So I noticed a little confusion and incorrect information regarding artifacts a few pages back. Thought I would clarify some information that I know to be true from personal playthrough experience and quoted from the wikia. Hope this helps some of you guys/gals out and answers any questions you might have.
An Artifact is applied by being selected in a character's inventory. Upon activation, the artifact will be removed from the inventory and is added to the character's Action Skill as a permanent upgrade.
As higher level artifacts are added they will override their lower level predecessors and only higher level artifacts of any given type can be applied.
All Artifacts are class specific and the level of effect that the artifact grants depends on the level of the artifact itself. The highest elemental effect is level 6 for an artifact with a level requirement of 44. Usage
The currently active Artifact is displayed in the Skill Tree window at the top, to the left of the Action Skill
Artifact types can be changed by selecting the artifact icon and picking a different artifact from the drop down list. The list displays the highest level artifact that has been applied of each of the four types, as well as an option for "None" to disable artifact effects.
Artifact bonuses will be in effect until another activated artifact is chosen (e.g. A Shock Artifact and Incendiary Artifact cannot both be active simultaneously; the most recently activated artifact will provide its effect).
With the exception of the Explosive Artifact, Artifacts will decrease damage done, but have a chance of giving the target massive damage over time.List of Known Artifact Rewards Mission RewardsDrops
Level 6 random element: SuperBad non-human enemies (after completion of 2nd playthrough).
Named Wereskags in The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned DLC. Crawmerax in Crawmerax's Lair in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC. Artifacts of a given elemental type have a chance of dropping from enemies of the same elemental type - for example, a corrosive spiderant may drop a corrosive artifact when killed - which will be of a similar level to the enemy. Artifacts of all types have have a chance of dropping from Badass/BadMutha/SuperBad Guardians in the Eridian Promontory. Notes
Playthrough experience indicates that the highest achievable artifact level from Playthrough 1 is element level 4. Higher level artifacts can only be acquired and equipped in Playthrough 2.
While somewhat random, there appears to be a higher probability in acquiring artifacts from high-end random encounters, e.g. Spiderant Kings and Queens.
Artifacts exhibit their element when dropped, e.g. corrosive artifacts are covered in acid, fire artifacts are covered in flames.
Edited by JN25WIL, 09 September 2012 - 04:34 PM.
Added additional information