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by Jesús Zabala - 3 min read

What Is Oxidized Jewelry?

One of the latest jewelry trends is wearing bohemian or vintage-inspired pieces. So, if you are one of those people who look for a retro look, you should wear oxidized jewelry. But what is oxidized jewelry actually? 

Let’s dive into this article to discover everything about this type of jewelry!

What Is Oxidized Jewelry?

Oxidized jewelry is silver jewelry that a jeweler has oxidized to achieve a strong, black patina. Oxidation is a chemical process, a reaction between silver and sulfur, that forms a dark, tarnished layer on the metal surface. Oxidized jewelry looks like antique, aged jewelry. 

What Is Oxidized Jewelry?
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Tirthankar98

Benefits and unique qualities

The oxidation process enriches jewelry with several benefits. First, the darkened finish gives oxidized pieces an aged, vintage-inspired look that other methods cannot achieve. This rustic appearance is popular because it goes well with many styles, from bohemian to industrial-chic.

Another benefit of oxidation is that it makes jewelry more durable and scratch-resistant. The patina helps protect the metal from wear and tarnish, making oxidized jewelry excellent for everyday wear.

We, jewelers, find it beneficial that the oxidation process allows us to design unique patterns and textures that would be difficult to create through other metalworking methods.

Any jewelry, from earrings to rings, can be oxidized. Oxidized jewelry is also versatile. For example, the meaning of an oxidized ring can vary from classic, retro chic to contemporary, trendy.

Common metals used in oxidized jewelry

What happens when jewelry oxidizes? Remember that oxidation is a natural process that causes discoloration or blackening of jewelry. 

The most common metals prone to natural tarnishing are sterling silver, brass, copper, bronze, and nickel-based alloys. These base metals absorb the chemicals or heat applied during the oxidation process and develop a darkened finish.

Sterling silver may be the most popular choice, as oxidation brings out the metal’s warmth and depth of color. Brass and copper also oxidize well, getting earthy tones. Nickel-based alloys like German silver can also be effectively oxidized, acquiring a cool, slate-gray patina.

Effects and finishes in oxidized jewelry

The final appearance of oxidized jewelry can vary widely, depending on the techniques and materials used. Some pieces may have a dark, almost black finish, while others show uneven tones with areas of lighter and darker coloration. We may also incorporate textures like hammering or stamping to improve the antiqued look.

Moreover, we rub some oxidized jewelry on purpose in some areas to create a well-worn look. This patina removal can highlight the contrasting shine of the underlying metal.

Effects and Finishes in Oxidized Jewelry
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: SNS Studio

Care and maintenance of oxidized jewelry

Proper care is essential for maintaining the appearance of an oxidized finish. Unlike polished metals, the darkened patina can gradually wear off with regular use and handling. 

We recommend cleaning delicately oxidized pieces with a soft cloth and mild soap, avoiding harsh chemicals that could damage the desired finish. A jeweler can also re-oxidize an oxidized layer that has been damaged or scratched.

Conclusion

Oxidation makes jewelry more durable and scratch-resistant, versatile, and easy for us jewelers to design different patterns. Silver, copper, brass, bronze, and nickel-based alloys are the most common metals prone to tarnishing. Remember that oxidation causes different effects and finishes, from even dark finish to a combination of lighter and darker nuances. 

Now that you know what is oxidized jewelry, you can complement your outfits with it. Remember to take good care of your oxidized jewelry, too!

Jesús  is the founder and designer of JewelryLab. He is the Head of Design and also oversees production, quality control, and precious metal sourcing.

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