Sealing and Protecting Your Work
by Susan LeGuyader
So, you've worked very hard and your work. It is the perfectly finished, filed, sanded and polished, how do you protect the metal from oxidation?
That is the question for the ages, jewelry ages anyway. How do we seal and protect our work from oxidation? From moisture? From UV rays and fading colors? There are lots of options out there and I would like to discuss what I've learned. I don't know any solution that lasts forever, well, if you don't wear the jewelry, it might last a long time. Every sealant will wear off in time, if the jewelry is worn continuously.
Different metals and finishes have different needs to protect it. Copper is highly prone to oxidation. It can turn skin green, reacting to the acids in our sweat. Copper will change color in hot sunlight, in presence of regular water or salt water, worn against the skin. I think one of the biggest bummers about sealing the rich colors brought about by the torch, is that sealing them will dull the colors or change them.
One of the common and frequently used sealers in the jewelry industry is Renaissance Wax. Ren Wax is a micro-crystalline was polish. It does not leave a residue and leaves a clear coat. It is petroleum based and it does smell bad. You need to use a mask and gloves. To use Ren Wax, you clean the metal, rub it on. Allow it to dry and then buff to a gloss finish with a clean rag
Susan LeGuyader's Sealing and Protecting Your Work - , General Education, Filing, Finishing, sealing and protecting jewelry
You can also use a product called Protectaclear. It comes in liquid and spray options. Typically, you dip your finished piece in and allow to dry. The spray option is similar, as you suspend your piece and spray multiple light coats, allowing too dry in between coats. This sealant dries clear and is safe to use on almost any metal. It is scratch resistant and dries quickly within one hour and environmental safe. This product is a bit expensive but can be worth the investment.
Susan LeGuyader's Sealing and Protecting Your Work - , General Education, Filing, Finishing, sealing and protecting jewelry
If you are at the craft store or the hardware store, you can pick up a spray can of matte, clear or glossy sealant by Krylon. Suspend your work, spray in light and quick coats. Allow to dry in between coats. This product is UV-Resistant and scratch resistant. This product is used lot for multi-media pieces, as it is safe to use on paper and other porous materials. This is an acrylic product.
Susan LeGuyader's Sealing and Protecting Your Work - , General Education, Filing, Finishing, sealing and protecting jewelry
Another craft store sealant available is Modge Podge. This product now comes in spray form as well, with multiple finishes. Great on multi-media pieces, compatible with wood, paper, plastic, fabric, and metal. It can be sanded for a smooth finish, cleans up easily with soap and water, and is certified AP non-toxic and water-based.
Susan LeGuyader's Sealing and Protecting Your Work - , General Education, Filing, Finishing, sealing and protecting jewelry
One option that I use on copper and other metal pieces that get a lot of wear, such as a ring or a bracelet, is clear fingernail polish. Yep, I said it... fingernail polish. Easy to apply, most everyone has a bottle at home, it is quick and fairly durable protection for rings or even earrings.
Susan LeGuyader's Sealing and Protecting Your Work - , General Education, Filing, Finishing, sealing and protecting jewelry
While searching on professional jewelry sites, I did find "professional" grade sealers, such as Midas Finish Seal Lacquer. This product is a water-based acrylic lacquer that is clear, hard and abrasion-resistant. From reading reviews, patience is required to get a good result. However, this too will wear off with frequently worn pieces of jewelry.
Susan LeGuyader's Sealing and Protecting Your Work - , General Education, Filing, Finishing, sealing and protecting jewelry
From all of my research, there is no full, long-term sealant for metal. If it is worn, it will eventually wear off. Silver will tarnish, copper will oxidize, and beautiful color will fade.

For me, I work with a lot of copper and I choose not to seal it. To me, copper is one of those metals that only gets prettier with time. Of course, that 's just my preference.

Of course, there are anti-tarnish tabs or strips that you can provide for your customers to store with their jewelry. These are available from multiple retailers and are a nice thing to include with packaging. Anti-tarnish products protect silver, nickel, copper, bronze, base, tin and gold! To use, simply place a strip or tab near polished metal in an enclosed area, such as jewelry cases, storage bags or boxes. Anti-tarnish strips & tabs have approximate 2 year shelf life after it's put into service.

Do remember, when using most of the above protectants, safety rules apply. Well-ventilated areas, masks and gloves are needed.
Susan LeGuyader's Sealing and Protecting Your Work - , General Education, Filing, Finishing, sealing and protecting jewelry

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  • Category: General Education
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