Metal Etching Safety, Tips, Loads of Inspiring Etched-Jewelry Projects and an Awesome Kit

One of the biggest concerns I hear about etching metal jewelry is fear of the chemicals involved and using them safely. So I took those concerns to a group of experienced professionals and came away with some great advice that bears repeating. Read on for detailed information about the chemicals used in etching metal for jewelry, and then learn all about our great new etching kit! –Tammy

 In Her Garden ring from Making Etched Metal Jewelry
  In Her Garden ring
from Making Etched Metal Jewelry

The last time we covered metal etching on Jewelry Making Daily, a few folks commented that it was too dangerous and asked if there was a safer way to etch metal. I'd heard of some alternative methods and I had some ideas of my own about homemade concoctions, so I consulted a group of metalsmiths.

I asked if anyone had experience with a safe or at least less dangerous, nontoxic way to etch metal, maybe using household items that seemed like they might work, such as lemon juice, nail polish remover, or a mixture of vinegar plus something–that always seems to be a handy household combo that can work wonders, so I thought it might be worth a try. One reader suggested using the brown soft drink (you know which one); I hear scary stories about them cleaning toilets and dissolving nails, so they probably would work. I'll have to experiment with that one.

Silliness aside, I learned two important points about metal etching from all those wise metalsmiths.

The first was this: Ferric chloride, which is what most folks use to etch copper, isn't toxic* or super dangerous–it's a salt. Not an edible salt, of course. You shouldn't drink it, you shouldn't get it in your eyes, and if you get it on your skin, wash immediately. Use it in a well-ventilated room. But you can use it without being fearful.

Helena and Constantius etched cuff bracelet from Making Etched Metal Jewelry  
Helena and Constantius etched cuff bracelet
from Making Etched Metal Jewelry
 

* Update: I want to add to this to be perfectly clear, since we're dealing with such an important topic. Ferric chloride is dangerous if you ingest it or get it in your eyes. In that sense, it can be toxic. But if you use it properly, and store it properly, you should be able to do so without fear. If you get it on your skin, wash it off immediately and well. When I said above that it isn't "toxic or super dangerous" I was referring to toxic in the common, toxic-waste sense–a term that people use to describe things you don't even want in your neighborhood, let alone in your house. But if, to you, toxic means it will make you sick if you ingest it, then yes, it's toxic.

Read on for the rest of James's tips and advice about working with and disposing etching solutions, including even homemade ones and why they, too, need proper disposal, as well as a link to a complete etching tutorial so you can see just how simple and rewarding the process is!

 Be True etched necklace from Making Etched Metal Jewelry
  Be True etched necklace
from Making Etched Metal Jewelry

There are so many opportunities to create one-of-a-kind, exquisitely detailed jewelry using this versatile technique. To make it even easier for you to try etching, we've compiled a smartly-priced metal etching exclusive collection that includes Lexi's etching video, Kristen Robinson and Ruth Rae's beautiful book Making Etched Metal Jewelry packed with 17 etching projects (including the ones shown here), three bonus digital project tutorials, plus a selection of the supplies used in the metal etching process. Just add your own metal (copper, brass, silver) and ferric chloride–we can't include the ferric chloride due to shipping restrictions, but you can get it from science supply stores, Rio Grande and some other jewelry supplies stores, even Amazon. So be knowledgeable respectful of the materials you're using, but don't be afraid to give etching a try!

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