View Full Version : selenium toner: the fool's gold toner

12-Apr-2016, 13:32

i've learned that Bostick & Sullivan made a selenium toner called "fool's gold toner" because it gave a gold toner apparence with a bluish black color to alternative photographic prints like Van Dyke or POP.

I'm not able to find the formula of this toner and it seems that B&S don't make it no longer and doesn't publish it no more.

Is anyone has the formula of this toner based on selenium ?

Thank you.



12-Apr-2016, 14:17
I read about it before, but have never really looked into it. Some googling suggests that it is either:
* Selenium (6g/l) and sodium sulfite (75g/l) (from James' book of Alternative Processes, page 383, accessible through Google Books)
* Selenium with sodium tungstate (original B&S formulation, ratios unknown)
* Selenium with borax (B&S reformulated)
* Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner with some borax added (random Flickr post (https://www.flickr.com/groups/95427799@N00/discuss/72157632246058551/))
Given the variety of options, it seems that selenium is relatively easy to coax into producing a cooler tone. But like I said, I never really looked into it or even tried it. Might be worthwhile to get some borax and give it a try with adding it to the stock KRST toner.

12-Apr-2016, 15:56
You could probably just call the folks at B&S and ask them about it. They're very friendly and helpful...

13-Apr-2016, 10:47

yes i've sent a mail to B&S and i wait for their answer.

Thank you.

18-Apr-2016, 13:15
Quick research @Koraks! Seems interesting to give a fool's gold toner a try for Van Dyke. Keep us posted if you have any news for B&S @olive92 [emoji2]

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk

Jim Noel
18-Apr-2016, 15:46
I have been dealing with Bostick & SUllivan since they were basically operating out of their garage in Van Nuys. For a while, beginning in 1982, Dick published a very complete newsletter "Lumen". I have all of them, along with several early catalogs which were more than listings of chemicals. I just completed a re-reading. Nowhere do I find any mention of "Fool's Gold Toner".

19-Apr-2016, 11:01

i've got the answer of B&S themself:

We did previously have the fools gold toner kit but no longer. I'll check on the formula, but we know Christopher James very well and you can trust his information.

So i give the formula from the book of Christopher James:

Na2SO3: 75 g
Selenium: 6 g
Water to make: 1000 mL


Andrew O'Neill
19-Apr-2016, 12:05

Andrew O'Neill
19-Apr-2016, 12:10
I wonder if one could use KRST instead of selenium powder....

19-Apr-2016, 14:24


Part A: 500ml Selenium Solution.
Part B: 500ml Borax Solution — Updated Toner.

For use:

Part A -- 5ml.
Part B -- 5ml.

Water to 500ml.

As per the Blog Post...
Does anybody 'perhaps' now know, what percentage (1%, 2%, 5%, 10%)... The 'Borax Solution' is?

Thank-you, -Tim!

19-Apr-2016, 15:24
{QUOTE=Andrew O'Neill;1324294]I wonder if one could use KRST instead of selenium powder....[/QUOTE]


You should use a fum cupboard when dissolving Selenium powder in a Sodium Sulphite solution, it also needs heating. It's quite an old Selenium Toner formula there's a few variations but they work well.


Andrew O'Neill
19-Apr-2016, 20:55
Thanks, Ian. I'll pass. I'm avoiding tricky stuff like that in my darkroom.

12-May-2016, 06:25

OK the formula is finally confirmed by this link:


I've prepared 100 mL of it with:

0.6 g selenium powder
7.5g sodium sulfite
100 ml of water

The selenium takes about 45 minutes to solve in the sodium sulfite solution at boiling temperature.

I have use a hood to avoid to breathe toxic emissions.



12-May-2016, 07:12
I'm looking forward to the results!

12-May-2016, 17:29
Be careful, I used to handle Sodium Selenite at a plant. We were very careful. I actually think (but don't know) that Selenium metal powder is less toxic than the water soluble salts. Remember when dealing with very finely divided powdered metals, these things in the presence of an oxidizer can react violently. 0.6 grams sounds pretty safe to me.

13-May-2016, 03:54
I think it's good practice to work with small volumes. I'll probably be ordering some selenium powder in the short term for toning purposes.
Something I'm wondering about though: does it disperse easily in water? I mean, I assume it's not actually water soluble, so I'm kind of surprised that this formula apparently uses metal selenium instead of a salt - although that's true for all selenium toner recipes I've seen.

13-May-2016, 16:09
I finally found a text on Selenium. The element is not a metal. It exists in 3 allotropes, the most common is the little black beads, (this is how I've seen it in a lab). Elemental Selenium is very Insoluble in water. It could be that the sodium sulfide reacts to dissolve the Se? I'm not sure.
The salts are similar in toxicity to certain arsenic compounds. I've used the prepared Kodak product for decades I tone everything.
Best Regards Mike

13-May-2016, 16:11
Sodium sulfite , not sulfide

13-May-2016, 16:32
I ordered the Fool's Gold toner from B&S when it was available and never liked it much. There were issues with bleaching and uneven toning. Your results may differ, but there's probably a good reason they no longer offer it.

14-May-2016, 01:18

yes duolab123 the selenium is not soluble in water but it dissolves in the sodium sulfite solution to form a sodium selenosulfate (as the reaction of sulfur with sodium sulfite produces sodium thiosulfate).
I think it's the selenosulfate which permits the toning process.

I don't know why B&S stops to offer it. Perhaps because of the toxicity of selenium...

The toxicity is one of the reasons why i only make 100 mL of stock solution because with the original formula is made for 1 liter.