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"How to Darken Copper, Brass or Bronze"



Current question and answers:

January 4, 2020
1198-7

Q. Hi everyone.

I'm in need of a technique to antique brass plating and I'm stuck. I have been given some eyelets by a customer and I need to try and match the colour as closely as I can (I have attached a picture of the colour I'm trying to match). I have tried antiquing fluid in the past but this just strips the plate and nowhere seems to sell antique brass as a plating fluid.

I assume I need a blackener of some kind but I'm really not sure which would give the best result (I'm not an expert).
Please can anyone help.
Many thanks, Nik.

Nikki Swift
Hobbyist/Sole Trader - Doncaster, UK
^

adv.
nikolasbanner
"Clearcoats/Lacquers for Brass from G.J. Nikolas"

January 2020

A. Hi Nik. On the one hand plating shops antique brass and copper plating routinely; on the other hand, the sellers of brass darkening solutions warn you to use them only on solid brass, not plated brass, and your experience supports that warning :-(

I think the thing to do is to apply a tinted brass lacquer. See, for example, this page from G.J. Nikolas [a finishing.com supporting advertiser]: http://www.finish1.com/page_products_dyecolors.htm

Good luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


January 9, 2020

Q. Hi Ted!
Thanks for that. Ah the USA, I wish they had a stockist in the UK. I will keep checking around and see what I can find. I assume something like "Brass Black" [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] wouldn't work then as its plate rather than solid. Many thanks for the help!

Nikki Swift [returning]
Narrowed Visions - Doncaster, UK
^


January 2020

A. Hi again. The instructions say to use only on solid brass, but I do not have any personal experience to say it can't succeed :-)

Have you tested the eyelets with a magnet or otherwise determined that they are not solid brass?

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


January 16, 2020

thumbs up sign  Oops, sorry for the delay. The things I'm looking to do are brass underneath but they are plated in zinc/nickel. I could remove that but its a bit of a lengthy process for something that I can't charge much for (the eyelet image was just to illustrate the colour required). I may have a play and see if I can work it out. Someone suggested plating a thicker layer of brass to counteract the effects of the antiquing fluid. I may just go with powder coating them a similar colour in the end if all else fails. Bah! Thanks for your help so far, I really appreciate it!

Nikki Swift [returning]
Narrowed Visions - Doncaster, UK
^




Previous closely related Q&A's, oldest first:

1997

Q. I am trying to figure out how I can darken metals of copper, brass or bronze in a relatively safe manner. I know that this can be done using selenious acid, but would like to find a way to do it with more "user friendly" chemicals, do you have any suggestions?

Thanks-
Paul

Paul D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- San Leandro, California
^




1997

A. You can try Jim Watts' favorite sulfide from egg formula (see letter 1178 or 12714)

tom & pooky toms signature
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania
^


1997

A. PAUL,

I HAVE RECENTLY DEVELOPED A VERY SIMPLE PIECE OF CHEMISTRY TO BLACKEN COPPER. JUST TAKE THE ZINC PURIFIER USED IN A CYANIDE ZINC PROCESS, AND MAKE IT UP A 1% - ROOM TEMPERATURE. THIS HAS REPLACED OUR EBONOL SYSTEM WHICH RUNS HOT.

ALSO, THERE ARE OXIDE CHEMISTRIES USED IN THE PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD INDUSTRY FOR MULTILAYER BONDING. THESE WORK ALSO, BUT YOU NEED TO WIPE THE PARTS TO GET A SOMEWHAT "SHINY" LOOK. WITH THE PURIFIER SYSTEM, THERE IS NO NEED TO WIPE.

REGARDS,
RAY

RAY DELOREY
- Cambridge, Ontario
^


2001

Q. I recently read a response by Ray Delorey regarding chemically blackening copper. Ray recommended a 1% room-temperature dip of "zinc purifier" that is used in a "cyanide zinc process" as a non-wipe system for this blackening process. I would appreciate help in locating a source(s) for this "zinc purifier".

Thanks much,

RON RITSCHER
- Springfield, Missouri, USA
^


December 4, 2017

Q. From this site I've read that "Zinc Purifier" is an easy and safe way to turn copper to BLACK. I'm good with Google searches, but can't find a source anywhere that I could find to purchase... If this is not a product easily purchased, what is the chemical make-up (formula) and I will make my own batch.

I'm having a similar issue with trying to find Sodium PolySulfide which I have read here, also will turn copper black.

I want to blacken the engraving on a copper piece ... polishing the surface, and have the black engraved letters remain.

I do not want to use Liver of Sulphur (due to the smell) but am open to any other suggestions ... I was hoping to obtain something very cheap that also has some sort of shelf-life (most cost-effective). The pieces I am engraving/etching are an oval of 1/2" x 1"

Thank you
Chuck

Chuck Van Dien
- Port Saint Lucie, Florida, USA
^


December 2017

A. Hi Chuck. "Zinc purifier" and sodium polysulfide are probably pretty much the same thing. If you google for "plating process supplier" or "plating chemicals" with your location you will probably find distributors of plating chemicals who can offer zinc purifier to you. If you'd rather look for sodium polysulfide, letter 1109 discusses the sources for that in depth. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


1997

A. Use liver of sulphur Liver of Sulphur [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]. It will turn copper or silver from brown to black . You can order it from Gessein^Gesswein. This is an excellent product and works great. Although it does smell like rotten eggs.

Ed Kassery
^


1997

A. Selenium dioxide is a fantastic chemical for blackening copper and brass. In fact, it is the chemical trophy engravers use on a laminated brass plaque to make the lettering black (the lettering cuts through the lacquer). It's totally jet black and very hard. The product they use is called Gravoxide or oxidizer.

It's more readily available in Birchwood-Casey Gun Blue [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] Gun Bluing. It's advertised as a blue/black oxide finish for steel but it is very effective on brass/copper. Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] polish does not readily remove this finish.

I'd recommend an acid pickle to remove existing oxide or whatever method you have to get the metal very, very clean first.

Danny Miller
Austin, Texas
^


Liver of Sulphur

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Liver of Sulphur

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June 25, 2009

A. To darken brass, you must first strip any varnish on it.

Surprising, one of the most commonly available household chemical you can use to darken brass is Palmolive Dishwashing liquid. Look at the label and see if it contains sodium bisulphite and other sulphur derivatives. These are very similar to the chemicals in Liver of Sulphur.

Apply the dishwashing liquid with very little water to the bare brass and keep rubbing till you get the color you want. This will take only a few minutes. When you get the color you want, wash off the dish washing liquid.

Hong Lim
- Avondale, Arizona
^


July 3, 2009

Hi, Hong. My Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid does not list its contents at all except to say that it is phosphate-free and do not use with chlorine bleach.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


January 25, 2010

thumbs up signPalmolive actually worked. Can't believe it. Few minutes and it looked like it aged months - and a nice brown. Thanks for the great tip!

Jeff Mucci
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
^


February 9, 2010

Q. Regarding Hong Lim's suggestion to darken brass with Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid, what would I use first to strip the varnish from a brass chandelier?

ELLEN DRESSEL
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
^


February 15, 2010

A. Hi, Ellen. If the coating is brass lacquer, you can remove it with with Acetone [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] or lacquer thinner [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] . If it's a more durable coating, you can probably remove it with Aircraft Stripper; it will not hurt metal, but is really noxious stuff absolutely demanding goggles [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], Rubber Gloves [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], and truly excellent ventilation.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^



2001

Q. Can anyone give me the location/phone number of where I can get in touch with the supplier Gessein^Gesswein referenced in one of the responses above?

Kim M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Azle, Texas
^


2004

A. The spelling was incorrect on your inquiry, it should be "Gesswein" polishing tools and accessories.

Gary Garcia
- Modesto, California
^



2004

Q. We are lasering brass with a YAG laser and then using Gravoxide to turn the lettering black. It looks fine for a few days but then gets fuzzy looking (spider webs out from the text) because the Gravoxide isn't neutralized (maybe?) and keeps working. Does anyone have any ideas about another chemical to use or how to stop the Gravoxide from staying active?

Joe Midkiff
awards industry - Statesville, North Carolina
^


2007

Q. I am etching brass washers to make jewelry and would like to know of a relatively safe and economical way to do this. I have some directions that call for brass darkeners (Brass oxidizer) ...it comes in a pint size container...I don't need anywhere near this amount.

Kathryn Adams
teacher - Easley, South Carolina
^

----
Ed. note: Brass Darkening Solution [affil. link to info/product at Rockler] is available in 2 oz. bottles as well as 8 oz. and 32 oz. You are wise to not buy far more than you need. Good luck.


2007

Q. Can someone tell me a simple kitchen formula for turning copper or bronze to green? I have heard something like vinegar and ammonia plus a third ingredient, but have no idea of the proportions. I want to know because I want to stain my concrete floor. I used silver, gold and copper powder from Daniel Smith on wet concrete and got a beautiful green and black coloration, with a little brown. Now I am working with dry concrete and I want to try the copper powder again, and spray on a solution that will oxidize it. Then I will apply a clear concrete finish. Thank you.

Jane Seymour
hobbyist/artist - Freeland, Washington
^


2007

A. Well, more of a bathroom formula than a kitchen formula for turning copper to green: urine. Conservators of old paintings often use this method to create verdigris for mixing paint.

Lee Boychuk
- Saanichton, British Columbia, Canada
^


June 16, 2010

A. For the person asking about a green finish:

Green Patina Formula:

2 parts white vinegar
1 1/2 parts non-detergent ammonia
1/2 part non-iodized salt

Application:
Clean fixture with Windex-type cleaner.

Premix patina solution in Windex-type spray bottle
Spray Windex cleaner on fixture to break surface tension, leaving it on when you apply patina solution.
Apply patina solution by spraying onto fixture, preferably in the early evening on a high humidity night.
Allow to set for 1 hour, then reapply solution observing where you missed applying on the first coat. If there seems to be oil that is repelling the patina solution, clean it off with the Windex cleaner.
Allow to sit overnight. In low humidity desert areas, use a plastic bag to create a tent over fixture (without making contact with it) to help keep the humidity high during curing. If there is low moisture in the air, the solution will dry out without creating the patina effect.
The result will be a bright green powdery patina. Do not rub off. In time (and re-applications) this finish will become permanent. The brightness will fade with time. To reduce green, cut back on the salt content. Color and effect is greatly affected by application ambient temperature and humidity.

Scott at Redstone Manor
- Keymar, Maryland, USA
^


2007

Q. I have a house built in 1963 and all of the kitchen cabinets and drawers have hammered copper pulls that are no longer bright and shiny. I would love for them to be black, but I don't want to just spray paint them a flat black. Is there anything I can do to make them oxidized to a black finish? I hope that this makes sense because I have never had any experience with metals.

Thanks-

Lauren White
consumer - Toccoa, Georgia
^


A. Hi, Lauren. If they are real copper (check with a magnet first to make sure they're not steel), and there is no lacquer or clear coat on them, what you have read on this page should work. Good luck

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^



2007

Q. My daughter is moving into a new house. Her fixtures all have the appearance of oil rubbed bronze. I have a lovely chandelier that is perfect for her dining room, except it has a shiny brass finish. Is there any way to paint or otherwise refinish it to give it a darker, duller look?

Terry Foster
crafty mom - Columbia, Missouri
^


April 18, 2008

Q. I have a lovely chandelier that has a shiny brass finish. I would love to tone down that shininess. Actually I would love to find a way to refinish it with out taking it down and taking it apart? I know that is a lot to ask. But, that would really be a pain.

Is there a way to do this?

Thanks,

Laura

Laura Nygaard
hobbyist - Rancho Santa Margarita, California
^


A. Hi, Terry; Hi, Laura

If you know the chandelier to be real brass, you can try to remove the lacquer from it with Acetone [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] or lacquer thinner [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] . Then you can darken it as above. But easier and safer, if not as permanent, might be a Rub'N'Buff [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


September 8, 2008

A. I would try to coat the surface of the chandelier with a dark glaze. The result would be a delicate finish, but a Chandelier doesn't get much handling and would look great for a long time to come. You could purchase some water based glaze and add extremely dark water based paint (found in craft stores) until it is the color you like and paint it on the brass with a small brush. This will make it look "antiqued". You can do several coats depending on how dark you want it to look. It will also tone down the shine.

I have also painted brass chandeliers white or off-white, or even a color! They look gorgeous! Just make sure you have cleaned it well and spray it with white paint.

Angela Burns
- Chester, New Jersey
^


June 20, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. We own several lamps and lights that are Brass Plated. Can you please tell me how to tarnish the plating so that it appears darker? Is there a simply product that can be purchased to accomplish this? If so, can you please tell me where to buy such product? Thanks!

Tim Edwards
home owner, hobbyist - Clarkston, Michigan
^


April 2017

Hi Tim. If something is 'brass plated' instead of real brass, and you want to patina or darken it rather than paint or wax rub it, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope. Often the brass plating is too thin, worn or porous for good results. Further, a lot of modern 'brass plating' is not brass at all, but nickel plating followed by a brass-toned translucent lacquer; so when you remove the lacquer to attempt the patination, the brass color is gone.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^



September 3, 2009

Q. I am working on a "shadow box" for someone who is retiring from the Navy. The shadow box holds a flag and all of the member's medals. Inside the shadow box is a brass plate with all of the tours of duty. Unfortunately it is very hard to read the etching, is there any way to darken the plate so the etching is easier to read?

Shannon Van Meter
Buyer - Ridgecrest California
^


September 30, 2009

Q. I want to match a new panel I am making with a hammered copper sink already in the room. How can I get the new copper to darken and what kind of wax is best for the finish? I called one company and the process they use on the sinks is "secret".

Lois Campbell
hobbyist - Oswego, New York
^


August 17, 2010

Q. Hi there, I have a lot of jewelry brass backings and would like to turn them black, but use a safe product so it can be worn against the skin and clothing,
Thanks so much for your help.

Debbie Brown
jewelry maker - New Zealand
^


September 28, 2010

Q. Hello, I need to darken brass for my work (lamps), but I don't have easy access to the darken-it like products.
Even Palmolive washing liquid is not available here (Indonesia) and they never write the components on detergents.

I tried eggs with very little success and I am looking for some simple way to reach.
Please help me!

FX Hoffman
product designer - Bali, Indonesia
^



January 23, 2011

Q. Hello ,
Does a blackened brass with Rockler's Darkening solution hold up in a outside weather environment? Thanks!

Ike Sin
- newton, Pennsylvania USA
^


January 24, 2011

A. Hi, Ike

No, it will probably not hold up outdoors. But you can apply brass lacquer after the darkening, and then it should be okay.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^

Brass Lacquer

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January 29, 2011

Q. Thank you for the info! A follow up question, is there anything that will darken brass and survive outdoors? Thanks Ike

Ike Sin [returning]
- newton, Pennsylvania USA
^


 

A. I'm not sure that we understood each other, Ike. If you blacken it and then lacquer it, it will hold up outdoors for a couple or a few years. The lacquer is easily stripped and replaced.

There are dark "Lifetime Finishes", which you may have seen on door hardware. But these require very expensive PVD (physical vapor deposition) machines, and are applied by OEMs not by consumers.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^



sidebar2 March 18, 2011

Q. I have a chandelier made of steel and tubular steel and painted in a pewter color (cold grey/blue tones) with a highly lacquered finish. I'd like to change the finish to bronze (warmer tones) and I have some professionals telling me that it cannot be done over the high lacquer. Do you have any suggestions? Would auto paint cover? It is a detailed fixture and cannot be sandblasted b/c of the wiring.

I appreciate any suggestions.

Lisa

Lisa Gold
homeowner - Orange, Connecticut
^


Rust-Oleum Oil Rubbed Bronze

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March 21, 2011

A. Hi, Lisa.

Simplest, easiest, cheapest would be the Wax Rub if it works, so I'd try that first. If not, you can try removing the lacquer with lacquer thinner. If that doesn't work you can remove it with the far more powerful Aircraft Stripper, but only outside with good ventilation, not in place. Then you can use one of the fancy paints like American Accents.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


November 9, 2018

adv.
Hello all..yes we have such a chemical patina which is sold in kit form to do just this. Please find our Copper Patina Rescue kit at www.barrysrestoreitall.com. We offer two sizes based on area. Quick and easy to use. Using a hairdryer will speed up the process to dark. Good luck

Barry Feinman

Barry Feinman
BarrysRestoreItAll
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California
barrysrestoreitall
^

December 14, 2011

Q. Hi ! I am remodeling and bought wonderful doors at a salvage place. The handles were gold plated. I had the plating and underlying zinc removed leaving very bright brass. I would like to make the brass appear darker with a rosy tone to compliment a chandelier in the room. Is this asking too much ? I would appreciate any advice. Thanks !

Diane Valine
- Rancho Palos Verdes, California, USA
^


Rub 'n Buff Sampler

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December 18, 2011

A. Hi, Diane.

A wax rub is probably the fastest and easiest route to the color you want while maintaining a real metallic look =>

but the durability of that approach is questionable depending on exactly what you mean by "handles". Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


April 30, 2012

Q. I have a couple of reproduction ancient bronze rings, and would like to put a dark brown patina on them similar to if they were dug up. I have tried liver of sulfur, the liquid form but after wearing them a day or two the patina starts to wear off. Did I not use it correctly, or is there another method to oxidize them?

William Summe
- Griffin, Georgia, USA
^


May 16, 2012

Q. Hello everyone I read the thread before asking my question. And it was really informative & helpful. My question is how to create a shading effect on Gold Jewelry. One particular one I remember seeing it was a gold flower necklace & the petals had this shading effect from bright gold to dark brown. Any kind of help will be appreciated. Thank You

Viral Soni
- Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
^


July 10, 2012

Q. Hello everyone,
I have a brass brass plate with lots of holes drilled into it that I would like to get really black. Some of the beams in the plate are as thin as 0.1 mm. We already tried to leave the plate in a solution of 250 g Copper-Hydroxycarbonate and 1 liter of ammonia for 3 hours and overnight. 3 hours wasn't sufficiently dark and the overnight treatment ate away a lot of the fine beams. Could you point me to other treatments or variations which are milder than this but also lead to a strong black? A black deposit on the plate would also work, but I do not know of a process to do this right now.
Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks a lot and best regards,

Andreas

Andreas Frölich
- Karlsruhe, Germany
^


December 27, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. How to get the black color on brass using chemicals?

Reza Karimkhan
- Tallahassee, Florida
^


February 18, 2013

Q. I have a copper weathervane (of a Labrador Retriever) what has turned nearly black, from being outdoors over 4 years. I would like to lighten it and preserve the lighter finish. The surface is 18" x 12", so copper cleaner is taking too long. The natural color is not shiny copper, but somewhat antiqued. What do you recommend? Should I just leave it dark brown?

Jim Carlisle
- Colleyville, Texas, USA
^


April 14, 2013

A. Easy method for darkening brass:

I wanted to darken my antique brass hardware that had a finish on it. I needed to get the finish off first which I did with fine steel wool after sand blasting. I guess you could use acetone or some kind of paint or finish remover. I tried Palmolive but it didn't work. I ended up using ammonia and it was really simple. I put all my hardware face up on a cookie sheet inside a plastic trash bag. Lay the trash bag on the counter and slide the cookie sheet in. Fill a glass bowl with a couple cups of ammonia. Place the bowl of ammonia in the center of the cookie sheet. I also place a heavy drinking glass upside down in the center of the ammonia bowl to keep the bag up and away from the hardware. This way the fumes from the ammonia was able to circulate. I then tied up the bag and left it over night. In the morning the hardware was perfectly aged. It looks A bit dry so I am going to rub a little polish on it to just liven it up a bit. This method was simple and quick.

Nancy Lucier
- Holland, Massachusetts
^


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