Form and Finish: Create Emotion and Expression in Your Jewelry with Patina

  Tendril cuff by Joanne Cox
Tendril cuff by Joanne Cox

When you look up "patina" in the dictionary, you'll see synonyms like enticing, mystique, romance, sensation, spirit, and ambience. How would you like someone to use words like that to describe your jewelry?

You can add that kind of emotion and expressiveness to your jewelry designs by adding patina, and you can learn everything there is to know about patinas on metal–including silver, copper, brass, bronze, steel, and aluminum–from Patina: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers and Metalsmiths by Matthew Runfola.

Runfola understands the emotion behind patina, that "the addition of color can be a powerful way to add significance and beauty to a piece." He considers the intangible as well as the tangible when considering adding patina to metal. "Much of color and color pattern has to do with adding emotion or feeling to a work . . . Does the color or pattern help generate feelings toward the object? Do not discount negative emotions or feelings, as these are just as powerful as positive ones. Use the appropriate colors and patterns to convey the feelings you want with your work. For example, calm and soothing colors may be the wrong choice if applied to a work that speaks of energy.

Yoko Noguchi flower ring  
flower ring by Yoko Noguchi

Here are six brief excerpts from Patina author Matthew Runfola about the value of using patinas on your metal jewelry designs.

1.  Take Your Expression Beyond Shape to Color and Finish: "For a time, metal patination was the most important part of my work. My fabricated forms were merely a vehicle or surface to display the colorations on. I became, and still am, a painter with chemicals. I love the ability to be expressive not just with the form, but with the finish as well."

2.  Enhance Form with Color: "Jewelers and metalsmiths have always considered color an important aspect of their work. Coloration, whether it is simply the raw metal surface, or achieved through natural oxidation or chemical patination, can be used to enhance the form."

  Giselle Duval and Tim Andrew Skull and Gear case
Skull and Gear case
by Giselle Duval and Tim Andrew

3.  Play Mad Scientist in Your Studio: "For me, patination is the right balance of science and art and it satisfies my dual-minded persona. Though I trained as a mechanical engineer I decided to delve into art full-time to better fulfill my creative ambitions. I enjoyed playing 'mad' chemist with the various colorants while applying them in a meaningful, artistic manner to my objects."

4.  Create a Mood with Color: "Colored metal can be used to give the appearance of age, as age often elevates the perceived importance of the object. Another reason to color metal is to add artistic merit or meaning . . . Color can help set a mood or give a specific feeling to the viewer."

5.  Elevate Non-precious Metals with Color: "As the cost of precious metals continues to rise (namely, silver), many metal artists are looking to alternative metals and materials for construction. Jewelers and metalsmiths are increasing their use of less expensive copper, brass, bronze, aluminum, stainless steel, and steel. The use of these 'nonprecious' materials opens up the possibility to employ more surface color to add to the object's expressiveness."

Judy Parady's medallion  
Judy Parady's medallion

6.  Experiment with Alternative Metals: "Not only are there more reactive colorations available with some of these [alternative] metals, but there is less risk in allowing the surface color to override the material in importance. This is not as true with gold and silver, where the perceived status of the work comes in large part from identifying the precious metal itself."

If you're a metal patina geek like me, you'll LOVE Matthew Runfola's Patinas: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers & Metalsmiths. With over 300 metal patina samples and detailed recipes and instructions for achieving them, it's a metalsmith's dream book. But it's so much more than just recipes for creating colorful effects on metal; it includes tool and supply details, extensive safety and setup information, tips for documenting your processes while experimenting with patinas for repeatability, info for understanding color theory, how to preserve your patinas, mechanical and chemical surface preparation methods, cold and hot application methods, masking techniques, and so much more.

Get your five-star-rated copy of Patina: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers and Metalsmiths now and see how colorful your metal jewelry can be! And see more from Patina in this inspiring, colorful excerpt.

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