Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oxidizing Copper with Ammonia


  • Deep plastic container with lid
  • Small bowl that's at least an inch shorter than the plastic container
  • String
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Ammonia (you can get this at most grocers)
  • Piece of copper jewelry

Step one:
Measure out three pieces of string that are about 4 inches longer than the width of your plastic box. Lay them onto a piece of tape about a 1/4" apart from each other. Affix the tape/string to the inside wall of the plastic box, about a 1/2" from the top. Just be sure that you have enough room to set your piece on the strings with the lid on.

Step two:
Tape the other ends of the string to the opposite side of the box, making sure there's some tension in them. Apply a few extra pieces of tape to both sides to make sure they stay in place, the ammonia fumes can weaken the adhesive over time.

Step three:
Place your piece of copper jewelry on the stings and make sure they're steady. Adjust any loose strings and add some tape as needed.

Step four:
Remove the copper pieces and make sure they're clean. Then fill your small bowl with about an inch of ammonia. Be prepared, this stuff is strong and stinks. Slip the bowl of ammonia into the plastic container underneath the strings.

Step five:
Replace your copper pieces on the string and put the plastic container's lid back on. Set it aside and check in every hour or so. It will take a few hours, but the copper will turn a rich dark brown, black, or even a deep verdigris color depending on how long you leave it in there. Have fun experimenting!

Extra thoughts:
By playing with the type of wire you use and the length of time you leave your piece in the box, you can achieve some pretty interesting results. These earrings were made using raw copper wire for a base and the ear wire itself, but the wrapping was done with a coated, non-tarnish copper for a nice contrast. The piece was left in the fumes overnight, creating a dark green patina.


sandy petals said...

That is awesome, thanks for posting it.

Ren said...

I shared this one on a beading forum I mod at, darl. :)

Megan said...

Good stuff! Thanks for sharing it Rennikins. :D

Bianca Velder said...

Great tutorial Megan, I followed Rennikins here from Beadingforum. (Rennikins, ah, i have leverage now) and it is great. I used to use sawdust or tobacco mixed with vinegar and salt and ammonia but this is so much less messy, well done.

Beadles and Stones said...

Love your tut!! I use a zip lock bag with an open container of ammonia in it and then put the jewelry beside the container and zip the bag. Same concept, different materials. Thanks for your tutorial.

Jesus Lives In Me said...

Thank you for your generosity. It is a very clear, easy to follow, tute.

FloridaCoqui aka Margie

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