Christine Cox

Etching Silver

Awesome texture from rolling mill

Sterling necklace (reverse)

Elaine K. emailed about etching silver:

Q. I’ve been fascinated with your website and its offerings, but am not sure I am ready to equip my studio for etching sterling silver.  Can I etch silver, either sterling or fine?

A. One can etch silver, but it takes a different chemical and different equipment than one would use for etching base-metals (copper, brass, nickel-silver). Most people use nitric acid to etch silver (either sterling or fine), which can be very dangerous (I burned my eyes a little the first time I used it), and it has a short shelf-life. I etch base-metals in ferric chloride (relatively benign). If I can avoid etching silver, I do. For texture, I tend to either use a rolling mill or else hand-texture the silver with a hammer or flex-shaft. If you absolutely must use nitric acid, please follow all the safety instructions.

Thanks for the great questions, Elaine.

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Comments on: "Etching Silver" (3)

  1. You can also use ferric nitrate which comes in granular form that you mix with water for etching silver but it’s still dangerous to your lungs so you have to be very careful.

    There’s a third way to etch silver and it’s done with a very safe solution of cupric nitrate and a big 6-12 volt battery. It’s called galvanic etching and it works great. The silver that gets etched out can be reclaimed from the solution and when dried, torched into a ball that you can then use again. You can google “galvanic etching”, the directions are free online.

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