Fun with hazardous chemicals

Recently I have decided to improve the quality of my jewellery by using semi-precious gemstones in preference to glass, and higher quality metals for my findings.   You can see some pictures of my first experiments with semi-precious gemstones over on my facebook page – I was really happy with how they look with my leaf pendants.  For findings, I’ve decided in future to stick to sterling silver and solid copper for my pendants.

However this left me with a slight problem – I like to use black thread for my tree pendants, and these look better with dark grey or black findings than silver.  Also, copper is just a wee bit too bright and shiny to go with my leaf pendants; previously I had used an alloy with more of an antique, darker look.  So, imagine my delight then when I discovered that you could put a patina onto metals to change their colour!  Not being very scientifically minded I had no idea this was possible until a friend mentioned it to me, whereupon I got rather overexcited …….  so I could continue to use high quality metals, but still get the colour effects that I wanted – win win! 🙂

My husband looked a tad concerned when I told him I had ordered some oxidising solution – me and hazardous chemicals could be a slightly worrying combination!  None the less, my solution arrived (duly covered with lots of skull and crossbones and dire warnings to use in a well ventilated space) and today I had my first attempt at patinating.  I’m still alive, although the house is a bit stinky!  Here’s a photo diary of the process for anyone who is interested …. be warned, the solution is sulphur based so be prepared to inhale the smell of rotten eggs while you’re doing this.  I picked today for my first attempt as I’m recovering from a horrible cold and can’t smell much 🙂

Step 1: Get some bits to practice on.  My husband kindly provided me with some old electrical cable which I stripped down to give me a few bits of copper wire.  I would use these to experiment with to get the finish I wanted.

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Step 2: Get set up.  Here’s my table and stool set up in our back porch (that counts as a well ventilated area, right?).  Then we have the bottle of oxidising solution with its scary CORROSIVE!!!!! label, and some bicarbonate of soda.  What I’ll need to do is put the metal into the oxidising solution, and then take it out and put it into a mix of water and bicarbonate of soda to neutralise it and stop the oxidisation.  The third photo shows the other essentials: plastic tweezers, latex gloves, and a polishing cloth to give my findings a polish once they’re done.  Also, not pictured: safety goggles in case of splashback.  I think we’re ready to get started!

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Step 3:  Get together the bits you want to patinate.  Here’s my dummy run snippets of copper and silver wire, and the findings that I want to patinate.

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Step 4:  Trial run with a bit of wire.  Here you can see a bit of silver wire in my left hand, then the same wire after a few seconds in the patinating solution.  A wee bath into the bicarbonate of soda solution, a quick polish, and there it is, a lovely steely black – its like magic!

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Step 5: Time to have a go for realsies!  Here’s one of my sterling silver lobster clasps before and after.

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Step 6: Have a go with your copper wire and realise you need to really, really dilute the oxidising solution.  I dunked the copper in for literally a second and it came out completely black!  Oops.

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Step 7: Dilute your oxidising solution until your copper starts to go a nice antiquey bronze colour as desired.  Also, find dead midge in your bicarbonate of soda solution.  The perils of working outside in Scotland!

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Step 7: Now it’s about right, patinate the copper findings.  Here’s a couple of jump rings before and after.  It’s a subtle change, but I’m a perfectionist and the more natural, antique, muted shades of the “after” version are what I want for my leaf pendants.  I’ll use the shinier version for other pendants where the colour fits better 🙂

 

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Step 8: Take patinated findings out of the bicarb solution and give them a good rinse, then leave to dry.

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Step 9: Give them all a bit of a polish with the polishing cloth

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Step 10: Voila! Now I can go make some pendants, yay!

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