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What is Patina and How it is Used with Bronze Sculptures

Most of the bronze statues we create at Randolph Rose have patina. It’s used to accentuate pieces, provide contrast, imply age, introduce color to the bronze, and sometimes to add a dose of reality to our detailed statues.

If you’ve seen any of our pieces in person or on our website, you’ve seen patina. You may just not be familiar with the term and meaning behind it.

What is Patina?

Patina refers to a natural oxidation process common in some metals when they are exposed to air and water. It is common in bronze and copper. However, rust on steel is a type of patina. So is tarnish on silver.

Oxygen and water molecules react with the metal and form a layer of corrosion that discolors the metal. Think of the Statue of Liberty. This statue is clad in copper sheets, but its long exposure to the air and water has corroded the copper, giving it the statue’s iconic green color. That green color is patina, therefore the Statue of Liberty is the perfect example of a beautiful patina statue. 

Achieving Patina on Bronze Sculptures

In an artistic sense, you can think of patina as anything applied to or done to the surface of a metal to alter its color and appearance. This can be a forced chemical reaction, a varnish, and even gilding.

The same general process behind the formation of patina can be used for creative effect. While the Statue of Liberty may have taken years—even decades—to form its patina, a sculptor can replicate and accelerate the patina process to add various colors to the bronze. The processes we use, however, creates patina in a fraction of the time it would take to appear naturally.

The native color of a high-quality bronze is gold. Artisans use different chemicals and processes to introduce variations of color. Bronze statues are frequently seen in a deep brown color. For instance, the Davy Crockett Custom Bronze Statue from our collection appears with a dark patina. For this desired color result, a sculptor or artist might apply heat and Potash (also known as Liver of Sulfur) to the bronze.

Since bronze is composed of copper, many of our statues come with the green-blue patina that naturally forms on copper. The Greco Roman Vintage Putto and Fish Fountain shows a green patina, which gives it a natural, aged appearance. To achieve this color, our craftspeople apply Cupric Nitrate.

There are many combinations of chemicals, heat, and cold that can result in beautiful colors and finishes on bronze.  Patinas can also be applied in layers to accomplish a beautiful assortment of interesting artistic effects.

Creating a beautiful patina on bronze is a craft that requires an understanding of how bronze ages, the various chemicals used for patina, how the surface of it is finished, and a skilled hand. Some might say it is becoming a lost art. We at Randolph Rose pride ourselves on masterful bronze patina statues.