Monday, August 13, 2012

Copper is new again!

When I first began working with metal, about 4 years ago, I introduced copper to my customers but at the time there wasn’t much interest in the metal as a component of jewelry.    So I forgot about it for a while, and then tried again but still no interest until the beginning of this season.
Scraps accumulated since May 2012
Surprisingly, I’ve had many customers ask for copper pieces.    I’m happy about this as it allows me another affordable metal from which I can make pendants, earrings and cuffs.  I’ve used copper sheet a great deal this season, and will eventually get to copper wire.  

The name copper is from the Latin word cuprum, which means "from the island of Cyprus", and is man’s oldest metal, dating back some 10,000 years.
Large deposits of copper ore are located in the United States, Chile, Zambia, Zaire, Peru and Canada.  It is a soft metal to which either brass or bronze is added.   
Made last week...note the color

Copper wire is used in large amounts in electrical wire as it is highly conductive …with only silver more so.    With the high cost of silver it makes more sense to use copper for electrical purposes as it is considerably less expensive. 

 For many years, from 1942 to 1996, the Canadian penny was made from 98% copper, with varying amounts of tin and zinc additives.    From 2000 to 2012 the penny has been made from 94% steel, 1.5% nickel and 4.5% copper plating.  

 As I’m sure you are aware many other items are either made from or have components made from copper, pots, pans, kettles, bowls, telephone wiring, fridges, dryer, microwaves, automobiles have approximately 50 pounds of copper, while your average sized home has approximately 400 pounds of copper for such things as electrical wiring, water pipes and appliances.
I found all kinds of very detailed information regarding copper and how it is processed and used  but for my purposed that is going a bit to in depth…suffice it to say copper is one of man’s best friends, we have a multitude of uses for this metal.

Check out this website for more detailed, interesting information about copper.

Copper has been known for centuries to have an antimicrobial effect regarding infections.  It is said to be the most effective product for “touch surfaces” in hospitals…specific surfaces are being converted to copper allowing for an 87% reduction in infections in certain hospitals in the USA.  This conversion is in the beginning stages and is touted as a contributing factor in preventing infections in hospitals.    The antimicrobial effects was surprising to me, it is still being researched… I’d like to see what this eventually leads to. 
Made last week...note the color

 I’m one of those people who’s skin will tarnish if I wear copper…this is because of a reaction to either the acids on my skin or from lotion or soap on my copper piece.  Copper isn’t the only metal that can do this even sterling silver or gold can depending on your skin, etc, so simply avoiding inexpensive jewelry isn’t all ways going to prevent issues.   It is possible to be irritated by any metal that causes a green or dark ring around your finger.    If you are prone to green or dark rings, or irritation issues it is a good idea to remove your copper jewelry when washing or swimming, as well as keep lotions, soaps and chemicals away from your jewelry.   Some people find applying a barrier such as a polymer coating or nail polish helpful to prevent these issues…nail polish will have to be reapplied every once in a while as it will wear off.     Another thought to decrease the possibility of a reaction is to decrease your intake of acidic food and drink, although I think for most people this would be a bit of a nuisance just to wear a piece of jewelry.  Keeping your jewelry clean and tarnish free is a great way to start.
I’m sure you may have known much of this information, but do not think about it in your day to day life.   Why would you unless you work with copper.   I never think about all the great ways to utilize this metal …I use copper to make jewelry, having said that I’m sure now I will think about all the other possibilities while I’m cutting, filing, hammering, stamping and finishing my copper jewelry!

As we all know, the one drawback to copper jewelry is the fact it tarnishes very easily…the lovely copper shine turns to a green/black dull finish…what is happening is it forms corrosion due to the oxygen in the air…the good thing is once it has covered the surface with tarnish it is finished and acts as a protection to the copper piece.   There are a number of ways to slow down/prevent the tarnish…
This cuff was made over two years ago and you can see the tarnish on it...sold like this though.
  • ·         When not wearing a piece seal in a baggy making sure to eliminate the air, if you have any silica gel desiccant packets from previous purchases , the ones you get in shoe boxes, these work well in the baggy to prevent tarnish!  I have “anti tarnish tabs” that also work nicely.
  • ·         Apply a coat of Renaissance Wax; this is a microcrystalline food safe wax from England.  This I’ve used on occasion, but it is a wax and won’t last forever.
  • ·         Apply a coat of Proctectaclear…something I’m going to try.  Non toxic when dry, coating to last 10 years…sounds very good to me.
  • ·         Apply nail polish but this will have to be done often as it wears of very easily.
  • ·         If your pieces do happen to tarnish use one of the soft jewelry cleaning cloths that can be purchased at any jewelry counter…I also sell these cloths.  You will have to rub hard but they will clean your copper…at least I know my cloths will.

Copper & silver fold forming cuffs made almost 2 years ago...silver one sold right away the copper sold 3 weeks ago!
I enjoy working with copper equally as well as silver products and this coming week I’m going to try a new patina product to color the metal…watch for photos in the coming weeks…or better yet stop by at the Market and take a look!

Don’t forget questions and comments are welcome…

NOTE:  I would like to thank all the wonderful people who ventured out to the Corn Festival at the North Bay Farmers’ Market this past Saturday, August 11th…it was supposed to be a very wet day with 90% chance of thunderstorms from mid morning on.   My daughter and I didn’t expect many people at the Market for this reason… it turned out to be one of the busier Market days I’ve seen this season!    
Thanks for visiting…

Information Sources:


  1. this was such an interesting post! I actually like copper after its started to tarnish a little. It gives the jewelry more character! I'm glad thngs went well at the market Saturday!

  2. Oh, don't remind me. I have coils and coils (exaggeration :)) of copper wires and some sheets that's been sitting in the corner waiting. Wonder when I would have the time to take them out. Great post once again.

  3. I love copper and the information you've provided is fantastic. Your pieces are fabulous and I particularly love the earrings Heather.

  4. Heather, I love copper. It's been one of my personal favs for a long time, but for customers it has become popular over the last year. I've recently had customers as for gold-plated items again as they are wearing more gold this summer than copper or silver. Interesting change in my opinion! I'll always love copper! Love the wavy bangles... they totally rock!


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