5 Ways to Make Dark Jewelry
Written by Annabelle
October 11, 2019
As part of our month-long Halloween celebration, we're featuring spooky jewelry articles every Friday! This week we're taking a look into dark jewelry- the latest jewelry trend that's appealing to everyone's inner goth aesthetic.
You may be wondering how designers are making dark jewelry. Is it the metal itself? Is there some kind of paint or coating? Learn more about how it works here.
What is Dark Jewelry?
You've probably seen pieces online that are pitch black or dark gray in color. Whether it's a stainless steel ring or a luxury engagement ring, the coloration of these items is noticeably striking.
However, not all of them are created the same way. There are different ways to create dark jewelry depending on the base metal of the item; we've created a list below.
Oxidation is a naturally occurring process that darkens the surface of a metal after long-term exposure to chemicals in the air. The chemicals react with the metal, forming a colored film called an “oxide.” This is also referred to as tarnishing.
While oxidation is usually undesirable, some designers have artificially created oxidized pieces in order to achieve certain aesthetics with their pieces. Sterling silver is best known for having a wonderful, gunmetal color oxidation that really helps to make stones “pop.”
It should be noted, however, that oxidation only affects the surface of the jewelry. If you take your pieces to a jeweler make sure to check and see if they can redo the oxidation, otherwise the color of your piece will dramatically change back to a bright and silvery finish.
Enamel is a hard jewelry paint-like substance that has been used for centuries. Traditional enamel is made from powdered glass, which is then melted and fused to the top of the metal in order to create a colorful appearance. It's normally used for detailing purposes instead of coating an entire ring, but some designers like Hidalgo use enamel all around the ring for a striking effect.
We personally love Victorian mourning jewelry for its somber black enamel; these pieces were created for wear when families and loved ones spent more than a year (or even their whole lifetime!) in mourning. As they were not allowed to wear bright colors, this jewelry was considered suitable for the occasion.
3. Black Rhodium
Black rhodium is the hot new trend for making dark jewelry! Rhodium is a precious metal that is commonly used to treat white gold; in its natural form it's a beautiful silvery white color. Black rhodium, on the other hand, is a sultry dark color that is used for both detailing and full coverage of jewelry pieces.
Keep in mind that black rhodium works like gold plating; it's a thin coating of metal over the surface. Over time, black rhodium will fade away. For more durable and long-lasting pieces, consider black rhodium necklaces and earrings instead of rings and bracelets.
4. Physical Vapor Deposition
It's a little odd to think that the same process used to color cars is also used to color jewelry…but that's physical vapor deposition for you! This is one of the hardiest jewelry coatings out there and is commonly used for men's wedding bands in stainless steel or tungsten.
The process works by heating a colored powder (often ceramic) up to a point where it become a vapor, which is then “spray-painted” onto the item and then cooled down to harden back into a solid material. This creates a colored “shell” that is very resistant to impact and much more durable than plating.
Physical vapor deposition isn't limited to black, by the way! It's used to create items in many colors and certain designs, and the process can even be used with gold or rose gold if necessary. However, because it's a very expensive and industrial process, don't expect to find a jeweler who can do this for an individual piece. PVD is used in the industry for mass manufacturing purposes and most facilities will not perform it on only one item when most orders are typically in the thousands or even hundred thousands.
This process is like the baby of enameling and plating! The jewelry is placed into a tank that fuses the color to the ring via an electrochemical process. Then it's taken out and baked in an oven to “harden” the color and make it durable. E-coating is a comparatively more affordable and easily available process than PVD, making it a viable option if you want to go out and find someone to turn your item into a piece of luxurious dark jewelry.
Much like PVD it's not limited to black; e-coating comes in many colors and metallic shades. One thing to keep in mind is that e-coating is semi-transparent; you should make sure that the item you want to e-coat is thoroughly polished or every scuff mark and dent will show after the e-coat is finished.
Now you're informed on the five ways dark jewelry is created! Get your pieces ready for Halloween and check out our October contest to win a spooktastic $200 gift card here.