Easy Patina Finishes for Copper and Brass – a Tutorial

by Rena Klingenberg. © 2003-Present Rena Klingenberg. All Rights Reserved

Easy Patina Finishes for Copper and Brass Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Patina finishes - brass

Brass cuff bracelet with rustic patina finish by Rena Klingenberg

Now we’re going to put easy patina finishes on the Rustic Cuff Bracelets we made in Part 1 of this tutorial.

Rustic copper patina finish by Rena Klingenberg

Rustic copper patina finish by Rena Klingenberg

One of the fun things about working with patinas like this one is that the result is usually a surprise!

This one unexpectedly turned out looking like a landscape painting with a tree over at the left side:

Copper patina finish - looks like a landscape painting

There are so many factors that can affect the color, pattern, and intensity of your patina that it would be difficult to get the exact same result twice.

So get ready for a fun experience in creating a rustic finish for your cuff bracelet (or other metal project)!

Patinas made with ordinary household products may be harmful if ingested, inhaled, or worn against the skin. Use in well ventilated area, preferably outdoors.

Before starting this project, see Homemade Patina Precautions for safety guidelines.


  • The copper or brass cuff bracelet you made in my Rustic Cuff Bracelets Tutorial.(Or other copper or brass item that has NOT been varnished. Many commercially-available jewelry and hardware metals have been varnished).

    This is the copper bracelet we made in my tutorial:

    Copper cuff bracelet

  • Liquid dish soap (such as Dawn or whatever brand).
  • Empty plastic grocery container such as the kind used for sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. The lid should fit pretty tightly.This should be a container you will NOT use for food again.

    Also, this container needs to be tall enough so that when the lid is closed, there’s plenty of room inside for your bracelet plus several wadded-up paper towels.

    This is one of the containers I used:

  • Several paper towels.
  • Regular household ammonia.Warning: Due to the ammonia fumes, I highly recommend doing this project outdoors if at all possible. If you can’t go outdoors, please work quickly, safely, and in a VERY well-ventilated area.
  • Wear appropriate protection – gloves, goggles, and breathing protection.
  • Salt.Patina finishes - ammonia and salt
  • #0000 steel wool – one or two small pieces.
  • Sealant – I use a clear, matte-finish, spray-on sealant called “Tree House Studio” Clear Acrylic Matte Coating, from Hobby Lobby.
    Krylon also has a product that’s pretty much the same thing, and about the same price.

Patina finishes - brass rustic cuff bracelet by Rena Klingenberg

First, Clean Your Metal:

IMPORTANT: Start with clean metal.

We need to clean your metal to remove all traces of skin oils and anything else that may resist the patina.

So before beginning the patina process, wash both sides of your metal bracelet 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 bracelet and scrub it well with your steel wool.

Scrub in the same direction as the grain of 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.

How to Create Easy Patina Finishes:

In the bottom of your plastic grocery container, place a couple of wadded-up paper towels, and then pour ammonia over them till the towels are saturated:

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the ammonia-soaked towels, and then set your bracelet on top of them:

Patina finish for copper bracelet

Wad up another paper towel or two, and place them on top of the bracelet.

Ideally these towels should be covering the entire outside surface of your bracelet.

Pour ammonia over these paper towels to soak them.

Then lift up the paper towels and sprinkle a light layer of salt on top of the ammonia-dampened bracelet.

Now place the ammonia-soaked paper towels back over the bracelet, so they have contact with the entire outside surface of your bracelet:

Put the lid tightly on your plastic container:

Important: Set the closed container where curious pets and children can’t access it.

How Long Does
the Patina Process Take?

Your patina can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days.

It’s up to you to decide when it’s achieved the color or look you want.

Dark multicolor copper patina finish

You may want to check on your patina process after about half an hour – and then at least every couple of hours after that.

Don’t be surprised if your paper towels change colors before your metal does:

My copper bracelet patina here took about 9 hours to reach the depth of color I wanted.

In the photo below, I’m checking it about 5 hours into the process.

See this cool “snakeskin” look created by the paper towel texture touching the metal? That was a neat surprise:

Checking the progress of the copper patina

When Your Patina is Done:

When your patina has reached a look you like, remove your bracelet from the container and set it on a paper towel to dry.

I’ve noticed that the color develops a little further when I let my metal air dry right after removing it from the patina.

Once your bracelet has air-dried, wash it carefully under running water.

Some of the patina may wash away, but there should still be plenty of it on your metal.

If it’s darker or denser than you want, take a clean piece of #0000 steel wool and gently rub off some of the patina in the areas you’d like to lighten it up.

You can also selectively buff any areas of your patina to customize your bracelet’s appearance.

Rustic copper patina almost looks like a painting

Sealing Your Patina Finish:

If you don’t use some sort of sealant, your patina will naturally continue to darken or tarnish – which eventually will change or cover your original patina finish.

And because the finished patina surface itself may be harmful, always seal any items that have undergone a patina procedure.

A day or two after the patina process, when the patina is finished and dry, seal it using a clear spray lacquer.

Apply at least three light coats of lacquer on every patina surface of the metal, drying each coat thoroughly before applying the next coat.

I use a clear, matte-finish, spray-on sealant called “Tree House Studio” Clear Acrylic Matte Coating, from Hobby Lobby.

Krylon also has a product that’s pretty much the same thing, and about the same price.

Sealing your patina preserves it – although it does often darken or deepen the color somewhat.

“Fuming” – An Alternative Way
to Use This Same Patina Recipe:

Here, instead of burying your bracelet in the ammonia-soaked paper towels, we’ll hang it above them.

The ammonia fumes rising from the paper towels inside the tightly-closed container will create the patina on your metal.

I used this “fuming” method to create the rustic patina on my brass bracelet:

Golden-green brass patina finish

Place wadded-up paper towels in the bottom of your plastic grocery container.

Soak them with ammonia, and sprinkle salt generously on top.

Wipe both sides of your bracelet with these ammonia-soaked paper towels.

Sprinkle salt on both sides of your bracelet.

Rig up two wires across the top of the container and hang your bracelet on them:

Brass patina - fuming with ammonia and salt

Close the plastic container tightly, and set it out of reach of pets and children.

As with the other patina process method, check on the progress of your metal in about half an hour – and then at least every couple of hours after that.

When you decide your patina has reached your desired color and depth, remove your bracelet from the container.

As mentioned above, air dry your bracelet (salt and all) on a paper towel:

Brass patina - ammonia and salt

Follow the instructions above for washing and sealing your bracelet’s patina finish.

I hope you have fun with this project – and I’d love to see your finished rustic cuff bracelet (or any other item you patina with this process)!

Brass rustic cuff bracelet with patina finish

Rustic copper cuff bracelet after patina process

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