Q&A Patinas

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Last updated:  4/18/22

Notes on Liver of Sulfur

  • Apparently, there isn’t an exact formula that defines liver of sulfur.  But, it can include potassium sulfide, potassium polysulfide (corrosive, very toxic to aquatic life), and maybe potassium bisulfite.
  • Boiling liver of sulfur in water causes a breakdown of the solution into 2 other chemicals which will no longer color your metal.  So, don’t boil it.  Plus it puts off nasty fumes.  Ventilate!  Potassium sulfate and potassium carbonate (aka sulfate of potash and carbonate of potash) are the by-products of liver of sulfur’s decomposition.
  • The breakdown of the solution also occurs over time – usually in a day or two.  The two end products of decomposition, look like a layer of fat on the surface of the water.  The minute quantities present in a solution used in the small jeweler’s studio and the fact that both chemicals are used in fertilizers and one in food processing (potassium carbonate) make them sound relatively benign after decomp.   You can neutralize it and speed the decomposition up by adding baking soda.   Follow all local, city, county, state, and federal guidelines – whatever they are.
  • Liver readily mixes with water but, not alcohol. What a terrible-sounding cocktail! (That’s where my mind went!  Haha!)  I understand that they don’t mean vodka or rum, per se! It’s just one of the chemical’s properties.  Drinking this will put you in the hospital – so, don’t do it – even if you momentarily lose your mind!.  Ew!  The thought gives me shivers!  It smells way worse than rotten eggs so, I can’t imagine how bad it would taste!  I need to leave this topic in my wake!
  • Don’t inhale the fumes.  The fumes aren’t good for you.  The ingredients in liver of sulfur are corrosive.  You can’t avoid smelling the stuff when you make it but, don’t put your head over the crockpot and inhale deeply!!! Just don’t!
  • Don’t put your fingers in the container or in the solution.  Please!  Use tweezers or tongs.  As the components of liver of sulfur are corrosive, it is imperative to keep it off of your skin too.  My question is “why would you put your fingers into something that smells this bad?”
  • You really need to neutralize your pieces after dipping them in the solution.  Mix a bit of baking soda with a bit of water.  Dunk your pieces in it after dipping them in the liver solution.  Have a second bowl with clear water (that you change often) to dip into after neutralizing. Rinse again in clean water. Don’t forget to neutralize any tools that you use.
  • There are two ranges of colors when using liver of sulfur.  The colors you get depend on which technique you use.  Achieve rainbow colors by heating the piece in hot water and then dipping it into a room temperature solution of liver of sulfur and water.  Rinse between dunks (it’s not necessary to neutralize until you are done dipping).  You don’t want to neutralize your liver of sulfur – just the liver on your piece.  So, rinse well before re-dunking.  The second method involves using hot water and placing a pea-sized chunk of liver into it.  This will create that charcoal black that we love for antiquing a piece of jewelry.  Let it sit for a few minutes but, check often.  Remove and neutralize when the color you want has been achieved.
  • I use steel wool, #0000, to remove most of the patina and expose the highlights.  Then I move on to a Pro-Polish Pad and/or silicone wheels or points.
  • Clean up after highlighting by scrubbing your jewelry with a toothbrush, in hot water, with a drop or two of Dawn Dishwashing Detergent.
  • I use a small, studio-dedicated crockpot to do my liver of sulfuring in. (It’s a VERB now!)
  • Don’t use too much liver of sulfur!  Your jewelry will turn black too quickly and you will have a flaky patina.  Use a pea-sized piece of liver.
  • Keep your liver canister tightly sealed.  Never reach in with wet tools or hands – that will kill the batch within a week and perhaps damage your skin.  I’ve had a jar last over a year.  It’s best to store in the freezer and keep any exposure to moisture and oxygen at the barest minimum.  I pound my can of liver closed with my mallet.  I open it with a screwdriver.
  • Brass and bronze are not great liver of sulfur recipients.  Use Jax’s Black or one of Sculpt Nouveau’s black or brown patinas, with these metals.
  • For another option to antique your jewelry, try Jax’s Silver Blackener.
  • Use distilled water when making a liver of sulfur solution.
  • Watch my video!

Resources

Questions and Answers

What Technique Creates Colors And Patterns On Metal?

Question

“What is the technique that creates beautiful colors and patterns on metal? I would love to learn how to do it and how to preserve the color once it is achieved.”

Answer

What you are talking about sounds like a heat patina. It is also called “flame painting” “torch painting”  and probably something else too!  Heat patinas need to be protected with some form of varnish or sealant as the metal will eventually create its own patina, ruining yours. There are a bunch of places to check out but, I’ll give you just a few to start you on your way: First off, my video, Painting Metal with a Torch.

Following that video are three more videos demonstrating a variety of methods for coloring metal.

My Painting Metal with a Torch video

My Coloring Metal video

My Red Patinas for Copper video

My Metal Patinas video

Jen Lowe’s Blogspot, a Youtube video on flame painting on copper: Skip and Rachael Mathews is a pretty good video on how to create color on copper.

How Do I Keep Patina On Copper After Putting In Muriatic Acid?

Question

“I am getting a nice patina putting copper in muriatic acid. ( 10-inch x 16-inch pieces or more). The problem is the patina looks great but may peel off. Any ideas?”

Answer

Holding a patina on…hmmm…The method used most often is sealing the patina with a product like Everbrite: ProtectaClear.  Some have also used Renaissance wax or car wax. The problem with all of these sealers is that they alter the color and intensity of the patina.  My next-to-last suggestion is to protect the patinated piece by bezel setting it or recessing it, into your piece of jewelry.  Now, for my final suggestion (drum roll):  learn to love the look of a flaking patina.  I know, I know – that’s a tough one – but, it is an option!

Anytime you paint or spray on a sealer, it alters how the light interacts with the surface.  No matter what product we’ve tried, they all change the colors.  Whether the color is from a heat patina or a chemical patina.  Usually what happens is that the turquoises and purples “brown out”.  Everything takes on an orange hue.  We have tried about 15 different sprays and paint-on sealers to date.  We’ve used acrylic, oil-based, wax-based (even car wax), and powder coating – with both a clear and a matte powder.  Nothing preserved the original colors.  NOTHING!

Now, for the really, really last suggestion:  don’t make the patina too thick.  I know, with liver of sulfur, you’re okay with a thin coating but, leave it in the solution too long and it flakes off.  Obviously, test all methods on scrap first!

I wish I could offer a plethora of interesting and creative solutions but, patinas are demanding little buggers.

What kind of sealant to use with a flaky patina.

8/31/16

Question

I am working with Jax Green patina for my jewelry, and I have looked at the very helpful section on patinas, but I couldn’t find an answer to my problem. I was wondering if you could help me, please. I have a problem with applying the sealant to my patina…I have tried clear sealant (from Nunn Design) another local sealant (which is similar to the former) and renaissance wax…the problem with both the sealants is that when it dries, it peels off the metal (copper) along with the patina. I have tried renaissance wax but it thickens the look so it looks like pastel/crayon, and you can scrape/dig it off/out with your fingernail.

Answer

Did you apply the wax correctly? Warm the surface with a heat gun or a torch. The surface should be warm to the touch. Load a brush with paste wax and apply lightly and evenly all over the metal. The metal should be warm enough to melt the wax but not burn it. Cool metal to room temp, allowing the wax to set. Don’t wait too long to buff out. Use a clean, soft, lint-free rag.

Make sure that your metal is spotlessly clean and has a good “tooth” before applying the patina.  I would use 220 or 320 grit sandpaper, where the patina will be applied.  Test first.  Always run a test to check that the sanding marks won’t show up too much and how well the patina looks and stays put.

Have you tried a spray sealer?

Also, check out Sculpt Nouveau’s page on sealers?

They also have a Youtube channel.

Other ideas:

  • Protect the patina with a bezel or some other design adaptation to keep the patina from scratching and chipping.
  • Try making the patina thinner.
  • Try texturing the metal so that the patina stays in the recesses.

***Don’t forget to check out my page,  Patina books.  See my four videos, above, on a variety of methods for coloring metal too.

  • Haven’t checked this product out, it could work??? Zinsser Gardz Problem Surface Sealer – Clear (my Amazon affiliate link – help support our work!). Don’t know if it will work with metal patinas but, it might.
  • This is a great site and has tons of info:  finishing.com  The question about sealing rust is similar to yours.  Try Googling “sealing rust” or ” clear sealers for rust” too.

How to create patinas and where to source the materials.

Question

8/31/16

Question 1: I want to know how to keep the copper color fixed and not change with the air.  But, I  hope you could tell me simple materials cuz its hard here in Brazil to find some materials.
Question 2: But, for example, is there a patina for copper? What simple materials can I use?

I saw some videos using Ammonia and I don’t know from where I could get it but I wish something could replace it.

Answer

First answer:  I have a video that discusses this subject at about 23:30 minutes into the video, Coloring Metal. You’ve checked out my web page?  The link is at the top of this page.  As to what is available in your country, I don’t know. I don’t have any craft or jewelry supply companies listed on my links page. Good luck!

Second answer:  There are a zillion patinas for copper. Here’s a link to my page on patina books.   I suggest Amazon.

Supplies, for patinas, are simple, cheap, and easy to find. Example:  Vinegar and Salt Patina by Jewelry Making Daily.

They must have Ammonia in Brazil. Have you looked in your supermarket for ammonia? It would be in the household cleaning products aisle. It is a very common cleaning agent in many, many countries around the world. Also, some online shops ship to Brazil. Have you checked Amazon? I know that there’s a Walmart or two (or 2000) in Brazil. They would carry ammonia, vinegar, and salt. You could contact them via their Brazilian web page or visit the store.

Order a few books or Google “DIY copper patinas”, “copper patina recipes”, etc. You will find thousands of recipes and methods. These sites will help you to create and protect your patinas.

See my four videos, in question one, on this page. (Above).

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