If you react poorly to most metals, consider testing out titanium jewellery. As a metal, titanium is incredibly strong and resistant to most damage prone to jewellery. It’s hypoallergenic, making it the preferred metal of almost all piercers. If you’ve had something pierced by a professional, they’ve likely used titanium jewellery since it’s strong, stones won’t loosen up, and clients are less likely to react to it.
For jewellery makers, working with titanium really showcases their skills as artists and metalsmiths. When treated correctly, titanium creates an array of colours and patterns. This is created through oxidization and light absorption technique referred to as anodization. The results can create bright yellows, vibrant greens, violet hues, and dark blues. Artina’s wanted to take some time explaining how artists like Jean Yves Nantel create their jewellery.
Forging Titanium Jewellery
Working with titanium is much different than other metals commonly used in jewellery. When sawing the material, the artist must use light strokes, only increasing pressure when the blade is secure. The titanium can either be forged between 650-950°C (1200-1740°F) or worked on cold.
Also Read: About Glass Jewellery Artist Minori Tagaki
There are two ways an artist prepares their titanium. The first way is to dip the titanium in a 2 percent hydrofluoric acid solution, then rinse it well in running water. It’s then dipped into a pickling formula like Sparex to prevent spotting.
The second method requires the artist to mix concentrated nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, lactic acid, and distilled water in a well-ventilated area. Using plastic tweezers, the artist dips the titanium into the solution and then immediately dips it into the concentrated nitric acid.
How To Make Different Colours of Titanium Jewellery - Anodization
Most metals may change colour over time. However, colour-treated titanium is stable and will not fade or change colour. This allows jewellery designers to intentionally colour metal as desired without the design changing over time.
Artists use an electrical current bath called an electrolyte to achieve the desired colours. This means that there is no chemical treatment for anodization– it’s done entirely through electrical currents. The artist uses the controlled current on a reactive metal like titanium or niobium. As the metal processes, the artist dips the piece into soapy water and washes residue away with a sponge or brush.
Depending on what colour the artist is trying to achieve, they change the voltage to create various colours:
- 10 volts for brown
- 16 volts for yellow
- 22 volts for dark blue
- 27 volts for bright blue
- 58 volts for violet
- 70 volts for bluish-green
If the piece uses more than one colour, the artist first uses the lowest voltage and then insulates the area as desired before increasing the voltage. This process can also be done in reverse but requires the artist to use sandblasting to remove the remaining colour.
During this process, the metal creates a transparent oxide layer. The higher the voltage, the thicker the oxide layer. Since this process is done through light absorption and not dyes, the jewellery creates this unique “bubble” or oil-spill colouring. This is something that can only be achieved through anodization techniques.
Benefits of Titanium Jewellery
Titanium jewellery is an amazing solution if you’re allergic to nickel or have bad reactions to other metals. Titanium is hypoallergenic, it will not discolour (goodbye green fingers!) or irritate the skin. It’s strong, durable, and resistant to corrosion even against salt and oxygen. More importantly, titanium is affordable and can be worked into various designs and stone settings.
These characteristics make titanium perfect for medical-grade equipment since it’s stronger than stainless steel. Although titanium has incredible strength, it’s incredibly flexible when treated and super lightweight, making it ideal for designers and jewellery lovers alike.
Benefits of Anodization
Just like untreated titanium, anodized titanium is stable. Anodized jewellery is not affected by sunlight and will not fade. More importantly, the colours will not peel off, however, the oxide layer with colour can scratch if not properly taken care of. Anodizing titanium is non-toxic and completely safe for artists to do. There are a number of different unique patterns and shades artists can create using this technique.
Also See: Anodized Aluminum Jewellery by JR Franco
Caring for Anodized Jewellery
Anodized jewellery requires special care. The oxide film layer on your jewellery can easily scratch off, which can remove its colour. This technique is suitable for most types of jewellery but rings will scratch easily.
Before handling your jewellery, make sure your hands are clean and free of lotions, sprays, or perfumes. If you do wear these products, make sure to clean your hands before handling your jewellery and put your anodized piece on last.
Clean your jewellery with warm soapy water and dry completely with a paper towel.
Also Read: How To Clean Jewellery At Home