Limited Patina

Usually, one patinas the entire piece and then polishes the patina away from the regions where it is not desired. However, no matter how much one polishes, a trace of the darkness remains. Here, we will discuss what to do it you want most of your piece to remain shiny but want to include a patina on a part of it.

I’m going to describe a small, not terribly elaborate, pendant I recently made. The idea of applying patina to only part of the piece is the key notion — it can be used with any work you have done.

To start with, I molded a bit of Celtic knotwork, contained within a circle, from silver clay. I decided that I didn’t want it to be flat, but I also didn’t want very much doming. While one can shape a piece after it is fired, it is easier to do it while the clay is still wet. In my bathroom, I found a bottle of roll-on antiperspirant that had just the right curvature. By the way, that is a secondary message of this post — be creative in what you use to dry metal clay! Any plastic or glass surface will work.


After the clay had dried, I sanded the pendant and added a bail. Since the piece is quite small (a later picture will give you the scale), I was careful to make an appropriately small bail.


After firing, I decided that the piece needed something to brighten up the center. Keum boo (a Korean technique for bonding thin layers of gold to silver) seemed the ideal approach. I have discussed, in another posting, how one does keum boo, so I won’t repeat it here. However, I will observe that, the more layers of gold you attach (gold will bond with itself just the same as it bonds with silver), the shinier the gold part is. In many cases, multiple layers of gold would be expensive. Here, the gold is going on such a small surface area that I could apply four layers of gold.  That gave an extremely shiny center to the piece.


Next came brushing. I don’t know if brushing can remove the gold from keum boo. I don’t want to risk it. Therefore, I cover the gold part with my thumb while brushing.


The next step is the one I discussed at the start. I wanted to patina the knotwork, but leave the rest of the silver shiny. I trimmed a cotton swab, to better control where it goes, dipped it in Black Max (c), and applied it to the knotwork. Since one can’t easily patina gold, one does not have to worry about the keum boo — any patina that spills onto it can be wiped away and leave no trace. Then, using a polishing cloth, I wiped away much of the patina, only leaving enough darkness to outline the knotwork.

I attached a chain, and I was done.

The photo below shows the final piece, complete with a US quarter for scale.  Don’t feel obliged to patina a whole piece! Sometimes, just a touch of patina is just what you want.


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