Ageing Coins with Bleach?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 05/04/09 03:26 PM

I have a set of coins for Come Fly with Me where the gaffs are ageing nicely but the regular dollar is not. Ive read/heard that bleach will tone silver coins (the black toning that they get), but I cannot find details (yes, Ive searched this site and also Googled it). Does anyone out there have the details?

Thanks!
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Postby Mike P » 05/04/09 04:27 PM

Yes,
I use bleach to tone my Silver Morgans. I tone them a dark Black by submerging the coins in pure bleach with no water added. If you want to slow the process then use water in a 2 to 1 ratio or 2 parts bleach to one part water.

Once the coin is blackened then I use Fine steel wool to "clean off the black on the raised parts and lighten the flat parts.
You must watch though because the bleach will rust the steel in the wool and create a brown tone in the dark areas. If this is undesirable then you must clean the coins and do it again. I also found that using Flitz to clean the coins will cause the process to slow considerably.

This is perhaps the cheapest way to tone silver coins but it is not the best way to do it. There are ageing kits for Silver, Copper and Brass that are sold at Craft stores which work better in my opinion but Bleaching will do the job.
Welcome Dustin,
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 05/04/09 06:50 PM

Thanks Mike - I will look into those aging kits (Chemicals + Dustin = Disaster).

Thanks again!
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Postby M. Yandorf » 06/14/09 10:01 PM

"Liver of Sulfur" will age copper coins. Use it very sparingly this stuff smells really bad.
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Postby Jeffrey Korst » 06/15/09 02:31 AM

If you know a jeweler, they also have something to put on coins that will darken them. It was some months ago so I'm not sure, butI have the impression that it is some sort of paste that gets applied and buffed off the areas you don't want dark. They ended up looking very good, and all very much the same.

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Postby M. Yandorf » 06/15/09 04:06 PM

It's called, "jax silver blackener"
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Postby M. Yandorf » 06/21/09 03:16 AM

I just now tried bleach...
It definitely darkened my coin, but it will take a lot trial and error to simulate natural darkening.
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Postby John M. Dale » 06/21/09 11:56 PM

I too just tried bleach on a walking liberty half & was completely disappointed with the results. The bleach attacks the high points of the coin first instead of uniformly oxidizing the coin.

I'd planned on using the bleach to "oxidize" the coin across the entire coin and then using a "Brilliant Polishing Cloth" from Fabric Manipulations to re-shine the highlights and background to leave the darkening in the grooves and highlight edges. This works well for coins I've bought that were naturally oxidized.

With the bleached coins, it was very difficult to remove the "oxidation" from the highlights with the polishing cloth &, by the time I did, the entire coin was shiny - not the effect I was going for at all. (For those with a bit of chemical knowledge - I suspect that the polishing cloth doesn't attack Silver Chloride [the "oxidation" that the bleach form] as well as the Silver Oxide that forms from natural oxidation. Plus the Silver Chloride isn't as black as Silver Oxide - more of a dull gray.)

I think Hydrogen Peroxide may be another option with which I'm going to experiment. I don't expect the 3% Hydrogen Peroxide that is in the medicine aisle to be strong enough, but the stuff that is (was?) used to bleach hair (about 8%) may be, if it's still available.

I have access to 30% Hydrogen Peroxide (don't mess with this if you don't know the hazards) so I'll try some dilutions and post the results in the future, for those who have the knowledge to do this safely. (I'll start with 8% in case hair bleach is still available - it's safe enough to handle with a few simple precautions.)

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/22/09 07:53 AM

Did you polish the coins before applying the oxidizer? Clean metal reacts more quickly then metal covered in oil etc.
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Postby Eoin O'hare » 06/22/09 01:17 PM

I had a similar problem with a set of Johnson cups and a Johnson Chop cup-
one shiny Chop cup and three dull ordinary cups. I wanted to use two cups and a chop cup obviously without the chop cup sticking out like a sore thumb.

I approached it this way- I cleaned all four cups with white spirit just to get any polish or grease off them, then I simply polished them all with a metal polish and buffed them to a high shine.

They looked feckin awful for about three months but all cups are now dull and have a natural patina.
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Postby Jonathan Neal » 06/22/09 08:10 PM

I seem to recall that boiling an egg seems to emit some chemical ..and putting the item to be aged in that water during the boiling process will do the trick.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/22/09 09:30 PM

Ordinarily one adds a little salt to the water when boiling eggs. Though perhaps the compound you want to use, liver of sulfur is pretty close to what you get when cooking an egg if you use the yellow part inside?
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Postby John M. Dale » 06/22/09 10:33 PM

To Jonathon T.,

No, I didn't polish the coin prior to bleaching it but I don't think that would have mattered much. I did make an attempt to use 3% H2O2 after rinsing the coin with Isopropyl Alcohol to remove the oils. (I thought of the oil issue halfway thru the bleaching process.) It actually reacted more than I expected. After 2-3 minutes the coin had a fairly uniform gray cast similar to coins I've purchased that hadn't been shined or polished.

(BTW, referring back to my supposition about Silver Chloride formation causing the gray result in the bleach; I'd forgotten that Silver Chloride isn't naturally gray/black; it's white, but is light sensitive and the Chloride ion re-associates to form chlorine gas that leaves behind pure silver metal that will look gray - it's been a few years since my college classes.)

I used a 7.5% H2O2 solution today and got better results (and much faster ~30 sec. [I'm glad I diluted the 30% solution with which I'd started.]), closer to what I was wanting, but the oxidation wasn't quite as dark as I'd hoped so I decided to hit Google (which would have saved me the time of playing with this - remember kids: research first; then experiment).

The research brought back everything I would have known had I thought about this when I dropped out of my chemistry degree program after 3 1/2 years in (I was gonna be a rock star don't you know). The "oxide" I want is Silver Sulfide (really black) not Silver Oxide (mostly black but more dark gray).

(However, I did find thru the research that mixing Silver Powder & 90% H2O2 makes a great rocket propellant - don't try this at home kids.)

So, liver of sulfur is probably a better answer, here's a reference.

A description of the Egg method is on this page. I've reproduced it here:

"While your eggs are boiling put your silver pieces in a freezer zip-lock bag. Don't overlap them. Take your boiled eggs out, let them cool for a few minutes and put them in the bag with shells on. Take a spoon and crack the eggshell, then just mash up the eggs. I do that by laying the bag on it's side and place a towel over it (the eggs are hot inside) and mash the eggs up, as if you were making cracker crumbs. When the eggs are warm the oxidation starts immediately. I then just roll the bag and let it sit for a few minutes, check, reroll if needed and rinse. It really goes fast this way!"

The other option is Jax Silver Blackener but be aware that altho I wasn't able to find the MSDS online (unlike nearly everything else Jax makes) the warning label says it is a skin irritant so take proper precautions.

Now, off to find that 90% H2O2 and a tool to grind up one of these coins. :D (If you hear a boom near Santa Clara, CA; that'll be me.)

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Postby John M. Dale » 06/23/09 02:08 AM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Ordinarily one adds a little salt to the water when boiling eggs. Though perhaps the compound you want to use, liver of sulfur is pretty close to what you get when cooking an egg if you use the yellow part inside?


Was writing my last post when you posted this. This is a good guess (if it was a guess - I'm never quite sure when your being facetious).

Liver of sulfur is a sulfide and the smell of rotten eggs is hydrogen sulfide. Sulfur is yellow; egg yolks are yellow (okay, now I'm being facetious.)

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/23/09 08:09 AM

Some older books reference liver of sulfur. JNeal mentioned eggs. I simply suggested the closest readily accessible compound that one could use from the situation described which would get results.

I expect the reader to be facile, hence no sarcasm needed, and keep a hope that they are docile as well. Sometimes the route not taken is left to fallow for good reason. And other times the path well beaten and the road well paved leads to much suffering or worse.

BTW I used a dip-in cleaner to tarnish my coins by letting them sit at the bottom of the jar for a day or so. They turned a dark dull grey/black and have stayed that way for a while.
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Postby John M. Dale » 10/23/11 02:54 PM

If anyone is still interested in this topic, check out Cool Tools Liver of Sulphur gel. There are a couple of videos showing how to use it.

I've played with it and with practice you can probably get good results. I found it tough to get a realistic look but I was trying to match some other naturally aged coins by aging some that had been polished.

Getting the blackening around the details and an overall gray tone was the tough nut to crack. Repeated dipping and polishing is probably the trick but I ran out of patience.

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