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The Beauty of Patina: Understanding Its Natural Process and Unique Characteristics

So, what is patina? It's a word I use quite frequently when talking about brass jewellery, but it's not one that crops up in a typical average-day conversation that often!


I first came across it when working for Willow and Stone who specialise in authentic period ironmongery (doorknobs and fittings), as brass is a traditional - and incredibly hard wearing, not to mention beautiful - material for ironmongery.


It's there that I learnt how to care for this unique metal, and grew my love for its characterful finish, or living finish as they so perfectly described it - a process that is ever evolving and maturing.



brass birch leaf showing aging and patina


But what actually is patina?


It's the chemical reaction on the surface of the metal (also bronze, copper, etc) when it comes into contact with oxygen. The oxidation creates a thin surface layer which deepens over time.


This patina can be left on the metal, enhancing the appearance and any fine lines and details, or it can easily be removed with polish (see my blog post here for an easy how-to).


I love this versatility - you don't have to pick one finish over the other - you get to enjoy both, and it's so low maintenance (zero if you only want the patina!). It's not an arduous task to clean, and in fact, it's something I take great pleasure in. Watching the patina lift to reveal the gleaming brass underneath still brings me joy, after years of lovingly caring for my brass jewellery (and cabinet & doorknobs!).


The Miriam-Webster dictionary describe patina as : "a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use".


Perfectly put as far as I'm concerned!



brass birch leaves showing the difference in appearance between polished and tarnished finishes
Polished Brass birch leaf (left) with brass leaf showing a light patina (right)





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