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Adding Patina to Metal Jewelry

Gayle Dowell is known as the Prairie Jeweler. She creates jewelry using prairie grasses and wildflowers in fine silver and 22k gold.

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Creating a Patina on Metal Jewelry

As a jewelry maker, I have found that there are many different ways to add a color patina to my metal creations. It is a relatively easy process, and there are new products being introduced all the time to make it even simpler. This article will discuss the different methods that are available to get those different color patinas on metal pieces. Some of these methods use common household supplies...even food!

All photos by Gayle Dowell

Liver of Sulfur for a Dark Patina

When using liver of sulfur on sterling or fine silver I can get a range of different color depending on how long I leave my jewelry piece in the solution. Liver of Sulfur comes in rock or gel forms. I dilute or dissolve the liver of sulfur in warm water, add my piece to the solution and watch the changes. The best way that I have found to control the color is to dip the metal in the solution until it gets to the color I would like to keep, then dip the metal in ice water to halt the color changes. Early on the metal turns a yellow to a brown, more dipping creates a blue/purple color and then finally a deep dark gray/black. I then use a polishing cloth to bring back the highlights of the metal. Liver of sulfur can also be used on copper and bronze but the color changes are not as varied as with silver.

See picture of ring below for a sterling silver piece that was oxidized with liver of sulfur patina.

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Gilder's Paste for An Easy Patina

Using Gilder's Paste on metal is as easy as rubbing on this wax based product and wiping off the excess. This is great for textured pieces where the recesses can grab onto and hold the patina. I've used a sealer over the top of some of my pieces, but I've also left it as is with great success. Click the amazon link to see the other suggested colors available. See key below for an example of Gilder's Paste in Patina.

When I do custom stamped work on stainless steel or other base metal, I will use the black gilder's paste to bring out the stamped impressions. It works well for this application. See photo below.

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Patinas for Different Metal Types

The following are a list of websites with information on how to add a patina to different types of metals.

Creating a Heat Patina

I like creating a heat patina on metals. I've found that the best metal to add a heat patina to is copper. I can get a wide range of color from pinks, oranges, red, blues and purples with a small butane torch. All I do is heat my copper piece with a torch, pulling back every few seconds to see the colors that develop after the copper begins to cool. I stop when I see the colors and patterns that I like develop. I've also started using a heat patina on my bronze clay work. I use the Goldie Bronze product and I can get some nice deep bronze coloring from heating it up a bit. I then polish the high places to get a great contrast with the patina.

Keeping the rainbow colors in the copper is a bit of a challenge. Currently, I use Protecta-clear to protect the metal from tarnishing and darkening the color. Sometimes though I lose the blues and purples when I use a coating. Those are the color ranges that are hard to keep.

The earrings below are made of copper and given a torch fire patina and coated with Protecta-clear.

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Protect the Patina

Many of the patinas that are natural can be delicate. Protecting the patina has been a trail and error adventure for me. I've used many different products to help seal the patina on the metal. Renaissance wax and Protecta-Clear are two products that I've relied on in many instances to give me a natural finish that is not glossy or fake looking, but still give my patinas the protection that they need. I use the Renaissance wax on those pieces where the patina is not as fragile and can take the buffing that is required after I apply the wax and let it dry. I use the Protecta-Clear in the spray form for those pieces that will not hold up to rough contact.

Like the look of a Patina on Metal?

citronelle on December 29, 2013:

Thanks so much for providing the above patina information and, like Vistor I've wanted to work with patinas on metal and your article has provided the info to get started. BTW your earrings are amazing :-).

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on September 25, 2013:

Hi Gayle! Thanks for another great lens. I started a lens on metal patinas a while back but got sidetracked. You've inspired me to get back to it one of these days and finish it! :D

Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on September 14, 2013:

@anonymous: Thanks for stopping by Pat. Copper is one of my favorites as well and I love using a heat patina on copper.

anonymous on September 14, 2013:

My name is Pat, This will be my first time trying Patina. I look forward to the new experience. I love working with different metals and copper is one of my favorites. I love what the Patina does with the copper . The colors are very beautiful!!!