Plain metals can be really lovely. High shine on a new ring, being the first to put a scratch on a piece is kind of exciting.
Over my years designing , I have found that I am naturally drawn to things with patina. Though I will fully admit that seeing copper shining like the sun when I walked into the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, AZ, really drew me like a fly to honey. My first real passion is antiquities. I am fascinated by ancient jewelry.
Seeing something with character and age, not only romances me but instantly makes me want to buy it.
I didn't oxidize my first pieces. I have been a wire artisan for a long time but it wasn't until halfway into my journey as a wire artisan, that I started oxidizing my work. I quickly realized that it not only added depth to my pieces but also gave it a higher level of professionalism.
I worked high end retail for 8 years. I had the benefit of watching customers on a day to day basis react to the different techniques of different designers. The pieces that sold the most, were the pieces that had oxidized finishes.
If the jewelry had a brushed finish with no oxidization .... it sat in the case and never found a forever home. Sad but true.
There is a permanence, a sense of weight and longevity that comes with oxidizing a piece of jewelry. The chemical reaction of the metal has a richness that can take an average looking piece and instantly turn it into something truly spectacular. If you have done a lot of weaving or swirling with wire, oxidizing adds multiple dimensions and really brings out the level of craftsmanship in your jewelry. It can also disguise imperfections, though those imperfections are what make it uniquely handmade.
Silver is easy enough to oxidize. I used the boiled egg technique on most of my silverwork. For my copper work, however, I found that a liver of sulphur solution works more efficiently. If you are a beginning wire artisan, you can find oxidized copper wire in different shops on Etsy but I warn you that working with pre oxidized metal is rather messy. Doing it after you have completed your project, gives you the freedom to keep your hands clean until the last minute and gives you the option of highlighting the areas that you really want highlighted on your work.
No matter what the finish, a beautiful piece of jewelry is beautiful but if you are new to the craft, I challenge you to take your designs to the next level and oxidize your work. I feel safe saying that you will be pleased with the effect and so will your customers.
Sonny, Sonseeahray Hodge, has been designing and creating jewelry for 15 years. Her work has been featured in galleries around the Saint Louis metropolitan area. She has designed wire pendants for Diane Katzman Jewlery that have been sold in Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Anthropology. For five years she had her own line, "Embellishment Queen" , that was sold at the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis and on Etsy. She was a proud member of the Etsy Wire Artisans Guild and the Wire Goddess teams.
She now resides in Tempe, AZ and creates exclusively for Gemstones Loose Inc.