How to Give Metal an Oxidized Look (Tutorial)
by Rena Klingenberg. © 2003-Present Rena Klingenberg. All Rights Reserved
In this tutorial we’ll create three different darkened looks on jewelry metal, to give them the appearance of oxidizing:
- We’ll give metal a grungy, antiqued appearance:
- We’ll emphasize a surface texture on metal:
- We’ll darken stamped letters on metal:
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.
- Metal jewelry components – I’m using a copper heart and a copper arrowhead.
- 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:
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:
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:
After the Gilders Paste procedure, here’s the mess that’s completely contained within my plastic tray:
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:
Now use a mini-brush, Q-Tip, or your finger to scoop up some Gilders Paste:
Brush the Gilders Paste all over one side of the metal, using strokes similar to how you sanded the metal:
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:
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
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:
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:
After gently wiping with a paper towel, my arrowhead looks like this:
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:
Now use a mini-brush or Q-Tip to scrub some Gilders Paste into the recesses of each letter:
Use a small piece of paper towel to wipe away the excess Gilders Paste around the outside of the letters:
Your finished message should be easy to read now that the letters are darkened:
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:
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:
I’ve found this Sharpie technique to be a very durable and permanent way to darken stampings on metal:
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.