Once you make a fabulous piece of copper jewelry with a stunning patina, it’s important to protect the patina by sealing it.
Applying a protective layer on your patina surfaces will change the way it looks. Reds and purples tend to fade and bronze hues get richer. This happens because the coating is changing the way light refracts from the surface. As far as I know, there is no way around this. If you choose not to seal your patina, the color will continue to morph, so either way, change is imminent. I personally like to seal my patina to make it last as long as possible.
What should you use to seal your copper jewelry?
There are a variety of sealants, clear-coats, protectants, and waxes available. I don’t have personal experience with all of them, but here are a few I have used extensively, as well as some I have only heard about:
Nikolas #2105 Clear Lacquer…
Nikolas produces coatings for musical instruments. This particular lacquer is available in an aerosol can and formulated for use on silver. I have used this product on my own jewelry (mainly copper) projects for many years and have been very happy with the results. As with any lacquer, it’s best if there is some “tooth” on the surface of the metal for good adhesion. And it works best when applied in multiple thin coats with the allotted 15 min dry time between coats. I used this lacquer to seal this sunburst patina on my guitar necklace, which was a finalist in the Saul Bell Competition back in 2010, and it still looks great to this day (although I don’t wear it on a daily basis – it’s more of a showcase piece). If the jewelry is worn quite a bit, the edges are likely to wear and you may want to re-apply after a while. But typically, you get years of wear before this happens unless it’s exposed to harsh chemicals (like hairspray and some types of lotions) or perspiration. It’s also recommended that your piece not be submerged in hot water after coating.
2010 Saul Bell Design Award Competition
Finalist – Silver Category
ProtectaClear from Everbrite…
Vintaj Glaze – metal sealer by Ranger…
For those who have been delving into the world of scrap-booking and mixed-media jewelry crafts, you may already know about the matte or gloss glaze offered by Ranger. It’s marketed to be used with their line of patinas (which are really an opaque ink formulated to adhere to metal) as a sealant or an extender for the patinas. You can purchase through their site, or through Michael’s craft stores, so it may be the easiest to source and likely the most inexpensive option.
Clear Guard from Sculpt Nouveau…
While I have not used this product myself, Sculpt Nouveau is a leader in producing chemical patinas for metals – mainly used in architectural applications or on sculptures. But jewelry is really just a small sculpture you can wear. One, of my students, who sells lots of jewelry featuring patinas on copper, loves this coating.
And the list goes on…
There’s a reputable site – ganoksin.com – founded by Charles Lewtin-Brain a metals teacher and writer and Hanuman Aspler, a doctor by trade who entered the jewelry trade while traveling in Thailand. Their site has become the world’s largest resource for professional jewelry makers. Through researching the topic on their platform, I found mention of Permalac, Dupli-Color Perfect Match Clear Spray, and Por 15.
I am sure there are many more great products on the market…
You just have to be on the lookout for sealants that serve the right purpose, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re advertised for use on jewelry. Focus your search on a few key criteria…
- adhesion to metal,
- non-yellowing formula,
- check into the toxicity, since it will be worn on the skin
If you consider the products I have listed above, they are meant for sealing car paint, architectural applications like sealing a copper sink, protecting valued antiques, and even coating musical instruments. It’s always smart to think outside the box, but also do your due diligence for wear-ability. And be sure to follow the instructions for the product! Some need to be used within particular temperature ranges, and most require good ventilation (and perhaps a respirator for use with chemical fumes).
If you want to learn how to create a colorful patina worthy of needing protection, check out my free online mini-course… Colorful Copper Earrings
This is a comprehensive class which demonstrates the quality of our project instruction. It’s completely free, all you need to do is provide your name and e-mail to get the written instructions delivered to your e-mail inbox.
Whether you are new to making jewelry or have been crafting it for years, the use of liver of sulfur to achieve a spectrum of color with an obre effect is a new perspective on a patina most jewelers only use to oxidize their work. And the mini-course also shows how using a sharpie marker as a resist can produce copper highlights or create dark accents.
You’re going to love it!
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