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Silver Ornaments

Mirror a Glass Ornament with Silver

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This silver ornament was made by chemically silvering the inside of a glass ball.

This silver ornament was made by chemically silvering the inside of a glass ball.

Anne Helmenstine
Use a chemical reaction to create a genuine silver ornament. The oxidation-reduction reaction silvers the inside of a glass ball, essentially forming a mirror inside the glass.

Silver Ornament Materials

  • distilled water
  • 5 ml acetone
  • 2.5 ml 0.5 M silver nitrate solution (AgNO3)
  • 2.5 ml 1.5 M ammonium nitrate solution (NH4NO3)
  • 5 ml 5% dextrose solution (C6H12O6)
  • 5 ml 10% sodium hydroxide solution (NaOH)
  • clear glass ornament (2-5/8")

Silver the Ornament

  1. Gently and carefully remove the metal ornament holder and set it aside. You should be left with a hollow glass ball with a short neck.

  2. Use a pipette to pour acetone into the ball. Swirl the acetone around and then pour it into a waste container. Allow the ornament to dry. The acetone step may be omitted, but it helps to clean the inside of the ornament to produce a better silver finish.

  3. Use a graduated cylinder to measure 2.5 ml of silver nitrate solution. Pour the silver nitrate solution into a small beaker. Rinse the the graduated cylinder with water, discarding the rinse water.

  4. Use the graduated cylinder to measure 2.5 ml of ammonium nitrate solution. Add the ammonium nitrate solution to the silver nitrate solution. Swirl the beaker or use a glass stirring rod to mix the chemicals. Rinse the graduated cylinder with water and discard the rinse water.

  5. Use the graduated cylinder to measure 5 ml of dextrose solution. Pour the dextrose solution into the dry glass ornament. Rinse the graduated cylinder with water and discard the rinse water.

  6. Use the graduated cylinder to measure 5 ml of sodium hydroxide solution. Pour the silver nitrate and ammonium nitrate solution into the glass ball, followed immediately by the sodium hydroxide solution.

  7. Cover the opening of the glass ball with a piece of parafilm and swirl the solution, making certain the entire interior surface of the glass ball is covered. You will see a silver mirror coating form inside the ball.

  8. When the ball is evenly coated, remove the parafilm and pour the solution into the waste container. Important: Rinse the inside of the glass ornament with distilled water. Failure to rinse the ornament could result in formation of a shock sensitive compound.

  9. Use a pipette to add about 2 ml of acetone to the inside of the ornament. Swirl the acetone around inside the ornament and then discard it in the waste container. Allow the ornament to air dry. Replace the ornament hanger and enjoy your silver holiday ornament!

  10. The waste material should be immediately rinsed away with water to prevent formation of an unstable (potentially explosive) compound,

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