Professional Jeweler Archive: Aging Gracefully

April 2000

Precious Metals & Bench/New Products

Aging Gracefully

Oxidation links the past with the present

A bit of shadow, a hint of age, a dimension of character. Oxidation will achieve any of these, thanks to the way it blackens the surface of sterling silver or karat gold.

Though oxidation can occur naturally, designers sometimes create it by applying a potassium sulfide solution, lending the patina of age. “It’s rich in character compared with high polish,” says Alexander Phoundoulakis, marketing manager for Fedra International, Rehoboth, MA.

Oxidation also enhances engraved or textured elements and emphasizes depth by creating shadows. “It gets into crevices and jumps out at you,” says John Atencio of John Atencio Designs, Denver, CO.

Oxidation is applied to a range of jewelry, especially mesh, cable, engraving and textured pieces. But because it’s a surface finish, oxidation can wear off if rubbed against something. This is why it’s used most often in crevices. Here are some do’s and don’ts to share with customers on ensuring the life of this finish.


  • Be careful not to bang this jewelry against anything because it can scratch the finish.
  • Store it with antitarnish strips.
  • Clean it gently with warm, soapy water and a soft brush. Dry with a soft cotton cloth.


  • Avoid polishing compounds and ultrasonic cleaners, both of which remove oxidation.
  • Be careful with polishing cloths, which can remove oxidation.
  • Display oxidized jewelry with tones and textures that complement the designs. Lighter surfaces such as cream or white, for example, will enhance any oxidized detail.

– by Lorraine M. Suermann

The Water collection includes this handmade sterling silver necklace featuring 24k goldplate and iolite. Keystone, $164-$192.

Fedra International, Rehoboth, MA; (800) 50-FEDRA, fax (508) 252-4650,

Handwoven sterling silver watch band bracelet features an armadillo pattern on the buckle. The design continues on the back. Available in two widths at $475 and $525 retail.

John Hardy, New York City; (212) 696-9292.

Sterling and 14k gold bracelets are from the Mesh Creations collection.

Cherie Dori, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; (800) 226-8816.

From the Elements collection, these sterling silver rings are highlighted with 18k gold and geometric oxidized shapes.

John Atencio, Denver, CO; (303) 830-7733, fax (303) 830-0891.

Crafted in oxidized steel and 18k white gold, the necklace is set with 1.25 carats of diamonds and 10 Japanese akoya cultured pearls. Keystone, $9,000.

Sarah Graham Metalsmithing, Portland, OR; (503) 481-5562,

Sterling silver bracelet has blue topaz accents. Suggested retail, $147-$208.

Anatoli Inc., West Hurley, NY; (888) 505-3033.

Cuff links are made in sterling silver and 18k gold or just 18k gold. All are available with an oxidized or brushed finish. Suggested retail, $670-$1,500.

William Richey Designs Ltd., Portland, ME; (207) 879-2216, fax (207) 879-2402,

These winged creatures from the Medley of Moths collection of pins are crafted in 18k gold and oxidized sterling silver. Suggested retail, $300. Also available in platinum and gold with diamonds at $3,580.

Pedro Boregaard, New York City; (212) 826-3660.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications