Oxidisng Copper Jewellery – Antique Patina

Oxidised Copper Earrings

 

There are two methods you can use to oxidise your copper jewellery

You can transform your homemade copper jewellery pieces with stunning effects. Ageing will darken the copper to an almost black colour which can then be polished to reveal a softer coppery colour where you want it.

 

Method 1 : Using Liver of sulphur

You can transform your homemade copper jewellery pieces with stunning effects. Ageing will darken the copper to an almost black colour which can then be polished to reveal a softer coppery colour where you want it.

It’s so easy to do at home as long as you have a well ventilated space.

What you will need :

  • Liver of sulphur – I use a concentrated liquid, but it is also available in solid form or a gel.
  • Bowl of warm water ( large enough so that you can completely submerge your piece of jewellery)
  • Polishing/ jewellery cloth
  • Brasso
  • Toothbrush and kitchen roll

1. Mix the liver of sulphur with warm water. The temperature of the water will dictate how fast the ageing will take. The warmer the water the faster the reaction. The temperature will also affect the resulting colour of the copper slightly. It can range from an orangey hue to pinkish tones. When using concentrated liquid, only a few drops is required as it goes a long way. Be warned – this stuff smells of rotten eggs! Hence the need for a well ventilated space! (As with all chemicals it is advisable to take precautions. Ie: do not swallow the liquid or inhale the fumes. Wash your hands thoroughly if it comes into contact with your skin. I always use my tweezers or tongs to mix the liquid and to handle the jewellery.)

2. Submerge the piece into the diluted liver of sulphur and with a pair of tweezers jiggle the piece around. When the copper turns dark ( as dark as you want it to go) remove it and place it under a running tap of cold water. This will rinse off all the chemicals and stop the chemical process.

3. Pat your jewellery piece dry with kitchen towel.

4. When completely dry you can use a tiny bit of Brasso polish on a cloth to remove the dark colour where you want. (With more intricate wirework pieces it gives a lovely effect when the darker areas are in the grooves and gaps between the wires, giving depth and richness to the piece. On hammered copper it also gives a really wonderful effect, enhancing the hammered texture.)

5. Buff the polished areas with your jewellery cloth. You can use your toothbrush to remove any fluff or polish from in between wires.

6. I also like to use a little microcrystalline wax ( Rennaissance Wax) You only need a really tiny amount. Polish the wax to seal the jewellery. This helps prevent the oxidation of the copper or silver due to contact with the air and will also help prevent the unsightly green discolouration of skin some people experience when wearing copper jewellery. NB this will only help prevent the skin from discolouring and not eliminate it, especially if your skin is prone to discolourtion.

VOILA! you have a beautifully aged and polished piece of jewellery.

 

 

Method 2 : Chemical Free

Liver of sulphur is harder to get hold of these days. The best place to look is online in jewellery suppliers. However, if the thought of using a chemical is not your idea of fun then there is a safe and natural way to age your jewellery.

Hard boiled eggs! The sulphur released from the boiled yolks will also age your copper.

Boil three eggs until they are really well cooked. Place them in a bag while they are still hot. Crush the eggs, with shells still on. Place your jewellery into the bag, making sure not to touch the eggs themselves. Seal the bag and leave for several hours.

This method does work, however, in my experience the effect isn’t as uniform or as strong as using LOS ( liver of Sulphur) I haven’t ever managed to get a really dark colour to the metal.

 

Does it work on all types of copper wire?

Ageing copper will only work on untreated wires. Some craft/ jewellery wires, although are pure copper have been sealed with an anti tarnish agent. This forms a barrier and will therefore prevent the sulphur from reacting with the metal. Also, silver plated wires cannot be aged in this way. In my experience the silver plating is removed to reveal a dull black colouration. Solid sterling silver wire can be aged with LOS but it would be advisable to use a silver polish when removing the black colouration when polishing.

 

 

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