Creating a rich authentic looking antique patina on new hardware isn't difficult but for a quality job some preparation is required. First make sure that item is clean and free of dirt and grime. If necessary wash in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Pat off excess moisture and let air dry.
For the patina solution to achieve a good "bite" on the metal's surface, it must be completely free of grease or oil. Wearing rubber gloves, wipe with a commercial pre-treatment or grease cutting solvent. From this point on it is important not to touch the hardware with your bare hands since even trace amounts of body oil will act as a resist and prevent patination.
Most patina solutions contain a proprietary mixture of chemicals and acids that artificially age the hardware's suface. Different formulations create different patina shades with brown, black and green patina (or a custom blend of these) being the most popular. Using a rag, sprayer, foam or bristle brush liberally coat the metal with the solution of your choice. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and allow to dry.
If by chance at this stage the patina solution does not begin darkening the metal's surface it may be sealed and need to be stripped. Often hardware is coated with lacquer to protect its shine and this must be removed for the chemical reaction to take place. Simply follow the instruction on any good paint remover, then start again by washing and de-greasing the item.
After the patina solution is allowed to dry completely the metal's surface should exhibit strong tones of the color you have chosen. Don't worry if it looks blotchy or uneven as this will only add to its authentic antique appeal and can be easily removed or adjusted later. If the color is not dark enough add more solution and let dry.
To give your hardware "character" it is often necessary to highlight areas that would normally receive more wear than others. Usually high spots should be brightened while recesses are left dark as would occur naturally. To highlight an area simply rub the areas to be brightened with very fine (0000) steel wool or abrasive pad.
You can't go wrong here; if you remove too much simply reapply the patina solution and rub a little less.
When you are satisfied with your hardware's new "old" appearance, it is often a good idea to seal the surface to prevent further oxidation or discoloration. One simple solution is to use a good quality spray lacquer like Staybrite. Remember several light coats will yield much better results than a single heavy coating.
Another satisfactory method of preserving the finish is with a durable paste furniture wax. Simply apply the wax in a thin coat, let dry and buff. Use clear wax if you're happy with your hardware's color. You can "tweak" the finished look by utilizing colored waxes like Briwax or special Patinating waxes like those made by Liberon.