Part of my admiration of patina comes from the philosophy that it is what the metal wants to naturally do. And part of my fascination comes from the mad scientist in me – playing with the metal, the chemicals, the heat, the timing – all in an effort to get the right patina shade. I love the Webster definition of patina: “the sheen on the surface of an old object, caused by age and much handling” – ah... much handling; I guess it is the mad scientist in me after all!
Simply put – a patina is what most would call “tarnish.” It’s the color the metal will turn in time by being exposed to the elements (air/light), it’s the change you see when the metal “oxidizes.” This can and will occur naturally but artists can also use the patination process to create depth and interest. You can create a patina on metal with chemicals (like liver of sulfur) or with natural substances (like egg yolks). A patina can give a piece character, a personal stamp, and individuality.
I mentioned four items I work with in the patination process:
- the metal
- the chemicals
- the heat
- the timing
The chemicals: Liver of Sulfur is the most common chemical for creating a patina on silver; there are specific chemicals for brass and other metals too. You can also place a silver piece in a closed bag of egg yolks to create a patina.
The heat: If you are using a chemical to create a patina – you either need to heat the metal or heat the chemical to achieve optimal results.
The timing: Never leave an item unattended (excessive chemicals can damage/pit the surface)! I have had pieces turn black in a matter of seconds and others requiring many patina sessions – patina colors can begin as a goldish color, move to reds/pinks, move to greens/blues and finally to grey/black.
I found this explanation about timing from the AllExperts.com website
“CONTROL OF PATINA FROM LIVER OF SULFUR
1. Heat of the solution speeds up the process.
2. Saturation or concentration of solution speeds up the process.
3. Time in the solution determines the colors rendered
With these three points in mind, to stop the patina at a particular point of color means altering one or all of the above.”
Below are some pieces with patinas from the eSMArts team:
Joella of "Always Wired Bead Lady"