View Full Version : mercury sulfide toner

2-Sep-2007, 15:57
has anyone used a mercury / sulfide toner for toning b+w prints? or seen the results?

i've been told by a couple of old timers that they produced some of the most beautiful warm tones they'd ever seen.

and i've been warned by a couple of chemists to not even think about mixing it or using it, due to the lethality and environmental toxicity of the mercury compounds.

so i've been sitting on the formula for over ten years without having my curiosity satisfied.

Walter Calahan
2-Sep-2007, 17:27
Leave you curiosity unsatisfied.

Mercury and your brain don't go together. Not to mention the environment downstream from your drain.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
2-Sep-2007, 21:18
First things first: Do I think the effort a worthwhile risk to self and environment? No.

As far as mercury salts go, mercuric sulfide (aka: cinnabar) is one of the easier to handle. Of course, it will melt your neurons like most other mercury compounds if you touch or inhale it, and does incredible damage to the unborn. Still, it isn't methyl mercury...

So, you need a lab-grade fume hood sucking 100 fpm, good elbow length gloves, eye protection, and lots of care to use it safely. The worst part however will be disposing of the leftovers responsibly. I don't know how to do so, but here is the EPA's page on mercury: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/index.htm

Steven Barall
3-Sep-2007, 09:16
Brooklyn is polluted enough. If you want to do that move to Jersey.

3-Sep-2007, 09:33
haha. i have NO plans to buy, mix, or use the stuff. just curious to know if anyone else has. my curiosity will be satisfied by a nice, vivid description by someone who's seen the results with their own eyes.

fwiw, i took another look at the formula. it's a bleach and redevelop sulfide toner, like classic sepia. the bleach is in two solutions that you mix in different ratios to control the final color and depth of tone. solution A. is ferricyanide, solution B. is mercuric chloride. the prints are bleached, washed in a hydrochloric acid solution, and then redeveloped in sodium sulfide.

the really unfortunate thing about the formula is that the mercuric chloride is used in pretty high concentrations (25g/l), and in a use-once-only bleach solution. pretty much a disaster by design. all that's really missing is a radioactive ingredient with a long half life.

David A. Goldfarb
3-Sep-2007, 09:57
Can you mercury tone a uranotype?

3-Sep-2007, 10:40
I'm wearing heavy lab gloves just to hold the mouse as I read this. I get the feeling those are among the nastiest materials ever used in photography. I can't imagine ever using mercuric chloride or uranium compounds - not in my house, for that matter, not anywhere.


Jason Greenberg Motamedi
3-Sep-2007, 12:37
Mercuric chloride is much nastier than mercuric sulfide. If you look at the EPA, they actually suggest using sulfur to clean-up mercury spills. Pouring the sulfur on the spilled mercury forms mercuric sulfide, which be collected and (somehow) disposed of properly.

3-Sep-2007, 12:55
... which be collected and (somehow) disposed of properly.

you dust the spill with finely ground plutonium powder, sweep it all into the waste basket, and then fumigate the area with hydrogen cyanide.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
3-Sep-2007, 13:07
Hmm, and I thought a liberal sprinkling with Gowanus "water" would do it.