8 Easy Steps on How To Use Liver of Sulfur

Silver necklace with liver of sulfur

If you're new to jewellery making or even if you're a long-time metalsmith, you might have heard some conflicting information on how to use liver of sulfur. So here we'll break it down into our top 8 tips.

For this post we are talking entirely and only about working with liver of sulfur. So please do not assume that the techniques here work with all patinas.  Assuming anything in life can be dangerous, so always read instructions!

lucy walker jewellery metalsmith academy's online classes.

1. Always make sure you are putting safety first, this goes for everything when making jewellery

  • My best advice here, and I am not a chemist, is DON’T work with a super saturated solution. You’ll have more control of the colouring process, and it’s just a lot safer that way. Super saturated liver of sulfur can cause burns – we don’t want that.

  • Do not get this stuff in your eyes! I’m not the best at wearing safety glasses (very naughty), but please wear them and do as I say, not as I do. I will try to be better I promise. If it does get in your eyes, get your head under the tap and rinse well for a good 15 minutes.

  • Don’t get this on your skin. As above, rinse well if this occurs.

  • Don’t eat it, drink it or in any other way digest it – if you do, seek the proper medical advice.

  • Work in a well-ventilated area – you’re doing that anyway right?

Fume extractor for jewellery making and metalsmithing

For fume extraction, I love my Quatro GoldVault Extra Infinity! It’s super easy to use and it does everything I need it to in terms of dust and fume extraction. You can get these from Gesswein or Otto Frei. We negotiated with Gesswein though to get you guys a 5% discount and we get a little affiliate commission too (every little helps us keep creating content for you!). Don’t forget to
use the code LWA21 at checkout if you are purchasing from Gesswein!

Click here to check it out!

2 - How to get an even finish when using liver of sulfur? Make sure your metal is clean.

If we want a shiny finish to our metal once it’s been patinated, we generally need to start with a shiny finish. And the metal must be clean! When I say clean, I mean spotless. Free from grease, fingerprints, bits of your lunch, etc. If you want an even finish, you need to start with clean metal. The easiest way to do this is with a soft toothbrush and warm soapy water. Make sure you clean it thoroughly, get in all the nooks and crannies and then rinse well. If you have dodgy water supplies in your area, rinsing in distilled or bottled water will help! Once it’s rinsed, dry it and do not touch it. Hold it in a clean paper towel or tissue, not a dirty old towel!


3 - I prefer to buy my liver of sulfur in lump form. I find I get a stronger colour for my jewellery

I prefer to use Midas liver of sulfur in lump form.  You can get a direct link to my favorite from Rio Grande, by clicking the image.  

When mixing this, don’t make it too strong. A weaker solution gives more control over the final colour and is much safer to work with. I generally use 1 small lump, say 1.5cm square (ish) to half a litre of water.

4 - You can get creative in how you apply liver of sulfur to handmade jewellery - after all being a little different is what it's all about

The easiest way, and my preferred way to darken metal is to
simply dunk the entire piece and then remove the liver of sulfur afterwards in
the areas where I don’t want it with mild abrasives.  But of course, that’s not the only way. Using a paint brush is a great way to darken certain elements without affecting the surrounding area. And using a sharpie to protect areas you don’t want to patinate is a neat little trick.

How to apply liver of sulfur

5 - Baking soda is not necessary to stop the liver of sulfur from reacting - water works just fine

baking soda for liver of sulfur

Water works just as well. We did find however that rinsing in water with baking soda did leave a slightly different colour to the finish.

6 - Which stones can be used safely with liver of sulfur? Actually there's plenty that can be set prior to patination with liver of sulfur.

Now before we go any further, please note this is for educational purposes, and I would like to say that no stones were hurt during the process, but that would be a bare arsed lie. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices in life, and I am willing to sacrifice all these gems just so you don’t have to.  

So, in reasonably sound scientific experiment, I took the following gemstones and threw them in a container of pretty strong and damn hot (technical term for water just out of a boiled kettle) liver of sulfur (in a very well ventilated area). Surprisingly, only the malachite and chrysocolla were affected. 


which gemstones are safe to use with liver of sulfur

7. Protecting the patina finish

Spray polish

Unfortunately, nothing can permanently protect the colour. The colour will change and most likely darken even more over time in the recesses and wear off on spots that get abraded during use. However, we can at least prolong the effect by creating some sort of barrier between the metal and the air…. Abrasion, we are kind of stuck with.

I personally use Haggerty’s Silversmiths Spray Polish pictured, you spray it on, wait for it to dry for 10 minutes and then wipe it off. It basically leaves a thin film behind and I find that works as well as anything. But renaissance wax is a firm favorite amongst those working in copper.

Whatever you use however, I’m not going to make you promises it’s a permanent solution. As far as I can see, there isn’t one.

8. Safe disposal for liver of sulfur

This is easy but again I am no chemist, and you should check with local authorities to make sure.  But the general consensus is that once the solution has turned a milky white colour (usually within a few hours of mixing), it’s generally pretty useless and is safe to pour down the drain.  I have also heard of many people using it for plant fertilizer – but I’m certainly no gardener either.

how to use liver of sulfur

Want the full 13-page report?

We compiled over 13 pages jam packed with information, tips and tricks on how to use liver of sulfur effectively to get the best possible finish on your metalsmithing projects.

If you’d like a copy for yourself to keep handy at  your bench, it’s absolutely free, just click the button below to download it now.

If you’ve had any experiences yourself good, bad or freekin terrible, we’d love to hear about them! Just comment below. We read everything, and really appreciate all the feedback we get!  We have to keep learning too!

Ready to dive in and create your own professional looking Jewellery?

Metalsmith Academy

Join the Metalsmith Academy today and you’ll have access to all the classes you need to get up and running making professional looking jewellery with confidence – all filmed with your viewing pleasure in mind.  According to our students, our videography is the best out there!

You’ll also be able to ask questions on this class and others in our active community forums where Lucy and Vennice are personally available every single day.

Curious about what’s happening at the Metalsmith Academy, but not quite ready to join? Sign up below to take a peek the classes available, resources, and all the magic we have to offer! As a welcome gift, we’ve prepared some incredibly helpful free resources that you won’t want to miss.


Toolaholics, gemstone hoarders, firestarters & metalsmiths, we are here for you!

Sign up now for the latest tips, tricks, tool reviews and other super useful shit delivered straight to your inbox