Nickel patination

Dear Orchid members,

I am not a jeweller but an antique furniture restorer in New Zealand.
I am currently working on a Victorian chest of drawers, the original
handles of which were nickel-plated. I have had to restore some of
the handles with new cast components, but after nickel-plating, these
ones are now very much “in your face”, compared to the soft and
rather worn appearance of the original hardware.

I was drawn to your website by the extensive on
patination, and I wondered whether anyone could advise me on a method
to “age” the new nickel plating mentioned above. I have seen cold
patinating fluids for various metals (including nickel) advertised in
the UK, but these are not available to me here.

I do have tourmaline and haematite, which I have successfully used
for patinating brass and iron components, but I’m not sure of their
role (if any) with nickel. I did try some undiluted tourmaline on the
back of one of my newly plated items, and it caused a rather "blue"
effect, which would not be desirable.

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Kind regards,
Peter Charlesworth


Im Ted, and am in Dorset UK.
Your post is an interesting one.
how you restore the fittings depends on several things, such as

  1. is the cod yours for restoration,and subsequent sale? or,

  2. is it a comission from a customer? Also to what exent is the
    restoration to be done? As it was when new? or to keep it looking
    old. New Nickel is hard to patinise to look like old nickel plate. One
    alternative is to strip all the nickel off all the fittings and
    replate with silver. then patinise is to look old. That is easy. One
    compound that patinises most non ferous metals well is selinium
    sulphide. Or flowers of sulfur. a similar compound. Ive the Royal
    collrge of Arts book here on the colouring and patinisation of metals
    by Richard Hughes and Michael Rowe.

Theres nothing mentioned about patinisaion of nickel in the index. If
its 1. then its up to you to decide on what suits the terms of

If its 2. as above leaise with the customer first!! before doing
anything radical!!

Let us know what the score is re above.

Peter, You might look for a gunsmith in your area. Gun shops often
carry a line of patinas used in restoring metal finishes. Bill

Bill, Deborah, Michele & Sharon
Reactive Metals Studio, Inc

Cold bluing, used by gunsmiths might do what you want. It is a
mixture of nitric and selenious acids with a bit of copper sulphate
added to give the colour a depth. Ask a local gunsmiths for “cold
black” or similar, it is fairly dilute so nowhere near as hazardous
as mixing your own.

Nick Royall

Peter, I use nickel, but in sheet for jewelry. and I get a patina
with a torch, and handy flux I don’t know if this would work on
nickel plated handles, or if you would even like the results. I torch
the metal, dip in water, It dulls the bright finish. I also use handy
flux on it, the n torch again, and dip in water. But, this may not be
the look you are after. Roxy

Peter, I use nickel, but in sheet for jewelry. 

You are not likely using nickel but nickel silver which is a brass
alloy that has some nickel in it. This is a very different beast
from the pure nickel that would result from plating. Pure nickel is
a notoriously difficult metal to work as it is quite hard. Patinas
that work on nickel silver may not have any effect on pure nickel
which is much more chemical resistant than nickel silver.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts