We Answer the Question
Patina Benefits & Finishes For Copper Jewelry
Not long ago, I wrote a few interesting facts about the aging of copper and other metals and I received an overwhelming response from many readers.
It has encouraged me a lot and I wanted to share more of my experiences in this field with the hope that it will bring an equally encouraging response.
In this article, I will try to answer some frequently asked questions and curiosities of the people who are new in this field.
As far as I am concerned, I am new to this hobby of electroforming, and I want to start a regular blog where I can share my experiences and take my readers with me on this interesting journey.
We will start with the electroforming patina benefits for copper, and will further discuss the science that involves the process, and the expected cost.
Moving forward, the information that I will share here will be my own practical experience, hence you can relate to it if you are also into electroforming.
But before we move into further details, our question is:
What are the benefits and techniques to patina your copper jewelry?
The Answer To The Question |
Patina Benefits & Finishes For Copper Jewelry
The main benefit to using patina in your copper jewelry or art pieces would be to protect and add to the aesthetics of your art.
That brings us to a few of ways we can patina your copper jewelry and art.
One of the easiest ways to patina copper, and that involves no cost, is giving a green color patina to copper by submerging it into a solution of salt and vinegar for at least 30 minutes.
After keeping it in the solution for the given period, the piece is taken out of the solution and salt is sprinkled on it.
As the salt is sprinkled, a green color patina starts to appear on the surface of copper within a few hours.
Similarly, another low-cost option would be to submerge the copper in the solution of liver of sulfur, and this will result in a deep black/dark brown color.
What Are The Benefits Of adding Patina To Your Electroforming Art?
Patinas are excessively used by artists to give an aesthetic side to their sculptures, from statuettes to various other metallic pieces of art.
They are also used to protect the metal from severe weather conditions i.e. weathering, and corrosion, etc.
Now, to discuss the elephant in the room, here are a few answers to the questions that can arise in your mind if you are new to this field.
What Is patina?
Generally speaking, the patina is any thin green, blue, brown (and many different colors) layer on the surface of copper and other similar metals, mainly due to oxidation.
For a simpler understanding, the natural rust on the surface of a metal is patina, however, there is a lot more to patina than this.
On metals, mainly on copper (the metal that we will be discussing in this article), patina is formed by the coating of various chemical compounds like sulfides, sulfates, oxidates, etc. due to various factors.
Sometimes, these are natural factors like rain, mist, and air, but our point of discussion here is electroforming, which we will use to patina the metals, notably copper.
Now, the million-dollar question; why and how does the copper change color?
How can we patina copper with the help of electroforming, and what is it going to cost?
Why copper changes color?
Freshly formed, copper always comes in a very shiny and beautiful rosy-pink color (you must have seen it in the electrical wires).
However, that is not the end of the story for beautiful copper, and there are many shades to it.
Under various environmental factors, we do get black copper, red copper, or blue-green copper.
However, these are later stages of copper changing its colors, and the first color that copper attains after its fresh formation is a darker russet-brown.
This unique characteristic of copper changing its colors is what we refer to as patina.
Green is the primary patina color for copper after it ages, and as explained before, it preserves the metal from further corrosion.
As you can see, there is a complete complexion shift since the copper is formed until it is exposed for 25-30 years.
With time, it becomes greener owing to the color shift to a variety of oxidates, sulfates, and sulfides.
This Is One Of My Favorite Electroforming Patina Examples.
Electroforming is the process of electrothermal deposition of copper (or other similar metals) onto the surface of various subjects.
Copper as an anode, and the subject material as a cathode, are dipped into an electrolytic solution.
The solution is primarily metal salts, and most of the time, it is CuSO4 (Copper sulfate).
Direct current is then passed through the solution to transfer the metal ions on the surface of the subject.
This way a substantial amount of copper is built on the subject material.
Once the subject piece on the cathode is completely coated with the metal, here comes the time to patina the piece.
Only when the subject is electroformed properly can we patina it to bring out its character.
It is important to understand here that patina is not something that you have to do; you can keep your electroformed object as it is without patina.
Patina is, however, an amazing way to give a vintage and antique look to your piece, and as discussed earlier, it protects the copper like nothing else.
One of my recent experiences is the rainbow patina on copper.
Rainbow patina, as compared to some other patinas, is a hot patina; it requires the metal to be heated (usually with a torch) before it can be applied. The color variation and rainbow hue will vary depending upon your metal of choice.
After heating the piece of copper for over 200℃ (392°F), this rainbow patina solution (Traditional Rainbow Patinas, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lOq4sxFgG8) is sprayed on the metal surface, and it is again heated.
After repeating the procedure a few times, copper is then cooled, mainly with water.
As the cooling process goes on, you can gradually see the copper catching a rainbow patina on it.
Once this initial stage is completed, you can seal the patina with a variety of color sealants to ensure that the patina doesn’t fade.
It is more important when the patina is more unstable, as the colors will change quickly unless they are sealed properly.
Going back to the chemistry of patina, there are a variety of colors in patinas, and while I haven’t worked on a color patina so far, I plan to do so in the future. However, the cost will vary when you explore different colors in the patina, and it should always be considered.
What Are The Costs To Patina Your art?
There is a huge variety of patina options, from the simple patina to patina solutions of rich colors and the cost will vary.
For example, you can find the liver of Sulphur gel for simple patina for around $10. Similarly, the colored patina solutions can be found in a price range of somewhere between $15-$20.
There are also free options that you can use for the patina of copper.
Yes, Patina Will Protect Your Copper.
Patina protects copper way better than anything else.
Over an extended period of oxidation of copper, a protective film is formed on the surface of copper, which then helps protect it from weathering, and other factors that could destroy it.
In our everyday lives, we can see that while iron is very prone to destructive corrosion, metals like copper, bronze and brass are naturally resistant to any kind of destructive corrosion.
It is all down to the natural patina that these metals develop around themselves, which then works as a protective film against destructive corrosion.
Since copper metals are very easy to work with, durable, and attractive, and because of their lower tensile strength, they have been used for centuries for railings, grilles, and roofs, etc.
If it wasn’t for patinas protecting them, they would not have been the preference in the aforementioned uses.
Patina DIY (Do It Yourself) Formulas For Copper.
Now that we have gone through the details of patina, and the cost involved in the patina of copper, here are some DIY formulas for you to try at home.
These all come from my personal experience, and you should follow the respective guidelines properly in order to attain the desired patina.
In general, depending upon the metal, and the patina, it is either a cold process or a hot process.
The cold process involves cold water, cold patina solution, and cold metal.
Similarly, the hot process involves having hot water, hot patina solution, and hot metal.
I have always preferred the cold technique because of the patina variation and randomness attached to it.
Green copper patinas:
To start it, first of all, it is important to clean the copper metal completely.
For this, stains and various copper oxides built on the surface of copper are initially cleaned, and a bright clean is then ready for the patina.
One of the great characteristics of copper metal is that it can take a score of colors depending upon the patina solution and temperature.
A combination of various patina chemicals creates one of my favorite patinas, the variegated patina.
How do you patina copper naturally?
If you are looking for natural ways to patina copper, here are some of them.
White Vinegar and Table Salt
- Soaking copper in the solution of white vinegar and table salt will give a natural blue, or green patina on the surface of copper.
- Another interesting natural approach is to bury the copper in sawdust or crushed potato chips.
- For potato chips, they must be soaked in white vinegar.
Boiled Eggs Method:
The hot boiled egg method is an ideal approach for obtaining brownish patinas on the surface of copper.
- To begin the process, the eggs are hard-boiled and then crushed into pieces.
- They are then placed in a container that makes sure that they are still hot, and the copper is also placed alongside them in the same container.
- The longer the incubation period the darker the complexion of patina.
How can you age copper quickly?
If done naturally, this process can take forever, and it will force you to think ‘’to patina, or not to patina’’.
Yes, none of us wants to wait years to get our desired color on copper.
Luckily, we have ways to patina copper quickly, and one of them is the use of liver of sulfur.
Liver Of Sulfur Method:
- Liver of sulfur is a mixture of various potassium sulfides and sulfates, mainly potassium polysulfide, potassium thiosulfate, potassium sulfide, and likely potassium bisulfide.
- Before starting the patina process with liver of sulfur, it is vital to clean the metal piece of rust and any other types of stains.
- Bicarbonate of soda can be a good cleaning solution to clean the copper.
- Once your piece of copper is cleaned, you can now move on with the patina process with the help of liver of sulfur.
- As a precautionary measure, you should wear gloves to protect your hands, and a mask to avoid the pungent smell of sulfur.
- Drop about 10 drops of liver of sulfur into about half a mug of warm water (not boiling).
- Swirl the liver of sulfur solution around with non-metallic tweezers or something similar.
- If your liver of sulfur is freshly mixed, it will turn black in a matter of minutes.
- However, if your liver of sulfur mixture is old or weak, it will take a bit longer.
- If you want to speed up the process, heat your copper piece.
- Rinse the copper piece in clean, cold water until the depth of the desired color is achieved.
- Cleaning and preservation of copper after you patina the copper
- While you may tend to think that the process is complete after you have your copper piece with the desired color, there are a few final steps to be done.
- First of all, it is important to clean the piece of patina copper with clean water and a white towel to ensure that the surface is clear of elements that can alter the colors.
- After that, the copper is sprayed with a sealant to keep the patina from progressing.
It is critical, as the patina may progress, or fade over time if it is not properly sealed.
Final Thoughts… Patina Benefits Finishes For Copper Jewelry
Now you are loaded with everything you need to properly apply patina and bring your copper electroforming art to the next level
We all know that copper is so beautiful on its own but when we add different forms of patinas to the metal we can achieve looks we never thought we could.
Do you have more ideas how you use patina in your electroforming?
Patina Benefits & Finishes For Copper Jewelry
Please share them with us.
ELECTROFORMING | FUSED GLASS | METAL ARTIST
I’m documenting my electroforming journey step by step. I wish I had this information when I started my electroforming journey.