What Color Are Your Dreams?


I have a new best friend. It is called a niobium anodizer and it's going to make life very interesting for me and you in the future at Naturally Nickel Free. Once in a while, as an artist, you have a chance to get a tool that is really a game-changer - that actually changes the way you design and they way you think of your craft - and this is such a tool for me.

Simply put, an anodizer changes the color of niobium. Working with it is, in a word, amazing. To begin with though, I've just been learning the ropes of its use, and have started by creating a reference chart we can both use.




Exhibit A: The Color Chart
I have done my best to show the colors accurately, but please allow for individual differences in color monitors and lighting conditions. 
This chart is made up of photos of wire pieces I have anodized at different points along the color spectrum.  They show the range of colors I can now design with, and I can even create rainbow patterns. (whoa!) 

The colors as you see them in real-life are complex. A blue may pick up purple highlights, or a gold may appear pinkish at times. Expect to see highlights of the neighboring colors on the chart. I think this adds immensely to the beauty and interest of each color. You may notice, by the way, that the niobium spectrum is not organized at all like a rainbow, but has some wacky logic of its own. I can't explain this, so I won't try.

My Niobium Anodizer - Fresh from the package
So how does Niobium Anodizing work?

By introducing an electrical current to niobium wire, and submerging the wire in bath of water with a soap solution and a steel cathode, oxygen bonds to the wire. The bonded oxygen creates a layer of Niobium Oxide. The higher levels of current produce increasingly thick layers of niobium oxide, which in turn affect the color you see. Niobium oxide has a refractive index higher than a diamond, so the color change you see is an effect of light, not because of dyes or anything added to the metal. Don't you just love it when art and science go together?

I will point out that anodizing works on titanium wire and metal as well, and I expect to experiment with that in the future too. But since I primarily use niobium, that is where I will start.
Niobium Spiral Wave Bracelet
in Peacock Blue

Is Anodizing Permanent? 

The color change in anodized niobium is permanent, but it occurs only on the thin outer layer of the metal. This means that if the niobium metal is scratched or damaged, the natural gray color of the niobium underneath will show through. To maintain the color coating to look its best, a degree of caution and care is required.

How Do I Care For Anodized Niobium? 

Besides bumps and dings, there are a few other ordinary things that can damage the color coating of your anodized niobium. They include:

• Hairspray
• Perfume
• Chlorinated pool water
• Bleach
• Sweat

Avoiding these things isn't that difficult. Just remove your jewelry before you use personal care products, before you get in the pool, or before you exercise. If you do get something on it that you're unsure about, just rinse your jewelry and pat it gently dry with a soft cloth. It is ideal to wipe your jewelry gently with a soft cloth after each day and store it in a small plastic bag or soft pouch. Truthfully, my world isn't ideal - I don't really do this with the anodized jewelry that I personally wear, and I have not had any problems with it. Still, it would be easy enough to do. 

You can clean your jewelry occasionally by soaking it for a few minutes in a mild soap solution, (Dawn dish detergent or other light-duty soap will do the job) rinse, and pat gently dry with a soft cloth.  Never use an ultrasonic cleaner or silver polishing cloth on your anodized niobium jewelry.

Jewelry Design on Steroids

As I am creating jewelry, re-shaping, filing, and working the wire, the metal goes through a lot of stress. Even though I have offered a limited selection of anodized jewelry in the past (bronze only), I have kept my color choices conservative from the beginning, which turned out to be a wise choice. This was wire which I ordered already anodized from the factory, and which I had to work with rather carefully. By being able to anodize the jewelry on my own equipment after it is complete, it not only ensures the color layer on the jewelry is very uniform, I can really begin to design with color in mind.

What does Anodized Niobium mean for Nickel Allergy sufferers? 

The niobium metal has not been coated, dyed, colored, or plated with any other material - it is still pure niobium all the way through. This is amazing, because average plated metal is generally not reliable for nickel-allergy sufferers. Even if it is coated with gold or silver, the plating can wear off, for one thing, and a reveal nickel-containing base metal, or (less well-known) sometimes the adhesion between the base metal and the plating actually uses nickel to keep the two metals bonded together. Knowing that your anodized niobium is still a pure metal is a great reassurance that it will not irritate your skin, either now, or in the future. This means you can choose the colors you really want!

How Do I Order? 

When you order, just go to my shop and type the search term "Choose Your Color"  in the search bar. Choose the item you want to look at, and pick the color you want from the drop-down menu. The colors on the drop-down menu match same chart that is at the top of this page. Each product listing also includes a photo of this chart for easy reference. Once you have chosen your color and have made any other purchases you would like, just go to the checkout page and complete the process.

I can even add color to any niobium item that is already for sale in my shop - just use your imagination. There is a $4 fee for changing the color, but I think you'll agree it could yield some very interesting results. *Please be aware, that anodizing works ONLY on niobium and titanium. Anodizing will not change the color of any other materials, including other metals I use such as Argentium Sterling Silver, pewter, or brass.  In addition, I cannot "undo" the anodizing once it is done - it is permanent. That being the case, this is just a friendly reminder to make your color selections carefully.

Color options in my ArtFire shop will have to be handled on a more individual basis - but if you want to choose or change a niobium color, just communicate with me through the AF message page to let me know what you would like, I will create a Reserve Listing just for you, then you can check your item(s) out in the usual way.

Niobium au Natural

And just a word in favor of our friend, natural gray niobium. I often call this color "steel gray," but truthfully, niobium has a shine and look all its own. This classic color will go with anything and will wear well forever - I'm still a big fan of the natural look.

Seize the Day

I do hope you're beginning to get excited about color options with me. Honestly I haven't even learned to develop a taste for certain metals and colors because I've associated them with pain for so long. Maybe you've experienced this too. How fabulous is it to discover you've got a whole rainbow of choices at your fingertips? Your color wheel is now wide open.

Ready to shop? 
Go to http://shop.naturallynickelfree.com. I'll be waiting!
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Thanks to the following websites for helping me sift through some of this information: 
Amy Leggett / The Metalmarkhttps://www.themetalmark.com/help#t11n218
Rebeca Mohica / Blue Buddha Boutiquehttp://www.bluebuddhaboutique.com/resources/articles/using_metal_jump_rings.php
Bill Seeley / Reactive Metals Studio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdb89lkNXeY
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