Playing With Fire – Heat Treated & Oxidized Chain Mail
The last couple of weeks I’ve been looking at ways to play with metal itself as well as design and I’ve been very fortunate in that a fellow jewellery designer is both willing and able to heat treat some of my finished chains.
The above example is a Jens Pind Linkage 3 chain made from 316L stainless steel and as you can see, there’s quite an array of possible colours – my photo doesn’t really do it justice as there’s some gorgeous blues and purples that don’t quite show, but that’s the result of essentially cooking the chain in a fire furnace. The different colours are a result of the metal reaching different temepratures; some of them quite matte and rustic looking, others almost glossy.
These two European weave bracelets were subjected to the same treatment – the first one is a heavier gauge European 4-1 in 316L stainless steel, and you can see that the clours are quite similar to the JPL. The second one is a European 6-1 weave in 304L stainless steel, and while the colours are similar, I think there’s a notable difference in the lustre, particularly in the darker colours.
I also decided to experiment with oxidizing copper after reading it could be done with boiled eggs (due to the sulphur in the yolk). I decided to use the byzantine bracelet I posted last time, which originally was quite bright.
To treat this chain, I hardboiled two eggs and, as soon as they were out of the water, placed them in an airtight plastic bag (ziplock or press-seal, depending on where you live). I didn’t bother taking the shells off, and it doesn’t really make any difference if you do, but I quickly realised that it’s wiser to as once they’re in the bags the eggs need to be crushed up quite well and the sharp points actually tore holes in the plastic (which I only noticed when crushed egg started oozing out on to the floor).
So, once safely sealed in a new bag, I tossed in the bracelet. The article I read said half an hour would do, but there was absolutely no discernable difference in colour after only that long, and even after an hour I could only see tiny spots where the copper had started to darken.
I periodically tossed it around and turned it over for about 3 hours in total in order to make sure that the eventual colour change was even, and this is what I ended up with.
Not really a huge difference, but a noticable one none the less. I suspect that it would gradually get darker the longer it’s left exposed, but I don’t know if more eggs to start with would have made the process faster, or whether fresher or older eggs are more effective (mine were a little past their use-by date, but definitely not spoilt). Of course, this was covered in small globs of cooked egg when I took it out of the bag, and was a bit of a pain to get clean, but still a worthwhile experiment and a handy alternative using something just about everyone has at hand.