How Do I Strip “Old Costume Jewelry” Coating?

by Gail Hvatum.
(United States)

How Do I Strip "Old Costume Jewelry" Coating?  - Discussion on Jewelry Making Journal

Old Costume Jewelry

What would I use to take off the coating of some old metal costume jewelry?

I want to have a clean raw metalย  so I can apply a patina.

I do mixed media art.

Gail Hvatum
g. Renee

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  • Sarah S says:

    I would say for larger pieces, try some 000 steel wool. If you need to get all the little nooks and crannies, try a tumbler or a rotory tool/flex shaft with a coarse polishing brush.

    I would make sure to wear a mask during the process, cause lord only knows what is actually in that coating or what the metal is. Better safe than sorry.

  • Great tips from Sarah! I would also suggest removing the coating from a small area on the back of the jewelry item first, to get an idea of what you’re dealing with before tackling the whole piece.

    Good luck, Gail – and I hope you’ll post some of your finished results! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Gay Hapgood says:

    Hi, I’ve been having the same question, wanting to apply patina to some bright brass pieces. In many cases what looks like “raw brass” actually has a coating of lacquer on it to prevent it from oxidizing. I’ve assumed that if there exists some liquid that would remove it, it would be extremely toxic. Maybe that’s not the case? I bought an inexpensive bezel bracelet in bright brass and took it apart, figuring I’d patina the bezels and use them for necklace pendants. They must have had a really thick lacquer coating as the only thing that worked to remove it was a grinding bit in my flex shaft (steel wool and abrasive bits didn’t even touch it). And even that took awhile. Not sure how that would work on a stamping with lots of nooks & crannies. If anyone has a better solution, I would be grateful too!

  • Thomas says:

    Lacquer thinner (paint remover) and acetone (fingernail polish remover) will remove most coatings without having to resort to abrasive methods that may necessitate additional buffing/polishing to bring the metal to the shine/luster you desire. Even boiling in water will remove lacquer, but only if the item consists entirely of metal (no stones, beads, etc.).

  • Felicia says:

    Acetone is my best friend for things like this. Just be super careful on what exactly you use it on. It is very strong stuff. I buy 100% acetone at the beauty shop or drugstore and have a dedicated “soaking” jar. The acetone will ruin the rubber seal on the jar after a while so use one that is recycled from some store bought food item instead of ruining a nice canning jar.

  • Julie White says:

    I have tried to patina copper shapes cut from “flashing strip” that comes in a roll. NOTHING! I guess this means it’s coated with something. I’ll try the acetone. Any other ideas or suggestions? I believe some commercially sold brass and copper sheet is coated too.

  • Lyone says:

    Before using (OMG!) steel wool, or even acetone try something gentle. A mix of vinegar and salt (I always keep a jar of this in my studio) gets off a lot of gunk. I use this combination for removing tarnish from all metals, including antiquing that I do not want. But it also does away with general nastiness from dust, skin oil, and life. I use a teaspoon of salt to 8 oz of vinegar–no dilution with water! Leave things soaking overnight.
    If this doesn’t do what I want, then I move on to stuff like acetone, spirits, or turpentine, etc. But I always start gentle…….and remember to rinse well between chemicals. You don’t know what will react with what.

  • Lynn L. says:

    Lyone you said to use salt/vinegar to remove tarnish from all metals, does this include things that are silver-plated?

  • beetique says:

    please make sure you don’t destroy a valuable piece of costume jewelry. Look up the designer names that are on the jewelry. Otherwise acetone works good.

  • Beetique, thank you for that important tip! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Denmob says:

    While I have nothing constructive to add (yet!) I did want to express a huge thanks to all for your great ideas! I have plenty of old costume jewelry that has flummoxed me for months – now it has a chance for a facelift.!

  • Laurie says:

    Once you reach your patina or bare copper. Finish it with everbrite.

  • Elligal says:

    No luck with that here. Just tried both those chemicals on a pair of cheap, hammered look earrings where the gold color was wearing off to show silver underneath.

  • Kelsea says:

    When it comes to brass lacquer there are many types but on costume jewelry I would recommend a simple test. Take some hot water, almost boiling and add a little lemon juice, your mileage may vary, or any pure citrus juice. Let the item soak for a little while, keeping the temperature of the water even.

    If this doesn’t work then clean the pot,add water and then baking soda, a teaspoon per cup this time.

    I would be careful at this step because if the lacquer is compromised then the mixture will turn the brass bright pink under it. This is corrected with hot water and pickling salt.

    Ideally this will thin your lacquer for easy removal. Or it will just come off in the water

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