There is a wealth of information available online and in print about coloring metals. Patinas come in every form and color, from simple homemade recipes (used cat litter and salt/vinegar potato chips—SERIOUSLY!) to specialized chemical and dye patinas (sculptnouveau.com). The choices are endless.
Then there is heat patina, or flame painting, which is a wonderful way to easily color copper and brass with a torch. I’ve been following a few threads online about this subject, and it seems that the Achilles heel regarding this method of coloring is how to seal and protect the metal AND retain the original intensity of color. Hmmmm….again, 1000 suggestions out there but no definitive EUREKA solution.
Here’s my take. There is no perfect answer or product out there that will forever keep heat colored copper and brass true. Sorry. The opinion I give here is based on working with copper for several years while living in South Florida. Copper reacts very quickly when exposed to heat and humidity. Natural patina, for me, is pretty easy to achieve simply by leaving copper sheet in my garage for a week or so. I’ll get the beginning of some amazing verdigris greens courtesy of 98 degrees and 70% humidity. We’ll come back to that later.
Coloring copper with a torch is great and you get AMAZING purples, reds, pinks, blues and more. There are several coatings available that are specially designed to seal and protect patinas, my favorite is Everbrite ProtectaClear. The spray and dip versions offered are really wonderful and, in my experience, will not dull the colors instantly upon application like so many other coatings. That is the biggest challenge—finding a product that doesn’t instantly change the colors of the metal the second you apply. So, Everbrite works for me and I use it all the time.
BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, that is not the end solution. No matter what, the colors in your heat patina designs are going to change over time. PERIOD. Why? Because the design will be in contact with human skin and body temp, AND be exposed to heat and humidity in general. These things affect copper and brass no matter what you coat it with. I have test driven many designs and actually have a simple way to decide if a design will hold its color. I wear it on a hot day for several hours on my skin. Brass holds torch color better, but the side that touches skin turns chocolate brown pretty quickly. Even if coated several times. Body temp affects metals, folks! SCIENCE! Copper changes even quicker. Skin PH also plays a factor. I have low PH, which is why I can’t wear perfume. An hour on me and it all smells like cat pee. SO LUCKY, RIGHT??? Copper and brass are affected by this as well. Coating the metals helps tremendously for folks whose skin reacts badly to base metals, and I feel completely comfortable saying that the coatings I use will prevent dreaded green lines or rashes on sensitive skin, but I do not ever guarantee that heat patinas will remain the same color forever. THEY USUALLY DON’T.
|Universal patinas by Sculpt Nouveau|
|A copper cuff I made using layers of chemical patinas. Sealed with Everbrite.|
|A pendant created from a layer of painted patina copper on aluminum.|
So, I recommend exploring chemical patinas. They are fun, endless and offer so many choices and colors. I am linking to an artist here that I think is one of the best I’ve come across coloring copper and brass with chemical patinas, SSD Jewelry. AREN’T THESE CUFFS GORGEOUS???? They are pretty enough to EAT!
As always, we’d love to see your creations and hear your opinions on the subject. As I said before, there is no one answer and what I’ve printed here is based on my experiences alone. Have you found the holy grail of sealants? IF SO, PLEASE SHARE!!!!!!