Sep 222010

Color on Metal – Out of the grey and into the blue.

MANY artists use liver of sulphur (LOS) to create a black or grey patina on sterling. But that is not the ONLY color range that LOS offers!

With a little tweaking of the solution, you can achieve variations from reddish brown to blues and purples.

By varying the concentration of the LOS mixture and also the temperature of the mixture, one can get reddish colors – brown, and also blue to purple and adding other components to the mix achieves even brighter blues and purples.

LOS comes in chunk, liquid, and even gel form now. The following observations have been made using chunk form mixed with warm water to dissolve.

Dark grey or black – a strong mixture of LOS in relation to water is used. If the mixture is hot, the patina process will go MUCH faster, creating a deep black very quickly. (be careful, sometimes this can apply such a thick layer that it will flake off) When desired color is achieved, rinse metal in cold water to interrupt the patination process.

Reds and browns – a weaker mixture of LOS/water is used. AND a more ambient temperature solution. Dip metal quickly and don’t rinse. Wait and watch colors develop. Keep dipping and watching the process.When desired color is achieved, rinse metal in cold water to interrupt the patination process.

Blues and purples – a weak mixture of LOS and water. . . or day old mixture may be used. Add industrial strength ammonia to the mixture. (this is ‘professional’ grade cleaning ammonia, ensure proper ventilation when using) Heat metal. (can be done by running under VERY hot water). Dip quickly or paint patina onto metal. Watch CLOSELY as color develops. The metal will go through stages of color. Repeat the heating and painting process until the desired colors are achieved, rinse metal in cold water to interrupt the patination process.

Here is a picture of a sterling piece done in this manner:

Red, blue, green, maybe purple can be seen, and it has an irridescent quality to it.

Here is the reverse side with no flash on camera:

Patinas are not always stable. They can change over time. For this reason, a sealant is often used. Either wax of some sort – Renaissance Wax is a favorite among many; or a fixative spray (Nikolas lacquer has been highly recommended) to preserve color but note that anything placed over a patina will change the effect to some degree as it changes the way light plays over the surface of the metal.

Below you can see the same piece after about 7 mos in a drawer, in no protective wrapping and NO sealant having been applied. Unfortunately the photo itself is pretty poor, there is a lot of glare, however the blues/greens/reds are still visible in various places

and the back ‘after’ picture:

This pendant was colored using day old LOS soultion that had faded to a weak yellow/straw color.

Straight ammonia was added to the LOS solution. There is no need to be specific with ratios, one of the joys of patinas is in experimentation.

The room temperature mixture was ‘painted’ on with a papertowel very lightly, wiping dry, then applying more,then wiping dry until the desired colors were achieved.

The nice thing is if you go too far you can take it off and start again.

One tip – KEEP a notebook for patinas handy on your bench. Record your process including:

  • patina ingredients and amounts
  • meta used
  • temperature of solution
  • temperature of metal
  • method of applying (dunked, painted, misted, etc)
  • time left on
  • rinsing in between applications (if any)
  • repetition of process (if any)

General instructions for LOS in chunk form:

Use a heat tolerated container. Add a quarter cup of hot water. Add one small chunk (a little less than the size of a pea). Wait for it to dissolve. Swirl container to mix.

The LOS is ready to use. Mixed LOS solutions are not very stable. They will degrade over time and usually are not saved. however, for some of the color variations noted above, retaining your mixed LOS can serve a purpose!  LOS will weaken overnight, losing its color (turning more clear) and eventually have a skim or flakes on the surface. When the LOS solution gets to that point – it’s dead. ..inactive, and can be poured down the drain (from what we’ve read). If your solution is still yellow, it is ‘active’ and should be disposed of according to your local requirements.

More on patinas coming soon!

See more Tips & Tricks
Free Jewelry Making Tutorial – Dual Balled Ring

Sep 142010

jewelry tutorial, metalsmithing tutorial, free tutorial

I have to start out with a disclaimer.

This is not a traditional jewelry making tutorial. This is more like an outline of the technique that I use. It was originally written for a friend who has quite a lot of metalsmithing experience, so it was more of an outline or framework for her to see how I go about this process. I kept imagining I would redo the photos so each step is clearly captured and rewrite the text to make more sense for those who don’t have a lot of metalsmithing experience, however that hasn’t happened (and its been a couple of years I think!) so I’m just going to put this out here now the way that it is…well, with a few minor edits.


  • Wire – 12 gauge
  • Wire – 20 gauge
  • Rondelle Bead
  • Manilla folder, water, dish
  • Hammers (forming, rawhide), bench block or anvil
  • Nail
  • Sharpie
  • Ring mandrel
  • Files, sandpaper
  • Soldering supplies – flux, solder, torch, third arm, pickle

Begin by soaking small pieces of the manilla folder in water. ( I leave mine soaking for days, but you can soak them for as little as half an hour)

Wrap the 12 ga wire around the ring mandrel about a half a size larger than you want the ring to be. (some of the size will be taken up by the bead)

Cut into rings.

Next, file ends smooth so you have a flush join to solder. (no pic)

Flux and solder joins on each ring individually.

Return rings to mandrel and use mallet to true up the ring(s) into a circle.

Forge one end of each ring on the bench block with a planishing or forging hammer just enough to create a flat profile.

Then forge the other end of the rings into a sloping area which will eventually be drilled for insertion of wire to hold bead. (sorry no picture of the second side being done)

Next prop rings open on the wider forged end so you can solder the more lightly planished ends together to form the base of the ring shank. (this photo was taken as a ‘set up’ – in reality the open ends would be planished flat as well)

Flux, solder, pickle.

Gently close the shank and file all edges to create a uniform appearance (no photo)

Mark center of top of ring, create a divet with hammer and nail.

Lube your drillbit and drill hole(s)

Cut a piece of 20 ga wire – you want it long enough to go through the ring, the bead, and form a ball on each end.

You are going to use this wire as your double balled ‘pin’. You will want to measure this wire before you melt your first ball so that you can calculate how much wire you’ll need for the second ball.

So, measure, then go ahead and melt a ball on one end of the wire. (make the ball as large as aesthetically fits your design).

Now, measure how much wire you have left. This will tell you how much wire you used to make your ball ( [original length – (current length-ball) = amount of wire ‘in’ your ball] you’re going to need to know that later).

Next you need to wrap the bead in wet manila folder paper, insert the packet into the opening of the ring, thread wire through your drilled holes.

Cut the end of the wire so that the proper amount for your ball is extending from the other side.

Thread another piece of the folder onto the wire (on the outside of the ring)

(Optional: Take another piece of the folder and wrap it around the top of the bead.)

You now have something that should resemble this:

(but the amount of wire protruding should be trimmed way back! this is left long so you can see )

Suspend the entire packet into a third arm with the exposed wire hanging straight down towards your bench top. Heat to melt the second ball. (this photo is after I torched the second ball)

The ‘trick’ is to use a HOT tiny flame. I turn the gas on very high and then crank up the oxygen to obtain a very hot very tight flame.

*NOTE* The first two times I did this, I did NOT wrap the bead first and it worked fine. Wrapping the bead DOES take up some room so when you are done you may have a slightly looser join. When you remove the folder you will have a tiny bit of space. Very tiny. If you do it that way and don’t like it, try just threading the wet paper on the outside and then wrap the outside of the bead. The end result will be tighter.

FYI: I have NOT had the paper catch on fire. At the very end it will smolder and singe a bit, but thats it. Here is a pick of the singed paper:

Here is another finished ring. This one turquoise.

If it can work on turquoise, then its probably fairly safe on a variety of stones, HOWEVER, I highly recommend you practice with stones that you wouldn’t be heartbroken to lose as with any new technique it can take some time to perfect.

This process was first mentioned to me by Karen Christians (of Cleverwerx) as she was experimenting with it after watching glass makers work with hot glass using wet newspapers. It took me a long time to give it a try but I have found it works well.

I hope you find this useful information!

Other areas you might find interesting

Tips and Tricks Main PAGE

Other helpful posts:
Patina on Sterling

Jewelry Making Tutorials – Metalsmithing and WireWorking

Melting Temperatures
Scrap Metals Refiners and Returns

Sep 142010

chances are I’ll want a sock to go with it.

No, seriously. There is a great use for your lone socks, you know, the ones that come out of the wash without a mate. Don’t throw them away, use them as ‘hats’ for your hammers!

I snapped this picture of my hammer drawer, the place where my ‘good’ hammers live. metalsmithing, raising, forming hammers, jewelry artists network

True, these aren’t socks, but they used to be, and some do still have socks, I just didn’t et a picture of those. These are golf club covers and some might be shoe covers.

Anyway, the real message here is that there are probably things in your home right now that could be residing on the heads of your hammers. Look around and then cover your hammers! It helps prevent rust and any possible scratches on the highly polished heads.


Sep 022010

One thing that we all deal with is scrap. Whether its botched work, or filings, or those little wire snips and bits; we can accumulate a lot of ‘scrap’ metal.

Some people use their scrap for sand, broomstraw, water, or other casting at home. A bit of the scrap metal can often be used as embellishments on new pieces of jewelry, but at some point, most of us will end up with a bag, box, or even bucket full of metal.

What do you do with it?

One consideration is to send it in to a refiner and have them either give you ‘cash back’ (a check) or a credit on a subsequent purchase of metal, tools.

How do return programs work?

Basically you are going to package your scrap and send it to a refiner and they are going to either give you cash back – or a credit on future purchases.

You will need to separate your scrap. Remove any stones, organize it by metal type, and in some instances, remove any soldered parts. Each refinery has their specific instructions, read carefully or call to find out how best to ‘clean’ and package your scrap.

Then you send it in, usually with a form specific to their company, but sometimes with a note. They will log, weigh, assay, weigh, check current spot/market prices, and then do some math to calculate your return.

Who has the best prices?

That seems to be the million dollar question.

Return prices vary from company to company and then each one usually has different prices within their own system which are determined by the amount you send in, whether you want cash or trade, and how quickly you want it turned around (rush or standard?).

In addition, some companies have refining fees, surcharges, etc that will affect your return. It is in your best interest to ask before hand about any and all charges/fees.

To help get you started, we have researched a few companies and have created a list of their current scrap return/refining rates.

These are listed alphabetically and do not necessarily include the surcharges or refining fees. If you have another company to recommend or someone you want us to check out, please use the contact tab above to let us know!

  • G&S Metals

  • Silver Scrap buy – 90% – credit acct. 90%
  • Silver/Bars/Coins – 95%
  • Gold Bars/Coins – 95%
  • Platinum and Pd – 90%
  • Argentium Silver – 90%

  • Hausser and Miller

< 150 oz 81%

> 150 oz 98%

  • High Tech PMR

gold – 98%

silver – 92%

platinum – 92%

you need their patriot act form to open an account

and they have a shipping form that is downloadable on their website

you can send both at the same time with your first shipment and then just the packing slip for future shipments.

  • Hoover & Strong
will accept mixed material, however, separating scrap is recommended.

NOTE: there are refining fees of anywhere from $1.00 to $1.25 an ounce.


> 90% fine silver  65 – 85% depending on weight and return time requested

<90% pure silver 65-70% depending on return time requested


> 25 % fine gold  94-98% depending on quantity and return time requested

10-24% fine gold 94-95%

<10% 89-90%

Platinum or palladium

> 90% 89-96% depending on weight and return time requested

  • Midwest Refineries

sterling scrap  90% of pure sterling assay

  • Monsterslayer

Sterling/Fine Silver Sheet, Wire & Precious Metals Clay (PMC) Scrap:
75 % of the current Silver Market in Trade or

we will pay 60 % of the current Silver Market in Cash.

Soldered, Brazed, or Melted Silver Scrap, Clean Filings, Chains, and Old Jewelry with quality marking:
55 % of the current Silver Market in Trade or

we will pay 45 % of the current Silver Market in Cash.

12k-14k Gold Filled Findings, Sheet, & Wire Scrap:
1.2 % of the current Gold Market in Trade or

we will pay 1.0 % of the current Gold Market in Cash.

Example: 1.2 % of a $ 1,000.00 Gold Market = $ 12.00 per OzT.

  • Rio


Fine silver and cadmium-free sterling silver*75%

Cadmium-bearing sterling silver (requires special refining) 65%

Silver dust 40%

Minted fine silver coins and bars from Rio Grande 98%

Minted fine silver coins and bars not sold by Rio Grande 92%

Gold-filled ( at least 12/20 ) 1.89% total weight

24K gold ( Jeweler’s karat gold scrap )**  75%

Minted 24KY gold coins from Rio Grande 98%

Minted 24KY gold coins not sold by Rio Grande 92%

Platinum*** 60%

Palladium**** 60%


Fine silver and cadmium-free sterling silver*65%

Cadmium-bearing sterling silver (requires special refining) 65%

Silver dust 40%

Minted fine silver coins and bars from Rio Grande 98%

Minted fine silver coins and bars not sold by Rio Grande 92%

Gold-filled ( at least 12/20 ) 1.89% total weight

24K gold ( Jeweler’s karat gold scrap )**  65%

Minted 24KY gold coins from Rio Grande 98%

Minted 24KY gold coins not sold by Rio Grande 92%

Platinum*** 60%

Palladium****  60%

  • Thunderbird Supply

unsoldered silver

80% of the for trade or

60% for unsoldered silver for cash

scrap jewelry or soldered pieces:

60% for trade

fine silver coins and bars

90% for trade or

85% for cash.

For gold-filled scrap
cash or trade 1.45%
[$900 gold market, ($900 x 0.0145 = $13.05) gold-filled scrap would be worth $13.05 per ounce.]



Handy & Harman Precious Metals Group

800.463.1465to speak with a Scrap Recovery Specialist

[note, I called and could not get through – press 3 for refining dept. then 1 if you are a new customer. The extension went into voice mail which said not to leave a message but to try another number which is – 416-419-3114 – I didn’t call because I’m not local! ]



Cookson Gold

Has a scrap metal chart similar to a live market chart – updated frequently but may not be accurate…


Download list as a PDF document


If you have other refiners we should add to the list, please use the contact tab above to let us know, we’ll verify and then update!




Mar 102010

Organization is a constant struggle for many of us. I have tried some things that don’t work so well and some things that do.

Today I’m sharing 5 things that work. (well, 3 that do and 2 that I think would be great!)

Organizational 'White Board'

1. Tool Cart – I do not have one of these, instead I use #3 below for most of my tools, but I’d love to have one – especially a bright blue one like this!

2. Tabletop Shelves – this is on top of my 8ft table. I have containers of bits and burs and some pliers etc stored here.

3. 4 drawer cart/drawer unit (I take the wheels off! and I have several that fit nicely under an 8 foot table. Loads of tools and supplies fit in these)

4. Divided storage bin – I love this for several reasons. Its clear. Its a two in one, its stackable. GREAT for ongoing projects.

5. Plant Flexshaft Hanger – I have one almost identical to this secured into the wall in my studio. Two flexshafts hang from it!

What are some of  your storage/organizational finds that actually work?

Which ones haven’t worked out so well?

Share with us!

 Posted by at 10:25 pm