Learn how to safely add exquisite Japanese patinas to your metal jewelry. Our articles cover many traditional techniques, recipes, and materials.
As with most Japanese metal coloring methods the techniques are metallurgically based rather than solution oriented; in the West we tend to use a myriad of coloring solutions and limited number of alloys; in Japan there are a limited number of coloring solutions and innumerable metal alloys which react differently in the same solution.
Japanese artists have contributed significantly by using their unique alloys in innovative combinations. Perhaps the best example of this is mokume-gane, a lamination process in which layers of various alloys are manipulated to create a rich pattern. In addition, Japanese work of many periods shows highly skilled inlay techniques where, again, the complex pallette of Japanese alloys is used to achieve subtlety and a controlled use of color.
The rich history of Japanese patinas is the result of hundreds of years of experimentation, innovation and tradition. This article covers some special Japanese Patinas; Wara-ibushi, Nuri-iro, Iroe-do, Ryuka (Sulfuration and Concentrate), Furubi, Kin-Furubi and alternative Furubi formulas.
It is important to understand that many variables will affect patina results. Our tests were made on smooth, rolled metal. Textures will change the color, and cast metal has a different structure that can also influence color. These samples include no solder, and because solder is a different alloy, it will react to the solutions differently. Changes in temperature, length of exposure, climate, and strength of the chemicals wilt all influence colors.
Niage is an important Japanese patina, and one of the most basic. It has been used as the base color on copper and copper alloys for centuries, and today it is also used as a final patina. As is true of all the recipes given here, these proportions are general guidelines, and experimentation is encouraged. A wide range of colors can be achieved by changing the concentration, proportions, or the time of exposure.
It is impossible to pretend that a single description of tools, materials, and equipment will suit all needs. Obviously these elements will depend on the scale of the work you do, the layout of your studio, and the resources at your disposal. A sculptor working in large-scale bronze castings will have different needs from a jeweler.
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