner.