Mimi and her girls

Mimi and her girls
Mimi and her girls

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Playing with Color

I had a lot of fun yesterday playing with oxidizing some new pieces I did so I thought I'd share in pictures what I did and talk about what I learned.
First let me say, liver of sulfur stinks! So does ammonia. Unfortunately, in the world of metal and oxidizing, to get pretty color, you have to use one or both in some sort of combination. For many years, dry LOS was the only thing available and it was sold in big containers and came in chunks that you had to break up and add to hot water to dissolve- Phew- the smell- think rotten eggs! And if any moisture got into your supply it turned green and wouldn't work to darken your metal. Luckily someone came up with LOS gel a few years ago and at least the problem of throwing away your ruined supply regularly was solved- it still stinks, but it's very stable and is easy to mix, no punding chunks so it will dissolve.
I don't do huge amounts of jewelry when I play with live of sulfur, mainly because I'm never sure if I'm going to like the results. In hot water LOS will turn sterling or fine silver dark black in about 20-30 seconds. After you get your silver out, you have to dry it and go over it with very fine steel wool to bring up the shine on  the raised areas leaving a very dark background. As you can see from this pendant- it can look very attractive, but it's not for every piece of jewelry.
I've been more and more interested in precious metal clay (PMC) and all the options it allows me to explore. I love anything botanical, flowers, trees, leaves! So I wanted to press some leaves from my garden into my clay and make some earrings and pendants for my shop on Etsy http://www.etsy.com/shop/PPennee. I already had a few pieces I had oxidized with LOS, but they were the dark variety like the pendant below.
I picked some leaves from one of my favorite ground covers, Cranesbill geranium which I love because it gets pretty pink flowers in the spring and summer, but at least where I live in MD, it never really dies back totally. It gets pretty reds and oranges on the leaves in fall and I can still at least see the leaves in winter if the snow isn't too deep. Right now- little green and reddish leaves are popping out all over my plant! I chose to do a round pendant and earrings to match. This is what they looked like after I pressed the leaves, dried and fired and then put them in the tumbler to work harden and shine up a bit.
It always amazes me how much detail you see from a leaf- all the texture, veining, even a little piece of the stem where is picked the leaf from the plant. What I hoped to accomplish was to get some of the color I actually see in the garden and not lose the detail of the leaf.
I knew from previous experiments that hot was not what I wanted, nor was cold. Cold LOS gives you what almost looks like gold- nice, but not what I was aiming for. So I tried luke warm, slightly hotter ( praise for the microwave)- I got a lot of yellow and brown, some red, still not what I wanted. I have lots of team mates on my Aspiring Metals Team on Etsy that work in copper. Many have mentioned using ammonia to get that great green verdigris color that looks so great. So I added a little ammonia, starting with about a teaspoon at a time.
Each time I dipped in my silver it got a little more interesting. Keep in mind, if you don't get what you want, you have to keep cleaning off the piece and taking it back to almost shiny silver to start again! After about 3 tries, medium warm temperature and 3 tsp of ammonia, this is what I got!
I have to say, my leaves aren't blue in the garden, but I was really pleased with the effects I got- and I did get some reds and lavender which i thought looked pretty cool!
  Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. I hope you enjoyed reading a little about playing with color.


  1. Thanks for your detailed information, what a great end result! Love your stone pendant, also!!

  2. I love playing with LOS + Ammonia. I get such lovely purples and blues!

  3. Thanks for the comments- I guess the most fun is you never know what colors you'll get, even using the same formula!

  4. I love the colors you got with the ammonia! You really knew the look you wanted and found a way to get it - nice!