Patina on copper

An experiment. I have only tried this once before, on two bronze/copper metal clay pieces that hit the trash pile soon after. So this really felt like the first serious attempt at patina.

In trying to step back a little from the über expensive PMC, I started thinking about what to do with some small copper discs, and how I might combine them with sterling silver sheet. I dapped the discs into nice little hemispheres, drilled holes in the center, and hung them on some wire. I then suspended them in a jar with paper towel that had been soaked with vinegar and ammonia. I tossed a little sea salt on top because I thought that might make a difference. Other than knowing that these 3 ingredients would cause some kind of reaction on the surface of the copper, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Sometimes it’s easier to just go ahead and try something when you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t you think? I mean, there were no expectations of how this should come out, so I couldn’t really do it wrong. It helped knowing that my friend Trish has come up with some beautiful patinas on copper by just winging it.

Day 1, the beginning:

I let the jar set for 2 days. Though after the first day, I just dumped the copper discs right on top of the paper towel and sprinkled more salt of them. When I took them out, they looked like this. Kind of wet and gooey. Um, I thought patina was dry on the surface….I left them out on paper towel and went off to my workshop weekend.

Once I came home they were dry, but the green flaked off easily. So I took them to a ventilated spot and sprayed them on each side with a fixative spray. When they were dry (a day later) I used Renaissance wax to seal them again. I’m not sure how much this will protect the patina. But I’m not planning to wear these as beads next to my skin or clothing. I’m going to rivet the discs onto silver shapes for a dangle earring. As with any new design, I’ll test it out myself, first, for wearability.

You know, this is kind of a stinky, lengthy process. I have bought some beautiful patinated beads from Shannon LeVart at Miss Ficklemedia. Now there’s a woman who really knows her metals and patinas. One could learn a lot from her about this process. She has a tutorial available for purchase on her Etsy site. Someday I might buy the package and try her technique. Meanwhile, I can keep experimenting a la Trish, or buy my components from Shannon.


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5 responses to “Patina on copper

  1. LeAnn

    That’s a very nice patina!


  2. Barb Fernald

    Thanks LeAnn. It was a total guess on my part. Did I write down what I did? No. Hmmm…….


  3. Ashley

    Really cool design, you might want to try it on brass if it’s the ammonia/salt patina; it sticks better and works faster on it. If you haven’t tried it that is/don’t want too. I don’t care for working with brass as much as copper and the look of copper gets a lot more warmth and richness but this patina can look pretty sweet with the brass. Might help with the flake issues though lol. It’s so beautiful with the copper though.


    • Barb Fernald

      Hi Ashley,
      Thanks for the comment. I have some brass pieces and I will give it a try. I’ve since used several of Shannon LeVart’s patina solutions and been pretty happy with them. My goal this winter is to make my own copper and bronze beads from metal clay and then try all kinds of patinas on them!


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