Texture and Patina-the Dynamic Duo

Texture can be added in several different ways. You can texture using hammers – either a regular ball-peen hammer or one of many texturing hammers designed for this purpose . I am a big fan of the the classic hammered texture . It seems so timeless to me, whether brightly polished or patina’ed (we’ll get to that later!). This is a texture that has been around for millennia and not just on jewellery. It shows up on decorative and utilitarian pieces in gold, silver and other metals throughout history. Creating with this texture makes me feel as if I am connecting with all those artisans that have gone before me. Who knows, maybe one day when my pieces are dug up, they’ll go in a museum as an example of ancient art!

As I mentioned, there are also many different texturing hammers available today. You can use them to create an infinite variety of effects. For example, if you prefer a subtle effect, use a lighter blow. For something more dramatic, try hammering harder. This is important if you want to add a patina later. The deeper the texture, the more pronounced the patina will be. You can also hammer in such a way that you are striking with only part of the head. Try hammering in one direction and then over top in the other direction. If you want to try some techniques, I would strongly recommend that you start on a sheet of copper, before you get near the silver! It’s also a great way to develop some unique designs and patterns. The important thing is to play around and have fun with it.  

Another way you can add texture is with a rolling mill. By sandwiching your metal with various materials as you roll it through the mill, you can add all-over texture quite easily. Try things like netting or lace for a delicate pattern that can be subtly highlighted with a patina. You can also purchase patterned plates which will give a distinctive pattern on your metal. Here again, try out your ideas on copper first to get an idea of what the finished product will look like.

You can also buy metal sheet that is already embossed with a pattern. I think that these are great for making a cuff since you don’t need to spend a lot of time texturing. You can use patina on these as well to bring out the pattern.

Patina is a great way to add interest to your jewellery. One of the most common and my favourite is liver of sulfur. You can buy it in lump or gel form. The lump form is dissolved in hot water, and then the jewellery is placed into the solution which essentially produces an accelerated form of tarnish.  Liver of sulfur can give your sterling silver flashes of fabulous colours (amber, blues, purples) when used with VERY hot water (like the sterling sand dollar in the featured picture). You can then polish the piece as much or as little as you like depending on the effect you want to achieve, but don’t polish pieces with flashes of colour unless you want to mute the colours. I use gel liver of sulfur in the same way as the lump form, but I know that some people paint it onto specific areas that they want to highlight. Another product that you can use is called Silver Black. This produces a matte black patina and is also painted onto the parts of the piece that you want to emphasize. A word of caution about patina: do this before you set any stones, not after. Most stones will be damaged by patina, so make sure that you are satisfied with the result before you add the stones.  (If you’re very careful, you can paint on Silver Black after setting stones.)

There are many other patinas that you can create using combinations of different chemicals. “Patina” is an excellent reference book for this purpose and is available in our store.

Please remember to always wear appropriate safety gear and work in a well-ventilated area when using these chemicals. Also, please dispose of these chemicals in an environmentally-friendly way. Remember, we don’t own the earth, we share it with a lot of different critters and it’s important that we keep them safe too!

These copper earrings have a salt and ammonia patina, giving them a beautiful blue “tarnish”.

You may find it useful to keep samples and/or records of different textures and patinas and combinations of the two for reference purposes. This is handy if you have made a piece for someone and they request a pair of matching earrings a year later. You won’t have to second guess yourself-you can just look at your example to see what you did. Let’s face it, nobody’s memory is what it used to be!

So get texturing and patina’ing and never suffer from ho-hum jewellery again!

Note: we sell texture hammers with many different heads HERE and patterned copper sheet!!