The Studio – Jewelry Blog by Rio Grande

Creating & Coloring Jewelry with Reactive Metals and Anodizing

Apr 7, 2014
No Comments
anodizedbracelet

Anodizing is a simple and fun way to add color to your niobium work. What, you don't work in niobium?? Why not? Niobium is hypoallergenic and naturally silver-gray with an extraordinary capacity to take on color using nothing more than a micro anodizer and a cup of electrolyte.

anodized bracelet

Ashli Brooke Taylor designed this deliciously colorful bracelet. Click on the image to get step-by-step instructions for making your own!

Unlike silver and other metals we are more accustomed to working with (where color is physically applied through enamels, resins, pastes, e-coating etc.), niobium forms an oxide layer on its surface that translates as a color that can be controlled. No color added. These colors cover the entire spectrum of the rainbow and can be very bright. Working with this material does pose a few challenges but it offers such a large—and colorful—reward for your effort.

Niobium is very malleable and can be formed and manipulated easily. Although soft and easy to shape, it will hold its form. Niobium can easily be rolled in a rolling mill with pattern plates, manipulated in a Bonny Doon hydraulic press, or simply forged with a hammer from flat stock. Niobium cannot be soldered and needs to be welded. Cold connections are typically the easiest way to connect this metal to itself and other materials.

anodizing kit

Rio Grande's Anodizing Kit

When I created the niobium bracelet above, I wanted to control the color and use very subtle forming techniques. The pieces were cut out using a bench shear, then hand shaped and filed. When you're working with niobium it is important to use separate finishing tools such as files, sandpapers and buffs. Particles from silver and other metals transferred from tools can become embedded into the surface of the niobium, causing those areas not to anodize. After cutting and filing my shapes I used the Durston Cupolas, one of my favorite dapping tools, to provide a nice shallow curve to the pieces. Once the pieces were shaped the way I imagined, I laid them out and cut holes into them using the riveting system. Then I smoothed the edges and holes with radial bristle discs on a polishing motor.

Anodizing or coloring niobium is usually the last step when working with the material. In order to anodize you will need the following:

Before anodizing you will need to finish the piece by either polishing or texturing the metal. Coarse Scotch-Brite works great on niobium. Sanding in different directions, or having both polished and textured areas on a piece of niobium allows the colors to reflect differently, appearing to turn off and on as the angle of the light changes.

Now it's time to anodize. Before anodizing, it's very helpful to consult a color chart. Each voltage gives the niobium a specific color; by having a chart on hand, you can plan which colors you want to use on your piece. One typically anodizes the metal after forming it; however, sometimes anodizing a piece of sheet metal before forming can result in some very unique color combinations. In the following video Bill Seeley gives a great demonstration of how to anodize reactive metals:

Niobium is an awesome hypoallergenic, tarnish-resistant, lustrous gray metal that can be transformed easily and anodized in brilliant colors. Give Rio Grande a call today and see how anodized niobium can benefit your work! Want to learn more about this unique process? Visit the Niobium and Titanium landing page presented by Rio Grande and Reactive Metals Studio. Also, be sure to check out Rio's Niobium & Titanium Jewelry board on Pinterest for more inspiring examples of this technique!

Learn-with-Rio

Comment on this article

What’s New? Jewelry News on Rio Grande’s Twitter Page

Mar 17, 2014
No Comments
Amy Cliser
Posted by
twitter

Did you know that every day of the week, Rio Grande’s Twitter page is abuzz with jewelry industry news and Rio Grande updates? Your life is busy, so we want to make it simple for you to find interesting and relevant information in ONE place. Our Twitter feed delivers up-to-date news on the jewelry world and on the hottest Rio Grande products.

...Read the Rest

Business Savvy: Ten Steps to Facebook Success for Jewelers

Feb 27, 2014
3 Comments
Nina Cooper
Posted by

Social media holds many opportunities for promoting your jewelry business, but where do you begin? One effective—and manageable—place to start is to create a business page on Facebook. Millions of people post, like, share, make buying decisions, and see your images and posts on Facebook. Here’s how to gather your own fan base on Facebook, from start to finish.

...Read the Rest

Business Know-How with Marlene Richey: Doing a Jewelry Trade Show—It’s Show Time!

Feb 20, 2014
No Comments
Marlene Richey
Posted by
bree

In Marlene Richey’s first two posts on “Doing a Show,” she helped you apply, be accepted to, and prepare for your first jewelry trade show. In today’s post, she shares the nitty gritty on what you can expect at the show Itself—it’s show time!. Marlene has the experience and wisdom to break it down for you! Grab a notebook and get ready to take some notes and then knock some socks off at your first (or your next) big show!

...Read the Rest

Rio Grande’s Secure Jewelry Displays: Protect your Investment!

Feb 14, 2014
No Comments
Amy Cliser
Posted by
ringcase

We know it happens. You make beautiful jewelry, and lots of people want it. But not everyone wants to pay for it, so you have to protect it. Fortunately, theft is preventable and Rio Grande carries a number of displays that lock down your treasures in one way or another.

...Read the Rest

Enameling 102: Kiln Firing vs. Torch Firing

Feb 5, 2014
No Comments
MariaElena Baca
Posted by
enamel

In part two of The Studio’s enameling series, MariaElena Baca sheds light on the choice between using a kiln or a torch to fire your enameled pieces. What are the differences between these two enameling methods? What criteria should you use to decide which method is best for you? Enameling 102 covers these questions and more. Come take a look and consider expanding your skills by taking an upcoming enameling class with the incomparable Ronda Coryell!

...Read the Rest

Business Know-How with Marlene Richey: Doing a Jewelry Trade Show—You’ve Been Accepted, Now Prepare!

Jan 16, 2014
No Comments
Marlene Richey
Posted by

In Part Two of Marlene Richey’s multi-part series on “Doing a Show,” she helps you prepare for your first big wholesale or retail show! Good preparation is key to a great outcome and Marlene has the experience and wisdom to break it down for you! Grab a notebook and get ready to take some notes and then knock some socks off at your first (or your next) big show!

...Read the Rest

Video How-To with Mark Nelson: Creating Texture with Gilding and Reticulation

Jan 9, 2014
No Comments
Molly Therese Bell

Reticulation is a technique that presents a beautifully patterned surface finish, which lends itself well to a wide variety of jewelry designs. Eager to experiment with reticulation? Today The Studio features a how-to video, in which Mark Nelson demonstrates ways to use this technique to achieve unexpected and wonderful texture.

...Read the Rest

Look at What You Can Do with Bonny Doon Hydraulic Metal Forming!

Jan 8, 2014
No Comments
Shelby Chant
Posted by

Ashli Brooke Taylor created her Baroque-inspired Copper Pendant using the Bonny Doon hydraulic press. This innovative and powerful tool allowed her to direct all hydraulic energy on the design rather than expending her own physical energy on forming the metal with a hammer. After you see Ashli’s beautiful results, you’ll be asking yourself what YOU can do with a Bonny Doon!

...Read the Rest

Year in Review: Jewelry-Making Videos Are Worth a Thousand Words

Jan 2, 2014
No Comments
Yvonne M. Padilla

If you’re a regular reader of The Studio, then you know that we’ve featured dozens of videos over the years. But did you know that all of these videos (and hundreds more!) are on Rio Grande’s YouTube channel? Since 2009, our dedicated in-house video production team has scripted, directed, filmed, edited, and uploaded new, fun, and highly informative jewelry-making videos for you, our customer, to Rio’s channel. In 2013, we added more than 100 videos and reached the 5 million views mark! See a few of our favorites on The Studio today.

...Read the Rest