AH.....sweet gingerbread. Time was, I had the absolute motherlode of the old French stuff.
This kitty sneaking cream from a cup is a lovely example. I sold most of my stash at Ebay and have only the remotest amount of exceptional pieces left in a mini-collection of goodies I saved, just for me.
Wanna see some more? Here you go.... oh I DID love this stamping. Actually I think it was made in the US...but not any longer.
Here is a bracelet I once made by manipulating it:
The wrap was so tight, it was as if someone had soldered it shut. Maybe it gives YOU some ideas!
At one time, I only ever had ONE of the following stampings:
You'll probably recognize the flying bird at the top.....we carry it now in a number of finishes. That's because someone out there found the die a few years back, and refurbished it. Now we can enjoy it again.
or in brass ox:
How did these old pieces pick up such patina?
First of all, they were many times made with what is called 'red brass'. Red brass has a higher copper content. Often, too, they were guilding weight. You know those pieces: they are thick, the stamping very deep, and often flat on the back with a guilloche grid, or wheel-turned pattern on them.
High copper content brass deepens beautifully given a bit of time. Also, in time the machine oil from the old dies that produced them settled down into the cracks and crevices of the stampings and darkened even more. This creates the dimension and 'self-antiquing' familiar with the pieces. The rich ruddy color comes from dark, dank storage conditions as well as the high copper in the brass. A bit of verdigris would often arise, as well, from the same over- humid, dark conditions.
It's not as easy as once it was to find deep old stashes of this marvelous material at low prices. Really though.....unless you are just totally in love with a 'certain' old piece, you don't have to wait for time to do its job OR to find the vintage pieces.
You can get this look yourself in less than a couple of hours, in your own home.
First, make a solution of dark vinegar and salt, about five parts vinegar to one of the salt.
Use a large shallow glass baking pan. Degrease your raw brass by washing in hot soapy water and drying THOROUGHLY. ( at B'sue Boutiques we sell RICH LOW BRASS, which is better, actually. than red brass--on several levels. It works fine to make gingerbread patina brass, too.)
Place your brass pieces in the solution, being careful not to overlap or let anything touch together. Be sure the solution COMPLETELY covers every part of your PERFECTLY DEGREASED BRASS.
Soak for at least an hour.
Take out of the bath and put on a metal baking sheet and bake 450 degree oven for an hour or til you like how they look. Sometimes I spray the sheet with PAM, a little oil gets up into the brass as it bakes and helps it 'take'. You can do that or not....up to you.
Take the pieces out of the oven, swish in the solution and bake again for another thirty minutes if you want a deeper color.
Remove from the oven, swish in the solution while hot with a tongs, don't touch them! Metal is hot! and then let them dry on two-three layers of wax paper. This will achieve the beautiful blue-green patina.
If you don't want the verdigris, don't swish them in the solution again after the final bake.
After they cool or achieve the verdigris (sometimes you have to let them set overnight) then you can take them and buff them out, enhance with inks, acrylics, Gilder's Paste, whatever you like. Seal the finish with Renaissance Wax or Krylon Matte Spray lacquer (sometimes I do both....this all goes to experimentation).
Here are some of the pieces that I produced from stock RAW brass sold at B'sue Boutiques
This was a brooch I made by manipulating pieces of gingerbread brass I had patina'd....and adding a vintage kitty cat image under a piece of mica sheet:
We still carry the piece from the photo just below and many like it....look at the toasty hue without verdigris I achieved after about an hour in the oven:
Again, I have to stress that all this work must be sealed after you do the patina. Otherwise you will find it is transient and will lighten, especially in the case of the very last piece I showed you. On the others, which are so very dark, not so much. Still a sealing is in order.
One way to buff out your brass to a glow before a fast Renwax sealing is with an old piece of denim. The roughness of the old material makes it a perfect buffing cloth in a case like this....
You don't need to think that you'll be all day long messing around with one piece, either. I used to have 2-3 shallow 13x9 glass baking pans with solution and brass going all at once, and I'd bake them in batches just as I did cookies.
I experimented and played and had an entirely joyful time.
I'm wishing the same for you!
And if you need raw brass to play with, we have an ever-increasing stock of it.
It's fabulous on filigree, too!
Rich low raw brass is the BEST to use to achieve a personal look to your artisan designed pieces. You can get color, patina, texture in so many ways on plain brass that has not been plated.
I believe that the oven method is also one of the best and most authentic to get vintage verdigris and darkening on brass. Please note, however: you MUST be sure to degrease the brass first, if you want good results.
And, you cannot expect the same result even on two pieces of the same style of brass, every time. That's why it's so authentic; the old pieces never patina'd exactly the same, either.