Silver Tree Chemistry Demonstration

Silver Crystals on a Copper Tree

You can use a chemical reaction to deposit silver crystals like these onto a copper Christmas tree form to make a silver tree.
You can use a chemical reaction to deposit silver crystals like these onto a copper Christmas tree form to make a silver tree. Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

In this simple chemistry demonstration or crystal project you'll grow a silver crystal tree. This is a variation of the classic method of growing silver crystals on a copper wire or bead of mercury.

Silver Crystal Tree Materials

All you need for this project is a silver salt solution and copper metal. Silver nitrate is one of the easiest silver compounds to obtain. Copper is used for safety reasons, but the project also works with other metals, such as mercury.

  • Sheet of copper that has been cut into a tree shape or a tree made from copper wire
  • 0.1 M silver nitrate solution

Grow a Silver Crystal Tree

The project couldn't be easier! Place the copper tree in a clear glass container. For the best effect, make sure the sides of the tree aren't touching the sides of the container. Add the silver nitrate solution so that it touches the tree.

How It Works

The reaction is a displacement or replacement reaction, where the copper takes the place of the silver. The silver is deposited on the copper metal, essentially electroplating it and eventually growing crystals.

2 Ag+ + Cu → Cu2+ + 2 Ag

When you are finished growing the silver crystals, you can remove the tree from the solution and use it as a decoration.