How did people make mirrors hundreds of years ago? During the Victorian era, mirrors were made by applying silver metal to panes of glass. The method is sometimes still used today. And as you can see in the video, this classic technique is fascinating to watch.
How To Silver Something or Make a DIY Mirror
If you’re feeling inspired, this tutorial will walk you through the basics of using silver nitrate to “silver” an object and make things like a DIY mirror.
WARNING: Silvering is a complicated process that involves chemicals. Please consult an expert and use extreme caution. Proper facilities and safety equipment including gloves, goggles and air masks are required. Silver can stain skin. Don’t try this at home.
01) Prepare Your Mixtures Separately
Get two containers. Put 1 gram of silver nitrate in one container. And 1 gram (0.035 oz) of sodium hydroxide in the other. Add water to both containers until the silver nitrate and sodium hydroxide is dissolved. Both silver nitrate ($11; Amazon.com) and sodium hydroxide ($11; Amazon.com) are available online.
02) Combine Mixtures
Combine the two separate solutions together in a third container. A black precipitate of silver oxide will form.
03) Add Ammonia
Add some ammonia until the precipitate completely redissolves.
04) Add Sugar
Add 4 grams of sugar to the container. Carefully stir until dissolved.
05) Silver Your Object
Place the object that you would like to silver into the solution. Or pour the solution into your object or a tray containing your object. You can silver all sorts of items. Some suggestions: bottles, glass panes, decorative objects.
06) Warm It Up
GENTLY warm your object. DO NOT let it boil. Boiling will mess up the silver surface. A heat dryer or a warm day will help.
Eventually, the solution will turn to a cream color. Your object is now silver.
Rinse off your object with water. Don’t worry, the silver will stay.
09) Clean Up Any Extra Silver Nitrate
Quickly wipe away any silver from areas where you don’t want it. Carefully use hydrochloric acid to remove any unwanted silver parts. Dilute and dispose of your excess solution properly. That’s it, you should now have a new silver nitrate mirror or whatever object that you decided to silver!
#SilverNitrate is commonly known as lunar caustic. This is because ancient alchemists believed that silver was associated with the moon.