Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jet of the Day 12/6/11 - Willow Creek Jewelry

Green Amethyst and Oxidized Sterling Silver Earrinngs

Adding Interest to Your Metalwork with Oxidization
The term "oxidizing" simply means artificially tarnishing or aging metal. This method can add depth and character to your jewelry designs and even give a piece an entirely different look. In oxidization, when the high areas are polished back and the low areas are left dark, your wire and metal work will stand out; giving more interest to your swirls, coils, folds and bends. This will draw your customers’ eye to the artistic details within your pieces.

Granted, there are those die-hards that prefer the “shiny” polished look but a growing number of jewelry customers are gravitating toward the oxidized look. Oxidized metals add a modern look that’s a little more casual and relaxed as compared to its “shiny” original state. Also, a big plus is that it requires less polishing and upkeep.

Now, let’s talk about a few methods for oxidizing metals. I’ll be covering sterling silver, copper and brass. I have tried oxidizing silver plate and copper plate with success; you just need to be careful with the polishing process, as you can also remove the silver plate along with the oxidization. In addition, keep in mind that Argentium silver, fine silver and silver treated with anti-tarnish can be difficult/impossible to oxidize. I haven’t tried base metal, but experimentation is half the fun! After we cover a few oxidization methods we will then go over the polishing techniques.

Oxidized Copper

Method #1 ~ Liver of Sulfur (LOS)  (works well with sterling silver and copper; I’ve had very little success with brass)

This method is quick and probably most commonly used. Follow the directions on the particular brand of liver of sulfur you have. Basically you will dissolve the rock or gel in HOT (not boiling) water. You can keep the solution hot by using a mug warmer. Submerge your pieces in the solution until the desired effect is achieved. This is the fun part as different times and temps will yield different and equally wonderful results. Remember to take notes in order to recreate your results. Rinse your pieces thoroughly in cold water and dry. I have read that some people dip their pieces in a neutralizing solution of baking soda, but I’ve noticed no difference in using baking soda versus plain cold water.

Sterling Silver - Shiny and Oxidized with LOS

NOTES *Liver of Sulfur is a chemical so have designated supplies for your liver of sulfur and don’t reuse these utensils in food preparation. Follow package directions very carefully on the use and disposal procedures. I have also found that if you’re doing a mixed batch of copper and silver you will need to do your silver first followed by the copper. The copper leaves something in the solution that can alter and prolong the process for silver.

Pink Mystic Quartz and Oxidized Sterling Silver Earrings

Method #2 ~ Heat (works well with copper and brass)
This method will give a totally different look to copper (the one I prefer). It turns copper a rich brown color that doesn’t rub off onto your hands. Simply place your copper on a cookie sheet in a 350 oven for several minutes. Watch carefully and remove when desired color is reached; cool completely.

In addition, your torch will elicit beautiful rainbow colors on your finished copper pieces.

Copper; Shiny, Oven Oxidized and LOS

Fold Formed Copped Ruffled Earrings

Hammered Copper and Magnesite Spinner Earrings
For Brass you can do exactly like you did for the copper OR you can dissolve 1 Tbs. salt in 1 cup vinegar in a plastic bowl. Soak brass is solution for 5 minutes, remove and pat dry. Place in 450 oven and watch for desired color to appear; remove and cool. Your brass needs to be raw brass and should be cleaned first with nail polish remover if you suspect there might be a sealer applied. Also, heating brass in the oven will emit an odor.

Brass; Shiny and Oven Oxidized

Pineapple Crystal Quartz and Antiqued Brass Bracelet

Method #3 ~ Ammonia (works well with copper and brass)
You’ll need two plastic or glass containers. The large one needs to have a plastic or glass lid and the smaller one needs to be small enough to sit in the bottom of the larger one with space all around. I use a large square see through Rubbermaid container with plastic lid and a small glass dish. Place the small dish into the larger one and put a little ammonia in the large container (without getting any in the small dish). It only takes a very small amount here, perhaps a couple of Tbsp. if that. Place your copper or brass in the glass dish and close the lid. It can take up to an hour or longer depending on the look you desire. Copper reacts much quicker than the brass and you may need to reposition your wire or metal pieces to achieve an even effect. Be very careful when removing the lid as the ammonia fumes can be overpowering and take your breath away. Also, it is possible to leave your metal too long with this method. Once I forgot about it and the next morning my wire was extremely brittle and unusable.

Antiqued Brass, Chalcedony and Pearl Necklace

Polishing ~
There are several polishing techniques that can be used to achieve your desired results. Using a very fine grade steel wool (0000) will give a nice aged burnished look. Just be careful not to apply too much pressure or you may scratch the metal. You may find you like the look a paste tarnish remover gives. It can be applied sparingly, and creates a warm gunmetal look on silver and warm brown tones to copper. You can even use a tarnish cloth or a green Scotchbrite pad.

Confetti Hammered Sterling Silver Earrings

Be advised that the steel wool or Scotchbrite pad can leave little fibers that might show up in your micro photography. Lastly, the method I prefer is the tumbler. This not only polishes the high areas of your metal pieces but hardens it at the same time. You will need to experiment with tumbler times in order to get your desired results. Never dip oxidized metal in liquid tarnish remover as this will remove all oxidization.

These are only a few of the methods floating around; others can be found by doing a search on the internet. Finally, in order to preserve your finished pieces they will need to be sealed in a plastic bag because they will continue to naturally oxidize over time. The good news is that you can pop them in the tumbler to freshen the look if needed. Happy oxidizing and have fun experimenting!

Thank you for reading!

Reclaimed Copped Bangle Bracelet with Vintage Button


DG Jewelry Designs said...

Lots of great information here. Great post and beautiful jewelry from Wendy.

Michele said...

Great information here, I do the heating method on mine, but it's nice to know you have other methods available, lovely jewelry does make it more detailed when aged!!!!

Beadsme said...

Great info. I prefer a dip in LOS or should I say I prefer to put my creations in LOS not me.

Donna's Artisan Designs said...

AWESOME info to share with us, I'm definitely keeping as a reference and since I'm a "shiny" addict may have to break down and try this more often, YOUR jewelry shows incredible possibilities!! Mug warmer huh? Gonna have to find one of those!! Also I did a different method with alcohol and soaked a paper towel then wrapped my metal IN it and let it go 24 hrs(sealed container too)....it came out a wonderful blue. They also said to do with kitty litter...Hmmm...clean of course!!!

nancy's crystal fantasies jewelry said...

Thanks for posting this, Wendy. There is lots of terrific information here that is very useful. I didn't know about the other methods besides LOS. Will definitely give them a try.

Brooke said...

Very pretty jewelry and lots of fun possibilities!

SendingLoveGallery said...

great info! very complete and easy to follow!

Dashery Jewelry said...

Really interesting info! Lovely jewelry too!

cooljewelrydesign said...

Wendy...super guide to an alter ego silver or other metal appearance. I may even break down and try one of these...and then ...(next life?) graduate to a torch. Thank you so much for doing this!!

Your Daily Jewels said...

This is all great info and lots I did not know about. Thank you for sharing this!