Reactive metals such as niobium and titanium offer a new and exciting way to introduce color to jewelry. Through the process of anodizing, a vast range of colors can be achieved. (Want to know the cool science behind reactive metals? Check out our Using the Properties of Reactive Metals In Jewelry-Making).
Similar to electroplating, anodizing involves using a micro anodizer as a power source to provide an electrical current that runs through a bath of solution and your work piece.
While applying different voltages, colors start to form on the surface of the piece. These colors are called "interference colors." During the anodizing process, a transparent oxide layer forms on the surface of the metal, and the way light reflects off of this oxide layer determines the resulting color. Colors created with voltages lower than 50 are more natural and tend to be darker, like browns and dark purples, but still have an iridescent quality. Colors created with voltages above 50 become loud and more vibrant, such as bright blues, fuchsias and greens. Wanna see how? Just watch the Anodizing Reactive Metals video from Bill Seeley!
Niobium and titanium are extremely tough and hypoallergenic. Although these metals cannot be soldered, you can easily cold connect them or weld them together. Layering anodized pieces along with other metals and materials can open an entire new world of color and creativity.
Special tapes and masking supplies, like Mighty Mask Peel ‘n’ Stick or Terrific Transfer Tape allow you to control areas of color. Simply place a patterned mask or tape onto your work surface and burnish it down to prevent electrolytes from conducting electricity to that area and remove pieces of the mask revealing unworked surfaces to create patterns of color and unlimited designs.