How to Etch With Silver Nitrate

Written by megan shoop
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How to Etch With Silver Nitrate
Silver nitrate leaves etching in silver items. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Silver nitrate offers an inexpensive, environmentally safe medium for etching silver jewellery. It comes in crystal form and doesn't require mixing with other chemicals.

Since silver nitrate and silver jewellery contain some of the same make-up, silver nitrate creates very clean, well-defined lines on silver pieces. Most jewellery pieces don't require much silver nitrate for etching, so the cost and the impact on the environment are minimal. Plus, you can create original silver pieces at home, allowing you to personalise all of your jewellery for free.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Silver jewellery piece
  • Oil paint marker
  • Surgical gloves
  • Silver nitrate crystals
  • Disposable cup
  • Distilled water
  • Plastic spoon

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  1. 1

    Draw your chosen design onto a piece of silver jewellery with an oil paint marker. The oil paint prevents the silver nitrate from etching, so draw everywhere you do not want the etching to work. Use a fine marker for small pieces or tiny details.

  2. 2

    Allow the oil paint to dry for at least 20 minutes. You can get oil paint markers at your local craft store.

  3. 3

    Put on surgical gloves before handling silver nitrate crystals. They aren't caustic, but they will stain your skin if you get so much as a fleck of crystal on you.

  4. 4

    Add about 5 grams of silver nitrate crystal to a disposable plastic cup. Cover the crystal with 1 cup of water and stir them together with a plastic spoon.

  5. 5

    Gently drop the painted silver piece into the solution. Allow the piece to soak for about 10 minutes and pull it up with the spoon. If the piece is etched enough, rinse it for a minute with cool water. If not, check on it every 10 minutes until you're satisfied with the results.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep silver nitrate out of reach of children and pets. It is poisonous if swallowed. If someone swallows silver nitrate, contact emergency services immediately.

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