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New Handmade Bronze Jewellery Findings

I  became intrigued with bronze a few weeks ago and decided to try using it to make some findings and bangles as a change from copper. Bronze is widely available in the UK but you do have to search a bit for the thicker gauges if that's what you're after. I found a lot of the thinner gauges at wires.co.uk for reasonable prices although it is more expensive than copper.

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin but is also mixed with other materials like phosphor, zinc, aluminium and silicon which alters it's properties depending on what the bronze is to be used for. I think the bronze I have is phosphor bronze and I did expect it to behave very much like copper when heated. It does behave a lot like copper but it does have it's quirks too.......

Quirk #1  When you form a ball on the end of the bronze wire the heat causes the copper content to rise to the surface giving you in effect a copper ball end.


The first photo shows the bronze wire straight after forming the {copper} balls and the second photo shows the headpins after oxidizing and cleaning up with the return of nice bronze balls!

Pickling didn't make any difference to the balls and I found the only way to get rid of the copper was to scrub the ball vigorously with wire wool or a brass brush which is a bit too time consuming. The copper did disappear on the ball ends after the wire was oxidized in LOS and cleaned with wire wool though which was very handy {and a bit strange}.

Quirk #2  I had planned on making a shiny version of the ball end bronze findings but the ball and the wire near it doesn't clean up well after heating to form the ball as mentioned above so I didn't manage to get a lovely shiny version.

Quirke #3  The oxidized effect from using LOS doesn't seem to "stick" as well to bronze as it does to copper and therefore it only needs a quick 10 minutes in the tumbler to polish it up a bit. Otherwise you end up with oxidized bronze findings that are just too bright!

Quirk #4  The LOS seems to effect the bronze differently depending on whether the bronze wire was heated or not. The finished oxidized versions of the ball end earwires and the hoop earwires {where I used the wire without heating it in any way} are completely different. The ball end version has a darker finish and hints of purple whereas the unheated hoop version is fairly uniform in colour and a golden brown tone...


The ball end earwires were pickled clean before oxidizing but the surface colour was changed by heating which effected the end results of using the LOS. It looks like the copper rises to the surface when the bronze is heated. I should imagine heat patina-ing the bronze would be quite successful {haven't tried that yet}.
I'll be listing my bronze findings in my Etsy shop over the next week or so.

Bronze v Copper

The main differences I found between copper and bronze is that bronze is harder and has a lower melting temperature. It doesn't take as much heat to solder as copper which is a good thing. 
Looking at my photos the oxidized bronze looks very similar to oxidized copper but when you put the two side by side you can see the bronze is more golden brown compared to the red brown of copper.

I've made a few bronze bangles in 7g, 9g and 12g {3.5mm, 3.0mm and 2.0mm} which turned out fine. Working out how long to tumble them after oxidizing so they didn't come out too light took a couple of attempts though! I also have some bronze sheet that I will be experimenting with soon - probably some etching and also having a go at creating a heat patina. 
Stay tuned!


Comments

  1. I have always seen bronze artifacts only in a shiny golden yellow color and seeing them in red is new for me (even though I know that bronze contains copper). its interesting

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  2. Nice work with the bronze Tracy. I love the warm brown tone of this metal.

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  3. Hi Tracy. I had the same problem with my bronze and had to sand it back quite violently to get the bronze colour back, which was so annoying as I lost some of my texture that way.
    But I found GIsela Kati has a solution: It's a pickle after you pickle (!) Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Really does do the trick if you want a shiny version of your headpins.
    http://giselakati.com/blog/2012/06/14/tip-17-using-super-pickle-taking-of-those-copper-spots-of-your-brass-and-bronze/

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Nana Louise! I'm going to try this as soon as I get some hydrogen peroxide.
      I'm in the middle of using some etched bronze sheet to make earrings and at the moment they are decidedly copper in hue after soldering :D

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  4. Bronze has such a unique colour. Love what you are doing with it!
    Heather :)

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  5. Great work :) I wanted to try working with bronze for quite some time ( because I love its colour ) but I couldn't find a bronze sheet anywhere (well, there are some, but really thin ) I wonder, did you see a bronze sheet in something like 0.5mm anywhere for sale?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment Kasia. I know what you mean about bronze sheet being hard to find. I bought some recently here -
      https://maccmodels.co.uk/materials-metal/phosphor-bronze-sections/phosphor-bronze-sheet.html.

      It does become plated in copper when you heat it though so you'll need to follow the tip given by Nana Louise above to clean it up!

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  6. This is great. I like the bronze look.

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