DIY Silver Etching

Written by heather montgomery
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DIY Silver Etching
Use a chemical solution to etch silver. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Etched silver can add beauty to jewellery pieces or other silver items. Though the etched silver will be an attractive piece, the process can be tedious. Draw designs onto the silver with water-resistant inks or paint; any part of the silver you do not draw or paint on will be etched away. Use your imagination to create simple or intricate designs on your silver items.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Silver piece
  • Steel wool
  • Latex gloves
  • Waterproof ink or paint
  • Small paint brush
  • Brown packing tape
  • Wire
  • 2 Glass measuring cups with ml metric marks
  • Distilled water
  • Ferric Nitrate crystals
  • Stir stick
  • Baking soda
  • Toothbrush
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton ball

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  1. 1

    Clean the silver piece with steel wool and warm water. Put on latex gloves to avoid getting your oils onto the silver.

  2. 2

    Draw the design onto the piece of silver that you want raised or paint the design with waterproof paint. Allow the ink or paint to dry.

  3. 3

    Cover the back and sides of the piece that you do not want etched with brown packing tape. Tape a piece of wire to the back of the piece to allow the piece to be suspended in the fluid.

  4. 4

    Pour enough distilled water into a glass measuring cup to submerge your silver piece. Add 300 millilitres of Ferric Nitrate to every 400 millilitres of distilled water. Follow the safety precautions listed on the Ferric Nitrate container, always add the crystals to water, never the other way around, to prevent splashing. Mix and stir the solution in a well-ventilated area or under a fume hood.

  5. 5

    Place the silver, face down, into the solution and tape the wire to the sides of the glass container. Do not allow the silver piece to touch the bottom of the container. This is important so that there is enough room at the bottom of the container to allow the etched silver to fall to the bottom of the container and not interfere with the etching process.

  6. 6

    Wait at least two hours for the etching solution to work. During the two hours, frequently agitate the solution by moving the container back and forth. Check on your piece and remove the piece once you are satisfied with the etching.

  7. 7

    Scrub the piece with a solution of warm water and baking soda to stop the etching process. Use rubbing alcohol to remove the ink or paint from the silver piece.

Tips and warnings

  • Mix the solution in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective clothing, gloves and goggles when working with the chemical solution.

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