Patina is what is revealed during an oxidation process. It can occur on many elements such as metal, stone, wood, and even leather. In many instances, it is an aesthetic effect that gives a sense of character to an object. For example, in antique and vintage objects the patina can accentuate the age that is appreciative of its history.

Patina is it a type of tarnish that occurs on copper based metals. Brass tarnishes because of its copper-alloy element. Tarnish occurs during exposure to oxygen and sulfides. Patina and tarnish are both examples of corrosion on metals.

The patina effect on this copper ring was created using ammonia and salt. Another way of achieving a patina effect is using liver of sulfur. Based on the metal, every oxidation process produces a unique effect. In jewelry, this effect is appreciated in multiple ways. The bracelet, pictured below, was oxidized using boiled eggs. Because of the red tones of the copper, the tarnish has a warmer effect than it does with silver.

Most oxidation processes, especially when used on ornate items, give depth to any design. The artistic effect pulls out the detail in some of the most intricate patterns. For the wire and stone designs in the Kaleido store, the oxidation is the best final touch because it embellishes, with natural shadows, the beauty of lines and shapes that would otherwise not be as noticeable.

Getting a Natural Patina in Sterling Silver

Recently, someone had asked me to take necklace focal piece and turn it into a bracelet. This project led me to do a Byzantine chain maille bracelet and it also led to me antiquing that bracelet to show off the interesting detail of the Byzantine pattern. This project turned out so well I decided to create this blog piece to share how you can get a natural patina in your sterling silver with the simple boiling of eggs. This avoids chemicals and patina agents that can sometimes be a mess.

First, get a couple of eggs and start to hard boil them. It does not matter what kind of eggs, any eggs will do.

Once the eggs are hard boiled, approximately 7 minutes, then you can place them into a plastic container.

Now you are ready to smash them! Using a spoon, ladle or anything that can easily mash up the eggs, shell and all, within the container.

Quickly, while the eggs are still hot, place the metal you wish to patina inside the container with the egg and close the lid.

Let this sit for a good 15 to 20 minutes. For larger pieces, 30 minutes. It is important for the egg yolk to be hot and steamy. Why does egg yolk tarnish silver? I am so glad you asked! 🙂 Because the yolk emits a sulfur-containing gas called hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Silver naturally tarnishes in reaction to any sulfur gases in the air. This also occurs with copper so, you could easily do this same process with copper.

Next you can use a polishing cloth over the surface of the piece and achieve an appearance that serves to give the metal more depth. As you can see the difference in the chain before and after antiquing. With this method of tarnishing, you can achieve a natural patina look with your silver or copper pieces.