How to Oxidize Sterling Silver and Copper with Boiled Eggs (Video)

Jewelry and Coffee with Rena
Video Episode 22

by Rena Klingenberg.

Can you oxidize silver and copper with boiled eggs? Or is that just an urban legend? Let’s find out:

Transcript of This Video:

Sometimes it’s nice to have bright, shiny metals in our jewelry.

But other times it’s nice to have something that’s a bit more antiquey, something that darkens and shows the textures in our jewelry.

And when we want to do something like that with sterling silver or copper, we can oxidize with a boiled egg.

You may have heard about this process before, and wondered if it’s just an urban legend or if it’s for real.

So I’m going to show you today how I’ve darkened some of my sterling silver chain with boiled eggs.

You’ll get the best results with freshly cleaned sterling silver or copper that is NOT lacquered or coated in any way.

We’ll start by putting two raw eggs in a pan of water, and put the pan on the stove.

We want the eggs to be at the boiling stage for at least 10 minutes.

Here’s our sterling silver chain and clasp; they’re nice and shiny because they haven’t been oxidized yet:

Oxidizing sterling silver with boiled eggs

While your eggs are boiling, it’s time to wash the metal you’ll be oxidizing.

You can use liquid dish soap and water, scrub them really well, and rinse them off thoroughly.

After your jewelry is washed and dried completely with a paper towel, you can get out a baggie that you’re going to put your boiled eggs into.

As soon as your eggs are done boiling, get them out of the pan with a pair of tongs so you don’t burn your fingers, and put the eggs directly into your ziplock bag.

Then start squishing them – shells and all – and crush them into little pieces. You want to release as much sulfur as you can:

Boiled eggs for oxidizing silver

When you’re done crushing the eggs, you can open the bag again and add the jewelry or components you want to oxidize.

If your metal has any large surfaces, you may not want to let it come in contact with the eggs. Sometimes that can result in spotting or uneven oxidizing.

But my project is just a chain and a clasp, and I didn’t need to worry about spotting or unevenness.

So I just rolled up my chain and clasp all mixed in with the egg pieces, rolled up the whole bag, and let them oxidize that way:

oxidizing-with-eggs-6-450

After about 15 minutes, you can start checking on the color of your metal:

Oxidizing sterling silver chain with boiled eggs

I decided to leave mine in about five hours altogether, and this is the stage it was in when I decided to take it out:

Sterling silver chain oxidized with boiled eggs

When you decide your metal is the color you’d like it to be, you can remove it from the bag and wash it thoroughly in soap and water to remove all egg residue:

cleaning jewelry

And here are my finished chain and clasp, after the darkening process:

Sterling silver oxidized with boiled eggs

And this is the necklace that I used them on:

periwinkle-yellow-czech-glass-necklace-03

To me, this necklace would not have worked as well with a bright shiny metal. It really needed a darkened, more rustic metal.

So you can see what a fast, easy, and cheap way this is to darken your sterling silver or copper.

Thanks so much for coming in today, and I’ll see you next time! :)

Don’t eat the eggs used in the oxidization process. Instead, boil a few extra eggs for eating when you boil the ones you’ll use for oxidizing your metal. :)

Oxidizing Metal with Boiled Eggs - Rena Klingenberg

The Jewelry Rena’s Wearing
in This Video:

These pieces feel like Spring to me!

Spring jewelry set by Rena Klingenberg

Necklace – Shell pendant with Artistic Wire bail; Czech glass, freshwater pearls, stick pearls, sterling silver clasp. By Rena Klingenberg.

Earrings – Czech glass beads on copper wire with sterling silver earwires. By Rena Klingenberg. (These earrings were made to go with a different necklace, but I like wearing them with this one too.)

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Comments

  1. This is a neat, non-toxic way to oxidize, but you’d have to make sure you did it when you weren’t hungry or the eggs would probably end up as lunch instead of jewellery tool! :D

    I like how you put the stick pearls in one side of the necklace you were wearing in this video, Rena. My eye kept going to them. It really added an interesting element using them the way you did. They’re so beautiful too!

  2. What a great tutorial! I have never heard of using boiled eggs to oxidize sterling before. The metal looks great so darkened.

  3. I’ve seen boiled eggs used to oxidize jewelry before, but never crumbled up like this. I’m too impatient to wait for my jewelry to oxidize and would probably eat the eggs instead but it’s a great idea if I should run out of Liver of Sulfur! I love your necklace. It does look like “Spring” and I’m so ready for it.

  4. I’ve used this method before but instead of the whole egg i just use the shells and put them in a plastic container i only use for jewelry projects. Hate to waste a good boiled egg. :o}

  5. Thank you for your kind compliments on my necklace, Tamara and Zoraida! :)

    And Zoraida, I agree – the hardest part about playing with patinas, oxidizing, and other things like that is having to wait for the effect to develop!

    Thanks, Val! This is an easy, cheap method for darkening metals without having to purchase any supplies – as long as you have an egg or two on hand!

    PatQ, I hadn’t heard of using just the shells. I’ll have to experiment with that.

  6. I love your videos. I don’t work in silver, but now I feel like perhaps I can add some silver components in order to create a beautiful dark finish. Must it always be sterling silver or is silver plate acceptable too? :)

  7. Thank you, Melissa! :)

    I haven’t tried this with silver plated items – but you could easily test it on a silver-plated component you wouldn’t mind sacrificing if it didn’t turn out well.

  8. Denise Toepel says:

    Hello, I think this is wonderful, we will be retiring to Ecuador and I can use this instead of liver of sulfur. It is Eco-friendly too. I am a tinker of all things bead and silver so thanks so very much. I make clothing and then the jewels to wear with the outfit! This patina method will be a great add in.

  9. I’ve been getting into copper a lot lately and I think this is wonderful! I like that it is eco-friendly as well. I really can’t wait to try this! Thanks for sharing this.
    ~ Yolanda ~

  10. Thank you so much Rena for this step by step walk through on how to oxidize silver with a boiled egg.

    My friend told me to do this, but left out the most important steps!!

    Always love to get your “tips” and monthly newsletter.

    Maryanne

  11. wow! that’s a great trick to know! ha ha I love that you had to tell people not to eat the egg in the bag- that would be so gross, but I’m totally sure there would be someone out there that would consider it… like prob my husband… he wouldn’t want to ‘waste’ the egg. ;) thanks for sharing, I’m pinning this tip. Little Bit

  12. How interesting, Rena! In addition to being a useful tool in jewelry making, I can see this serving as a science lesson for inquisitive children!

  13. I have never heard of this method. Great tutorial. Love the finished look.

  14. Wow, that’s interesting! I’ve never heard of using eggs. Thanks for sharing.
    -Lynn

  15. Great tip! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Wow, that’s a great trick! Thanks for sharing it :-)

  17. Thank you for this! What a great way to oxidize wire without chemicals. Pinning this!

  18. Thank you, Rena, you were wearing a beautiful necklace in the video. You always make the best tutorials! Thanks a bunch for making this available. Linda

  19. This is fabulous and I can’t wait to use. I generally use old tarnished necklaces for my projects but sometimes I dont’ have the right size and only new to work with. I am excited to try this. Thanks so much for sharing

  20. Natashalh says:

    I had never thought to use eggs, but it makes sense now that I think about it. After all, liver of sulfur that people use all the time to oxidize metal uses, well, sulfur! And that’s what makes eggs smell ‘eggy.’ Cool idea!

  21. Very cool idea. I never know what you are going to inspire me with next. :D Thanks for sharing.
    p

  22. So, that’s really cool! I’m so glad you shared at Pinworthy Projects.

  23. Wow this is really neat.

  24. This was very interesting, I’ve never heard of using eggs for oxidizing, but it makes sense.
    Saw you sharing at Funky Junk’s SNS
    Debbie :)

  25. onions and garlic also contain sulphur – perhaps sticking silver in a bag of chopped onions would work too?

  26. Wow! I’ve never heard of using eggs. Thanks so much for the tutorial and your jewelry is beautiful! So glad you shared at Transformed Tuesday!
    Hugs,
    Peggy

  27. Wow! Wonderful tutorial! I loved the outcome! I had no idea that this is possible!! Great post!! I included it in my post. :)
    Have a great week!!

  28. What a cool idea, I feel like I’m back in Science class! Loved it. Thank you so much for sharing with Saturday Spotlight. Have a great week and come back soon!

  29. Well, this is very cool! Thank you for sharing this tutorial with us last week at TTF!

  30. Thanks for sharing an awesome project with us. Come by again next week and share another cool project with us!

    Have a great week!
    Susie @bowdabra

  31. Hi Rena

    Ilove your tips on jewellery! I have just started my own business here in South Africa. I am hoping you can tell me how to clean zinc alloy bangles?

    I look forward hearing from you.

    Kind regards

    Thereza

  32. Thanks to all for the lovely comments!

    Thereza, I don’t personally have experience with cleaning zinc alloys – but if you do a google search, you’ll find several sites that have info about that. Best of luck with your new business! :)

  33. Hi Rena… Can a finished necklace(copper wire) with gemstone like agate or jasper will it damage or change the color of the stone with this egg technique ??? Thanks

  34. Hi Tita, I would think most stones would be OK with the egg technique.

    However, I recommend that you always do a test first with a small stone or bead you wouldn’t mind messing up if it turned out to not be OK with the egg technique.

  35. Hi! great tip thanks for sharing! :)

    I do have a problem though, i have recently put my sterling silver jewellery in a jewellery cleaner, and it has wiped all the silver off it , it looks stripped and dull. Have i done something wrong? Do you have any ideas how i could get it back to its original state?
    :)thanks

  36. Can you remove some of the oxidation off of raised areas of the jewelry? How permanent is the oxidation? Thanks!

  37. Hi Jo, yes, you can remove oxidation from selected areas of your piece. I use a jewelry polishing cloth when I want to shine up the raised areas. The oxidation remains in the recessed areas, unless you immerse the piece in a jewelry cleaning solution (or machine) that removes tarnish, or run the piece through a tumbler. Anything that removes tarnish will remove the oxidation if it has contact with it.

  38. Dawnelle says:

    Thanks Rena! I so needed a way to oxidize some jewelry I have, and some I’m purchasing. Like others have said I’m glad it’s safe an eco-friendly. I’m going to check out more of your tips because I’m going to start selling my own jewelry soon. I’m so glad I stumbled across your site. You rock! :)

  39. This really works. Tried all sorts today without success, even a very bad, smelly, mouldy egg yolk, knowing sulphur was they key. This solved my problem and I don’t even mind ‘wasting’ the eggs. Great trick!

  40. Jackie Davidson says:

    Hi Rena,
    I tried to egg method for some sterling items and got mixed results. Some stuff came out brown, gold — and some black (that’s what I wanted). I even had chain that had all three colors in it. I tried it twice and the same thing happened both times. Some of my ear wires didn’t oxidize at all (I think they are polished with anti-tarnish something or other). So… a customer service rep at CGM told me to try half bleach and half water. He said that’s what they use there now that Liver of Sulfur is outlawed in California. I am not a fan of bleach (or any chemicals for that matter), but I tried it on the ear wires out of curiosity… and they came out EXACTLY as I wanted — a nice gun-metal look. So, my question is — is there any reason NOT to use bleach/water to oxidize the few pieces that don’t work well with eggs? Can it do any damage to the sterling silver? Thanks!

  41. Natalia says:

    Just to give you little more insight, it’s silver sulfide Ag2S forming on the surface, not the silver oxide Ag2O as do many think, so it’s not oxidation. The key to make pure silver react with sulfur is hydrogen sulfide H2S – gas which arises for example by decomposition of organic materials (such as rotting egg, that’s what you smell) by heating in this example which frees sulfur from egg’s amino acids in form of H2S. H2S is chemical too and what else, it’s highly toxic but fortunately not in this concentrations. If the egg isn’t doing it’s job well, it’s probably because it’s too cool, apply some more heat to it again for example in boiling water, direct sunlight or microwave (in this case without any metals of course :). The more H2S the faster reaction but to stay on safe side, if the eggs smell bad, stop using it because again… H2S is highly toxic! (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_sulfide)

  42. Hi Jackie,
    I can take this one. :)

    The oxidation that happens with bleach tends to not be stable. So it’s very possible and likely that if you sell pieces that you’ve oxidized perfectly with the bleach technique they won’t stay that perfect color for long.

    LOS (liver of sulphur) and the egg method will give a more reliable result.

    You can experiment with the egg method. Rena smooshed up the egg and put it in a baggie with her chain but you can also simply cut a boiled egg in half and seal both halves inside an airtight container with your jewelry so the egg is not touching the jewelry. Oxidation can happen faster on the spots where the egg touches the metal. Depending on your piece, it might cause an uneven look.

    If you can break up the egg yolks but not have them touch the jewelry that tends to speed up the process.

    Alicia
    JMJ Content & Social Media

  43. Jennifer says:

    I tried the egg method with ok results though many pieces were uneven :( Also when I was setting some stones in the pieces I started noticing the the dark color wearing off! Then I started rubbing with my finger and it was easily coming off. Did I do something wrong?

  44. Thanks for the awesome tutorial! I just tried this for a few days and my sterling silver chains turned solid peacock blue! It looks kinda cool but I was definitely going for a darker color and I couldn’t get it to become any color but this blue… any idea why? I can’t seem to find anything about that explained online…

  45. Hi Annie, sometimes my metals get that lovely peacock blue too. Most homemade oxidizing and patina methods are somewhat unpredictable, and a variety of small variables can affect the final color on your metal. You might try doing the oxidizing procedure again, to see if you can get more darkening on your metal.

    Hi Jennifer, the uneven results may be from the eggs touching your metal during the process, or your metal may have had some sort of varnish, finish, or oil on it (even skin oils from handling it) that resisted the oxidizing. That could also account for the way it wiped off easily after the process. I don’t know what caused this issue for you, but one of the most important things is to start with metal that has no finish on it, and then clean / degrease it thoroughly before starting any patina or oxidizing procedure.

    I hope this helps! :)

  46. ann shively says:

    I have a very large piece (copper bottom of a fountain with copper leaves that serve as the water flow). How can I use the egg method with a large piece? Maybe a trash liner bag. But how would you keep the eggs hot?

  47. Hi I was wondering if this would work on stamped stainless silverware also?

  48. Hi Shannon,
    Anything marked “stainless” means it’s been treated to be resistant to discoloration. So you may find it doesn’t oxidize at all, or it may take much longer exposed to the eggs to bring any color.

    I think the only way to see what will happen is to test it on whatever pieces you have.

    Alicia
    JMJ Content & Social Media Specialist

  49. So cool. And, so glad I found this thread. I have a large, wide silver cuff bracelet (2 plus inches) that I’d like to oxidize. To avoid uneven shading, do you recommend keeping the egg separate from the bracelet in the bag – egg on one side and bracelet on other? I bought this cuff on ebay, and it does look like someone really worked hard to polish in all the little grooves and scrolls that I want to be oxidized. Is the soap cleaning in advance enough to clear the slate, so to speak? Thanks so much!

  50. Hi Janelle, assuming your bracelet metal is genuine silver, and that it’s not coated with any varnish or other finish, then I would think the thorough cleaning with soap would be fine.

    About separating the eggs from the metal – I usually put my metal piece in the center of the bag, with the crushed eggs all the way around it – some touching the metal, some not. You could experiment with keeping all the egg fragments off your metal and see if you like the effect. If you don’t get the dark result you want, you can always do the process again, with a second batch of eggs to get more color / darkening.

  51. I have never oxidized any thing before, my question is does the piece have to be sealed after. Thanks

  52. Hi De,

    I use a clear, matte-finish spray lacquer to seal the patina / oxidizing – three light coats of lacquer on every surface of the metal, drying each coat thoroughly before applying the next coat.

    I have had very good results and patina / oxidizing durability using this method.

  53. this discussion is exactly what i was looking for regarding oxidizing silver – thank you! i have never lacquered any of my ss pieces but sounds like it may be necessary when oxidizing. what spray lacquer do you use?

  54. Hi T,
    I don’t always lacquer the jewelry that I’ve oxidized or patinated, but when I do, I’ve had good results with “Tree House Studio” Clear Acrylic Matte Coating, from Hobby Lobby. Krylon also has a product that’s pretty much the same thing, and about the same price ($5 – $6).

  55. I happened upon your sight while searching images for “seed bead tutorials”. An image of your “bead ring” is what lead me here. What a GREAT website! Thanks for sharing!

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