Patina, Patina, Patina: Create Emotion, Significance, and Beauty in Metal Jewelry

  Freeform silver patinated earrings by Melody Armstrong
Freeform earrings by Melody Armstrong

I love patina.

On metal, on wood, on leather, I love it, but I especially love patina on metal jewelry (where it's sometimes referred to as "bloom").

Merriam-Webster defines patina primarily as:

a : a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color

b : a surface appearance of something grown beautiful, especially with age or use

. . . and shows it used this way in speech: "Although the winery is brand-new, it has been constructed and decorated to give it a patina of old-world quaintness."

I love the green film (verdi gris) on copper, I love the look of an old thing "grown beautiful," and I love it when things are built to have "a patina of old-world quaintness." Love it all.

Even the synonyms and related words the dictionary lists for patina are enticing: ambience, aroma, flavor, mood, aura, atmosphere, mystique, romance, sensation, spirit, illusion. If someone said my home had any of those qualities, I'd be happy. If someone suggested I go to an inn or restaurant by using any of those words, I'd want to go! If someone described my jewelry using some of those terms . . . oh my, wouldn't that be lovely?

Wave and Wort patinted domed metal pendant by Ann Bruford
Wave and Wort pendant by Ann Bruford

Patina on metal and wire jewelry is a wonderful way to add emotion and meaningful color to something that might not otherwise express it. Whenever I see copper with that pretty layer of verdi gris green patina on it, I think of the summer I spent in England after college and dreamy photos of places I hope to someday see in Italy and France. Domed rooftops, scrolled iron gates, peaceful old cemeteries, ancient doorknobs. . . . I think of classic, beautiful old things that are so lovely, so respected, and so well made that they remain. They're time weathered, time tested, and have only grown more beautiful in the process. Wouldn't you like your jewelry designs to be thought of that way? As if each piece has been passed down and shared through generations–or to look as if it's worthy of being shared so?

Owl Mask Spirit Helper patinated cuff bracelet by Joan Tenenbaum
Owl Mask Spirit Helper bracelet by Joan Tenenbaum 

When creating worthy metal and wire jewelry designs, a sure way to achieve that look of value and evoke that kind of emotion is by creating patina on your metal. And 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.

Plus, Runfola understands the emotion behind patina, the powerful effects that the simple act of adding patina can create in your jewelry designs, and 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.

"Colored metal can be used to give the appearance of age, as age often elevates the perceived importance of the object," Runfola adds. "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." And in the pendant below, color helps emphasize the depth and dimension that the piece actually has.

Blue Boys Dancing patinated pendant by Anna Talbot
Blue Boys Dancing by Anna Talbot



Emotion, importance, merit, mood . . . How often do you consider these elements when you sit down at your bench to create a piece of jewelry, along with shape, size, texture? Do they come through, subconsciously, in your finished pieces? If you're feeling that there's not enough, well, feeling, in your jewelry designs, patina might be the final little touch that they need to be finished and to achieve your desired outcome.

If patina is the answer you've been looking for, I know where you can get it! I can't say enough exciting things about Patinas: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers & Metalsmiths. It includes page after page of techniques for creating patinas (burying, wrapping, fuming, masking, immersion, heating, chemicals, spraying, brushing, and more), colorful effects to achieve on a variety of metals (steel, stainless steel, aluminum, bronze, silver, copper, and brass) and the variables involved with each. Runfola covers safety and workspace information, surface preparation, color theory, a detailed pro and con breakdown to help you decide which techniques are best for your metals and designs, and a metal comparison chart . . . plus hundreds and hundreds of photos to drool over in the patination directory.


Patinas: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers and Metalsmiths

Did I mention that there are over 300 colorful effects you can create using the detailed recipes and techniques in this book? Don't miss out on this informative eye candy!

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