How to Care for Your Ornament
Your ornament was cut out of 14 gauge hot rolled steel. Hot rolled steel has a thin coat of iron oxides. That is what gives these the grey color. The grey coating has some natural resistance to corrosion but these pieces may develop some rust in more humid environments. Rust does add to the patina and the finish will look better with age. These are meant to have a rustic look and a little rust can add to that. Any rust can easily be removed with some steel wool though.
I recommend #0000 grade steel wool. It is the finest one. I clean each ornament with this grade steel wool before shipping them out.
Can These Be Painted? - Of course. If there is rust, I would scrub the surface smooth with steel wool first, then wipe the ornament with acetone. For paints I recommend Rustoleum in the spray can. Their "2X" clear is good if you like the look of the raw steel, but want some protection. Some of the Rustoleum colors come with primer mixed in. Primer is always a good idea especially for outdoor environments. I recommend hanging them while spraying so all the edges and front and back can be sprayed at the same time.
Wax - I've been experimenting with wax coatings for a new patina finish series that will be available soon. Wax protects the look of the raw steel and gives them a warmer, hand rubbed look that you just don't get with a clear coat. I like Johnson's paste wax, the one in the yellow can. Carnauba wax like you would use on your car is another option. Before waxing I wipe the metal down with rubbing alcohol or acetone to remove any fingerprints then just rub on some wax, let it haze over, then polish it out with a soft clean cloth. I really like the look of wax finishes.
Oil - The best oil to use is 3 in 1 brand. You can literally coat a side of the ornament with one drop. The only real downside to using oil and wax on raw steel is it makes the steel a couple shades darker. They still look great, just not as bright. If you tried oil or wax and did not like the look, acetone will remove it and you will have raw steel again.
Rust Finish - If you like the look of rust the best way to make these rust is to leave your ornament outside and mist them with water periodically. As the water dries the rust forms. Keep wetting and letting them dry to develop more rust. Leaving them outside in the elements will accomplish the same thing it will just take a little longer. When I was making outdoor memorials the natural rust finish was the most popular. Rust is dirty though and will get all over your hands so after they are fully dry and you like the look, spray on a coat or two of the Rustoleum 2X clear to seal them up. I always used the matte clear.