Add Texture and Patina to Your Wire-Jewelry Designs

Denise Peck is the
editor of Step by Step
Jewelry and the
senior editor of
Lapidary Journal

Jewelry Artist

I have friends who would argue that you just can’t have enough bling (you know who you are, Kristal!). But sometimes what I’m wearing begs for something a bit more subdued. The simplest way to add some earthiness to your wire-jewelry designs is to texture or patina them. And though there are lots of tools and supplies you can buy to do that, there are actually a number of ways to achieve the look of textured wire and metals with just some common household tools–and a favorite breakfast food!

oxidizing silver wire with a hard-boiled egg

Yes, Virginia, You Can Use A Hard-Boiled Egg!
Yes, it’s true, you can oxidize your silver wire with a hard-boiled egg! Because eggs contain sulfur, you can get the same blackening effect from them as you can with liver of sulfur. Granted, it will take quite a bit longer, but in a pinch, you can cut a hard-boiled egg in half, put it in a plastic bag with your silver wire, and leave it for several days. After it oxidizes, use very fine steel wool to brush away some of the oxidization and then a polishing cloth to shine the high spots.

adding patina to metal with liver of sulfur/sulphur

Instant Solution: Liver of Sulfur
If you’re looking for an instant solution (no pun intended), a simple solution of hot water and liver of sulfur can give you a range of beautiful colors on your silver. Liver of sulfur comes in liquid form and in chunks that dissolve in water. Dip your silver jewelry project quickly into the solution and remove it. First, you’ll see some blues and, if you’re lucky, some lovely magentas. Continue to dip the silver in and out of the solution to get it fully blackened. When you’re finished, remember to let the solution sit for a couple of days until it’s clear before you dispose of it and always follow safety precautions on the package.

Making the Most of Oxidized Patinas

ball-peen hammer texture on metal

If you’re going to be using a lot of wire and you know you want to oxidize it, it makes sense to darken the whole spool first. As you work with it, some of the oxidization will wear off, leaving a beautiful sheen.

If you’re oxidizing flattened wire, you will get a much more dramatic effect if you texture the metal first. Any texture will make the oxidization really stand out. The round end of a ball-peen hammer makes a beautiful, subtle texture on metal and wire, and a household awl creates great tiny dots. Again, polish afterward to allow the high spots to shine and leave the recessed areas dark. Love it!

For more tips on working with wire and patinas, check out Ronna Sarvas Weltman’s latest DVD, Metalwork: How to Shape, Texture, and Antique Wireworked Jewelry.


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