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topic 1198p3

How to Darken Copper, Brass or Bronze

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A discussion started in 1997 but continuing through 2020

April 22, 2013

Q. Dear Sirs / Madams

As a very nearly retired signmaker, I have been making bronze plaques for over 50 years but have now hit a problem; the toning powder I used is no longer available.

This used to come for a company called Walsh and the label said "Contains Antimony Sulfide". I would mix the powder with Ammonia and brush it onto a bronze casting, let it dry and brush it off. The result was about "Pantone 497".

bronze powder bronze plaque

Can anyone help me with a formula to make an equivalent powder?

Thank you so much, in advance.

James Jacobs
- Bristol, Avon, England

July 12, 2013

Q. Hi Mr Jacobs

We are a signmaker facing the same problem sourcing for the bronze powder used to tarnish brass.

May we know have you found another supplier other than Walsh?

Would appreciate it if you can share.

Thank you!

Christine Teh
- Singapore, Singapore

October 9, 2013

A. I am currently using ammonia to darken a brass piano leg caster and it appears to be working. I've only had it outside in a sealed bag for about 24 hours. It hasn't reached the desired darkness yet but seems to be getting there. The first thing I had to do was remove the lacquer finish. I bought some finger nail polish remover as it contains acetone but it did not remove the lacquer, only seemed to etch it slightly. Having used it however, did make it easier removing the lacquer with sand paper. Once that was done, I put some ammonia in a disposable plastic storage bowl, used the lid to hold the caster and placed both into a small plastic garbage bag which I tied shut. Don't expect immediate results for a dark color using this method.

Carolina Whitten
- Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Darkening a Brass Chandelier that has heavy Green Patina


February 1, 2014 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I just purchased an old chandelier which appears to be brass. It has a heavy patina on it and I would prefer a darker color.

Is there any way I can achieve this other than spray painting it?

Selena Norris
- Atlanta, Georgia

February 2014

A. Hi Selena. I find that to be quite an attractive chandelier and hate to see you mess with it. But the first thing to find out is whether it's actually brass. If it's magnetic, it's not brass, and is at best brass plated -- which probably will not stand up to the darkening chemistry. If it's not magnetic, it could of course be aluminum or zinc; but you may be able to sense whether it's aluminum just from the light weight. If you're pretty sure it's brass, then this thread has worthwhile ideas for you. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

How to darken brass without immersion

January 28, 2015

Q. Hello all,

I have learned so much from reading this thread! I would like to darken (to an almost black color) some brass lamps that I found. I have determined that they are in fact brass and have removed the clear coat on top using acetone and some scrubbing. I have looked into many of the brass darkening solutions on here, which would definitely work, but I would need a LOT of the solution to completely cover and soak each lamp as they are not small objects. I am wondering if it would still work if I used the solutions on a rag and rubbed the lamps or if there is some other technique for larger objects that I am not finding.



Abby Godfrey
- Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

January 31, 2015

Q. Hi. How can I remove a lacquered brass coating on a solid brass faucet that has a PVD coating? I have tried Acetone and lacquer thinner and now a spray paint stripper with no luck.

Heather Ezyk
- East Longmeadow

February 10, 2015

A. Good day Heather.

I have some experience with electrophoretic lacquers and the stripping of the coating. I used a stripper which contained methylene chloride (which strips epoxy) and formic acid. (Atotech/Aquatone PS 400).
This stripper "softens" the coating, requiring mechanical removal of the coating with a brush, in a bucket of water.
This stripper requires a "layer" of water on the surface to prevent evaporation of the methylene chloride.
Great care must be taken with the stripper, as the formic acid is EXTREMELY corrosive. A splash on exposed skin will produce a burn/blister instantly.(Formic acid is the chemical which fire ants produce!)
I strongly recommend the highest degree of personal protection(when using any corrosive chemical) as a full face shield,respirator, arms length gloves.
Any chemical can be dangerous, but with the proper PPE, you can minimize the risk.
I hope I didn't alarm you.
Best wishes.


Eric Bogner- Lab Tech.
Aerotek Mfg. Ltd. - Whitby, Ontario, Canada

February 10, 2015

A. Not to throw a wrench into your plans, but we PVD coat brass faucets on a regular basis and they are never lacquer coated. That is one of the great advantages of the coating -- it is pretty much a lifetime finish. You may be trying to strip the PVD coating off of the surface. I say this because PVD coatings are pretty much impervious to the chemicals you have used. PVD coatings can be stripped off, but it requires special chemicals in heated tanks in a properly vented facility. It is not done in situ. To add to the problem, you need a different chemical to strip a Ti-based PVD coating than you do for a Zr- or Cr-based PVD coating.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
PVD Consultant - San Diego, California

March 3, 2015

Q. I have 4 cast iron, brass plated steel piano stool claw feet, with glass balls. Two of which have been rubbed with Stripper X and steel wool. This has removed the dark black vintage patina and has exposed the brass which is shiny, and in some spots the silver steel is showing through. The other 2 feet have not been messed with.
My question is this: Is there any way to get the 2 feet that have been stripped to look like they did before they were messed with, so they match the other 2 feet that were not touched?
I have read through the posts in this thread and I'm wondering if the ammonia method in a plastic bag will work or is there something better?

Thanks in advance!

Wynnie Keegan
- Temecula, California USA

1198-5a  1198-5b
March 4, 2015

Q. Hi my name is Matthew. So the situation I am faced with is this. I am making a machined Alum holder to display my fathers three shells from his 21 gun salute. On this holder will be 4 engraved placards that will contain his information. I need these to be Black prefer flat black so that when they are engraved the brass coloring shows through. So my questions. Which material Brass, Bronze or Copper and what process? Originally I was going to have the alum holder anodized black but from what I can find out Brass cannot be anodized. So to keep everything looking the same will hopefully use the same process as the other metals for the aluminum.

Thanks for your help in advance,

Matthew R
just me lol - Arizona

March 2015

A. Hi Matthew. If you look at trophies you'll see that they are usually brass colored with engraved black lettering; high school rings will be gold on the raised areas and black in the recesses; jewelry too, and oil-rubbed items will be bright on the raised areas and dark in the recessed areas. This convention is because raised and exposed areas tend to wear and get shiny whereas recessed areas tend to retain their blackening and accumulate oxidation and dirt. For that reason I'd suggest that you entertain the possibility of perhaps making the placards brass colored with black engraving instead of the reverse. Further, it's hard to make different metals like brass and aluminum match by coloring them black or any other color because they have a different grain, texture, etc., and the colors will look different in different light (black anodizing is actually either very very dark blue or very very dark red). So I think you'll get a better match and more natural look with brass placards to match the shells -- but it's a matter of taste and I don't claim to have much.

The aluminum probably needs to be anodized and dyed black whereas the brass probably needs treatment with selenium dioxide as described in this thread. Good luck.


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

April 5, 2015

A. Wynnie and Matt, the solutions you seek are the same. The process is a chemical which turns the copper element in each of your metals from a light brown through to a dark black when used with heat. Then apply lacquer and wax. Matt, your process is to dip the brass plaques into our chemical till black then application of vinyl film (letter mask) you will then get letters etched at trophy shop.

Call us at BarrysRestoreItAll if you need more info.

Barry Feinman

Barry Feinman
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California

May 14, 2015

A. I might be a little late with the addition to this thread as I was researching something else and stumbled across this - I know that Bronzing Powders are short on supply but know that Access Chemicals Ltd in Tamworth, UK sell Brown Bronze Powder for "brush on" application as described above. It's a niche market and only a few manufacturers produce this product now. Apologies if this is of no use.

Richard Clarke
- Coalville, Leicestershire, UK

July 9, 2015

! I just stumbled onto this page through a google search and this may be way outdated but I found so much great information on here. I am working with Bronze and Brass sheet metal and tried some of these tips to get the right finish and found the Liver to work best. I thought I'd pass on a tip: I purchase my raw metals from a local company with good pricing and real nice people to deal with, Widener Metals in PA. I just wanted to try to return the favor. Thanks guys for the tips!

Thomas Tingle
- Levittown, Pennsylvania

July 2015

thumbs up signHi Thomas. Thanks. We'll have to see how it goes since commercial testimonials on this no-registration-required, largely anonymous, site often go south very quickly :-(


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

July 12, 2015

A. I ran out of the chemicals I've used to do this in the past. Came across this thread while searching for a household solution to the problem. Couldn't find what I was looking for so I started experimenting. I quickly discovered that a mixture of hydrogen peroxide & white vinegar works great! My hinges have been soaking about an hour now and look better than the ones I've done before. Keep in mind, these were raw brass, it won't work if they're lacquered.

A. Desiderio
- Downingtown, Pennsylvania USA

August 25, 2015

Q. I have 2 copper sinks in a bathroom and one, being used more than the other, has lost a lot of it antique brown finish. Will the Palmolive dish soap technique work on this or should I go with something else? Also, once I get the color finish I want, how do I keep it since both sinks are used on a daily basis?

Thank you!

Gail Hyfantis
- Seymour, Tennessee, USA

October 16, 2015

A. Gail, great questions. The patina created on copper sinks is beautiful but fragile. Harsh chemicals and abrasive scrubbing will remove this finish.

A repair kit which we created to resolve issues like yours will quickly restore your beautiful finish. We also give you a hardy brown wax which will help protect your finishes. Frequent application of our wax will keep it looking its best. A call to our offices and we will help anyone with solutions for copper, bronze. and stainless steel

Barry Feinman

Barry Feinman
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California

December 11, 2015

Q. Hey
I have a statue made up of brass. I want to turn this into golden colour with glossy appearance. Which wax and lacquer I should use? Please suggest. Thanks.

Swanand Ghule
- kolhapur maharashtra India

How to make liver of sulphur to blacken brass

February 6, 2016

Q. Hi, I live in Iran and I have a small job in plating and patina. I need to blacken brass and copper but I can't find liver of sulphur here. Can I make by myself or use another solution as well as that. I will be so glad if you help me.

Amir goudarzi
- Iran tehran

February 2016

A. Hello cousin Amir. Try enclosing the item is a plastic bag with a crushed hard boiled egg, and tell us what happens. Thanks.


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

February 9, 2016

A. Try next download free metals colouring and cyanide free plating handbook( 0 $!):

Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb,Croatia

July 25, 2018

Q. Hi along these lines, I just had some medals cast in bronze and they are much lighter than my other medals which look aged and dark brown. Does Palmolive darken bronze too? Thanks!

Jean Mark
- Sacramento, California USA

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