How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look (Tutorial)

by Rena Klingenberg.

How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

In this tutorial we’ll create three different darkened looks on jewelry metal, to give them the appearance of oxidizing:

  1. We’ll give metal a grungy, antiqued appearance:
     
    How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg
  2. We’ll emphasize a surface texture on metal:
     
    How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg
  3. We’ll darken stamped letters on metal:
     
    Darkening Stamped Letters - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

NOTE: We’re not actually oxidizing the metal here.

Instead, we’re using a fast, simple technique to darken the metal – giving it the look of oxidizing.

Supplies:

  • Metal jewelry components – I’m using copper heart pendants (from my Secret Love Letter Pendant Tutorial) and a copper arrowhead pendant (from my Metalwork Arrowhead Pendant Tutorial), all made from sheet metal.
  • A set of metal letter stamps – if you want to stamp a message on the metal.
  • A jeweler’s steel block and hammer to use with the metal stamps.
  • A small piece of 400-grit sandpaper – to texture or rough up the metal surfaces for the darkening procedure.
  • A tin of black Gilders Paste.
  • Paper towels.
  • A mini-brush, Q-tip, or your finger – for applying the Gilders Paste.
  • A workspace where you can make a mess.

How to Prepare Your Metal:

First we’ll need to rough up the metal surfaces a little bit, to give the Gilders Paste something to grab onto.

So rub a small piece of 400-grit sandpaper over the areas of your metal shapes where you intend to use the Gilders Paste, until those areas have a visibly scratched surface.

Important: The pattern you sand into the metal will show in the finished piece.

For example, I’m sanding this heart in a random pattern – for a grungy, naturally-distressed look:

Sanding the metal - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

But I’m sanding this copper arrowhead with long straight strokes, to create a finished look of straight vertical lines on the arrowhead’s surface:

Sanding metal arrowhead for texture - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

When you’re finished sanding your metal surfaces, it’s time to clean up the metal so you’ll get good results with the Gilders Paste.

How to Clean Your Metal
Before Darkening It:

It’s important to remove any dust, debris, traces of skin oils, and anything else that may resist or affect the Gilders Paste.

Wash both sides of your metal thoroughly with a generous amount of liquid dish soap.

After washing off all of the dish soap, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda onto both sides of your metal and scrub it well, scrubbing in the same pattern as you sanded your metal.

Wash off all traces of baking soda – and then without letting your skin touch the newly cleaned metal, dry it thoroughly with paper towels.

Set up a Workspace
That Can Get Messy:

This is a moderately messy procedure.

Wear clothes that you don’t mind messing up.

I contain the mess in a standard black plastic jewelry tray, lined with a paper towel.

In this photo you can see a green plastic lid holding an alcohol wipe (handy for cleaning up your hands as you work); a mini sponge-tip brush – available at craft stores (you can also use a Q-Tip or your finger); the tin of Gilders Paste; a paper towel cut into smaller pieces, and my sanded and cleaned copper hearts on a paper towel:

Workspace for How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

After the Gilders Paste procedure, here’s the mess that’s completely contained within my plastic tray:

Workspace for How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

To clean up, I simply throw away the used paper towels and Q-Tips, clean out the tray using what’s left of one of my alcohol wipes, and put everything away.

How to Create an “Oxidized” or Antiqued Look
on Metal with Black Gilders Paste:

Now we’ll do some grungy antiquing.

Place your sanded and freshly-cleaned metal piece on a paper towel inside your tray:

Metal Heart Before Gilders Paste - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Now use a mini-brush, Q-Tip, or your finger to scoop up some Gilders Paste:

How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Brush the Gilders Paste all over one side of the metal, using strokes similar to how you sanded the metal:

How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Wait a minute or so; then use a small piece of paper towel to gently wipe off as much of the Gilders Paste as you wish, to achieve your desired finish:

Removing excess paste - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

When you’ve finished both sides of your metal piece(s), set them aside for about 12 hours.

Then you can use a paper towel to lightly buff them to a soft shine.

How to Emphasize a Surface Texture
with Darkening:

Now we’ll create the look of “oxidized” metal texture by using black Gilders Paste to color the recessed areas in the metal.

We’ll start with this sanded, cleaned metal arrowhead pendant:

Metalwork arrowhead pendant - How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

I sanded this piece of metal with long vertical strokes, so I’m using a Q-Tip to apply the Paste in similar strokes, making sure it fills in the recessed areas; I’m also applying it to the hammered edge design:

Metal Arrowhead Pendant - How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

After gently wiping with a paper towel, my arrowhead looks like this:

Metal Arrowhead Pendant - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Set it aside to dry fully – about 12 hours.

How to Darken Stamped Letters
for an “Oxidized” Look:

Now we’ll darken stamped letters on metal, using black Gilders Paste.

No sanding is necessary on the stamped letters, but you should still clean the metal before applying Gilders Paste.

Place your stamped, cleaned metal piece on a paper towel, with the stamped message facing up:

Stamped metal heart - How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Now use a mini-brush or Q-Tip to scrub some Gilders Paste into the recesses of each letter:

Stamped metal heart - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Use a small piece of paper towel to wipe away the excess Gilders Paste around the outside of the letters:

Wiping excess paste off of stamped metal heart - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Your finished message should be easy to read now that the letters are darkened:

Darkened letter stamping - How to Give Metals an Oxidized Look - Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Set it aside to dry fully – about 12 hours.

An Even Easier Way to Darken Stamped Letters:

Use a super-fine black Sharpie marker to color in the recessed areas of the stamped numbers or letters:

Darkening numbers on Adjustable Class Ring, using a Sharpie marker -  Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Let the ink dry for a minute or so.

Then dampen a paper towel scrap with rubbing alcohol, and use the alcohol to wipe away all excess Sharpie ink that’s outside of the stamped letters:

Remove excess ink from stamped numbers - Adjustable Class Ring Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

I’ve found this Sharpie technique to be a very durable and permanent way to darken stampings on metal:

Finished, durable darkening of stamped letters and numbers - Jewelry Making Journal

(These example photos of using a Sharpie marker to darken stamped numbers / letters are from my Adjustable Class Ring Tutorial.)

Should You Seal Your Finished Metal Piece?

You don’t need to seal it unless it’s an element such as a clasp that will have a lot of action.

If you do decide to seal the finished piece, wait till the Gilders Paste is completely dry.

Then use a matte acrylic spray lacquer such as “Tree House Studio” or Krylon – apply two or three light coats, and dry completely after each coat.

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Comments

  1. Hi Rena
    Thanks for sharing another great tutorial on patination! My favorite finishes.

    I also heard from B’Sue Boutiques that a ‘Guilders Paste’ staff member told B’sue that you can use a brush and mineral spirits to create a paint with the paste, put some in a dish and mix with solvent then brush it on like a wash or paint.

    love your site,
    Rebecca ;^)

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