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Natural Ways to Patina and Clean Metals

Do you like the look of antiqued or patinaed metals? Do you have metal findings that are looking dark and aged when you’d like them bright and shiny? Here are some ways to change the surface finish of sterling, copper and brass using materials you have in your kitchen.

Blackening Sterling Silver Without Chemicals

Do you want your sterling silver chain, wire or findings to have a blackened or antique look? This look can be created in just a day with  the boiled egg method. This method is safe to use on finished jewelry with pearls or stones.

Before you attempt to patina the silver you will want to prepare it by completely cleaning all oils from the metal surface. I prefer a strong dish soap like Dawn or Joy. Rinse completely and then rinse again. Use pliers or tweezers to handle the metal as the oils from your hands will leave a residue that will affect the patina. Dry with paper towels or a cloth towel washed without fabric softener.

You will need one chicken egg, in the shell. Hard boil the egg for at least 7 minutes. When the egg is boiled and still hot, cut it in half and place it in the bottom of a glass container (I use a large glass Mason jar.) You’ do not have to peel it. Suspend your jewelry or wire from the top of the container and attach the lid firmly. If you went to the trouble of peeling the egg and want to eat it, put the container in the fridge. If you don’t want to eat the egg, you can let the container sit on the counter. Allow the silver to ‘soak’ in the egg sulfur for 24 hours. If the patina is not dark enough, repeat with a fresh egg.

To create ‘highlights’ on a textured metal surface or on chain you can rub the patina-ed metal baking soda. The edges will clean up and the recessed areas will stay dark. Repeat this until you have just the amount of bright and dark surfaces you wish.

Natural Cleaning Methods for Copper

To clean copper you can try a fresh cut lemon (bottled lemon juice doesn’t work) and salt. Make a slurry of the salt and lemon juice and soak the copper in it. The copper will brighten considerably. You may need to repeat a few times if the copper is especially dark. If you can scrub at the copper with a toothbrush dipped in the lemon/salt mixture it will help, especially for ‘green’ areas.

Creating a natural green patina on copper or brass

Here are several different methods of patina-ing copper or brass. The methods below are non-hazardous but vary somewhat in their ‘icky’ factor.

Before you attempt to patina the metal you will want to prepare it by completely cleaning all oils from the metal surface. I prefer a strong dish soap like Dawn or Joy. Rinse completely and then rinse again. Use pliers or tweezers to handle the metal as the oils from your hands will leave a residue that will affect the patina. Dry with paper towels or a cloth towel washed without fabric softener if you want a more even
patina.

Copper and brass take on patina (darkening to brown and eventually producing green scale) in response to ammonia in the air. Try burying your copper in used cat litter for a nice green scale. Or submerge in a glass container of urine for a deeper color. You can also hang the metal in your shower for a few weeks to get a patina.

Copper and brass will also change color in response to heat. While you can use a torch to heat patina your metal the flame from a gas stove top is also enough to darken brass and darken or blacken copper. Hold the metal with kitchen tongs over the heat and be careful to place it on a wooden cutting board or other nonflamable surface to cool.

Natiural Sealants for Metal Surfaces

To seal the patina on any metal you can use beeswax, furniture wax or a clear acrylic spray paint. I have to confess I prefer the spray paint for the even finish and ease of application. Traditional beeswax gives a lovely finish when rubbed on in very small amounts. Furniture wax is slightly more durable than beeswax but may not be safe for contact with skin; consult the package labels. If you use clear acrylic latex paint in a spray can do not paint the back of the metal to keep the paint away from the wearer’s skin. Use several thin coats, allowing it to dry completely for two hours between coats.

posted by Cynthia Deis, www.beadfreak.com

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