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What is Oxidised Jewellery?

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Emma Wylie Jewellery. Contemporary jewellery inspired by coastal textures. Made by hand in Scotland. Oxidised silver, granulated ring.

Oxidised jewellery is silver jewellery that has been purposefully oxidised by a jeweller to create a strong, black patina. For those who like a bit of chemistry it's a reaction between silver and sulphur to form a silver sulphide layer on the surface of the metal. Silver sulphide is a dense black colour, creating the patina you see in the image above. The ring on the left has been oxidised using liver of sulphur and the ring on the right has been left in it's natural, silver state.

All Silver will oxidise naturally over time, which can be an irritating occurrence in non-oxidised silver jewellery, i.e tarnish!


Certain conditions will react with the surface of your silver jewellery and cause it to tarnish quicker:

  • The chemicals in a swimming pool.

  • Salt water

  • Damp, humid conditions, such as bathrooms.

  • Certain beauty products for skin and hair.

  • Perfume!

If you are a fan of clean, bright, un-oxidised jewellery I recommend you:

Clean it regularly with an old, soft toothbrush, warm water and some washing up liquid or a mixture of baking soda and water, and use polishing cloths or silver dip where appropriate to remove any surface tarnish.

However if you are a fan of deep, black oxidised silver you don't have to worry about any of these things!

That's not to say you don't have to look after your oxidised jewellery. The silver sulphide only exists on the surface layer of the metal, and therefore can be worn away. (A bit like a bronze statue that has his head rubbed so many times it becomes smooth, and shiny.) It's the same effect, the parts of your jewellery that come into contact most with other surfaces will eventually be worn down to reveal the bright, untarnished silver underneath.

This can have quite an attractive effect in heavily textured pieces. As the outer surfaces become brighter, the deeper textured crevices will remain black, providing an interesting contrast. See below!

Emma Wylie Jewellery. Contemporary jewellery inspired by coastal textures. Made by hand in Scotland. Oxidised Silver Granulated Ring.

The ring on the left is my own, that I've been wearing for about a year. Over that time some of the outer surface has polished itself back to silver, leaving the indentations in the texture a dark black. The ring on the right is freshly oxidised with a consistent black patina. I love them both equally, the natural wearing of the ring on the left reminds me of the way rocks are worn smooth over time by the sea.

However if you would like your black jewellery to stay black for as long as possible I have a few tips for you:

  • Don't clean using silver dip for oxidised pieces. It will remove all of the oxidised surface from your jewellery.

  • Don't use a polishing cloth on these pieces for the same reason.

  • Don't wash pieces too regularly with soap and water, as this will gradually wear away the outer surface of the piece, revealing the un-oxidised silver underneath.

  • Do take your rings off before you wash your hands where possible, as this regular washing action will eventually wear away the surface patina.

For more tips on looking after your jewellery you can visit my Jewellery Care page.


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