The great thing about these two wonderful metals is that you can
get an enormous range of colors; the tough part for me right now is
consistent repeatability although I am getting much better at the
process. Don’t feel alone in your efforts to succeed.
I can offer some observations that may help sort out of the "why’s"
of one piece going one direction in color while another goes a
different route, but first, let me say that the best source I’ve
found for for coloring these two materials is Japanese
Patinas by Eitoku Sugimori. http://www.ganoksin.com/jewelry-books/
There is a wealth of knowledge to be found here.
Initially it might be best to buy your metals from a reliable
supplier such as Reactive Metals Studio
so as to eliminate some of the variables involved with making and
fabricating your own alloys. They also carry Baldwin’s Patina which
could be the answer to some of the colors you want to achieve.
Surface finish (degree of polish), texture (the evenness of the
polishing applied to the texture–hills & valleys), the number of
times the piece has been heated (oxidized) and pickled, and the grain
structure of the metal (through strain such as embossing, folding,
bending, etc.) all have been important factors in the color results
that I’ve observed.
In the same fashion as one would run color sample tests with a set
of new enamels, it is worth the time to test these metals. Do use
pieces big enough that you can accurately evaluate the colors for
each test. With some innovation you can devise ways to overlap some
of the tests to gain additional and possibly save some
time. You should be able to salvage these metal samples for a future
project or maintain them for reference. You also may want to
determine how your favorite wax or Enjen Joe’s Brown Polymer works to
protect the different finishes.
After a few of the tests you’ll find that it is not just the
chemicals of the patina solution that make the colors. All of the
steps in the process have a contribution to the result. Patinas can
be a result of building one color with one solution and then a second
color on that foundation. Restricting the patina process to one area
and not another is definitely a case by case procedure. Depending on
the desired colors and the metals being used it may be as simple as
choosing the right sequence of steps for application of the
solutions. In other situations you may find that you have to mask an
area to restrict the patina solution application. Sometimes you can
wing it and do it freehand.
I hope this helps and does not confuse. It is important to stress
that Eitoku Sugimori’s book will prove valuable to anyone who wants
to pursue the use of the Japanese alloys. If there is anything I can
help clarify, please contact me off line. It genuinely has been just
three years since I’ve started making jewelery as Dr. Rourke
mentioned. I’ve never enjoyed anything more. There have been
countless times I needed help with a technique and I clearly remember
the Eureka moment when I found the Orchid web site. What a blessing!
I feel privileged to be able to share this
Good luck and let us know how your work progresses.
Small Scale Metalsmith