Copper Jewelry Care
Copper jewelry is often snubbed as a desirable choice for jewelry due to it's tendency to, at times, turn the wearers skin an unsightly green color. This is often an indication that your jewelry needs to be cleaned, or that it needs to be resealed.
But why does copper turn the skin green?
The acidic nature of human sweat and other chemicals on the skin, such as soaps, lotions and makeup, react with the copper. This reaction causes a green patina or surface coating to form on the copper, and that color gets transferred onto the skin. The reaction varies according to individual body chemistry, both in how long it takes for the green discoloration to form and in how distinct the color becomes. Some people might not experience any discoloration at all. A little soap and water will remove the green from your skin, and the oils and acids from your copper.
How can I keep copper from turning my skin green?
A little soap and water goes a long way! Clean your jewelry regularly, remove it before showering, and don't sleep in it. Copper that is worn loosely, such as a pendant or a bangle bracelet, are able to move freely and maintain minimal contact with the skin. This keeps sweat from getting trapped between the copper and your skin, and lessens the chance that your skin will turn green. If you clean your jewelry regularly to remove all of the acids and natural oxidization that accumulate during the day, you may never experience green skin from copper. Seal your jewelry with Renaissance Wax for temporary protection lasting a few months.
Renaissance Wax is a brand of microcrystalline wax polish used in antique restoration and museum conservation around the world. Commonly used to polish and conserve metal objects, it is also used on gemstones and such organic materials wood, ivory, and tortoiseshell. It is used to protect metals such as silver, brass and copper from tarnishing, on collections of all types of metals (old coins, locks and keys, arms and armor both original and replica), on both the wood and metal surfaces of vintage cars and musical instruments, on bronze sculptures inside the home and outside exposed to the elements, on marble and granite worktops to prevent staining and on smooth leather items. It is a great option to keep your copper from oxidizing, though it wears off in a couple months. The benefit is that it does not chip and flake, leaving unsightly patches on your jewelry.
You may hear others advise to use clear nail polish to seal your jewelry, but I strongly advise against it. Nail polish will flake over time, leaving an ugly textured finish on your jewelry. Plus, it yellows with age. It works in a pinch, but I strongly advise against using it long term.
Some copper may come plated with silver, or colored enamels, or have a manufacturer tarnish resistant coating. Wear plated and enameled copper gently. Heavy use may chip the plating, exposing the bare copper underneath and allowing it to oxidize. If your tarnish resistant copper is starting to tarnish, it means the protective coating has worn off and you will now need to maintain it on your own.
How do I make my copper bright and shiny again?
Copper jewelry requires regular maintenance, similar to sterling silver if you wish to keep it shiny. There are many ways to remove oxidization and tarnish from your copper jewelry using common household items. The option you go with should take into consideration the type of gem that may be set in your copper. Please use care and do not immerse your gemstones into highly acidic solutions.
Lemon and Salt: Wet your copper jewelry piece with lemon juice, sprinkle with a bit of table salt then rub with either a soft cloth or your fingers until tarnish is gone. A tooth brush can be used to scrub intricate areas. Rinse with water then dry thoroughly. To maintain a beautiful finish and protective coating after cleaning, you can apply a thin coat of Renaissance Wax.
Ketchup: Use a dab of ketchup on an old soft toothbrush. Apply to your copper jewelry and rub lightly with the toothbrush. Rinse clean and dry with a soft cloth. The acid in the ketchup dissolves the tarnish. To maintain a beautiful finish and protective coating after cleaning, you can apply a thin coat of Renaissance Wax.
Vinegar: Fill a small glass or plastic (don't use metal) cup with white vinegar, place your copper jewelry into the glass of vinegar making sure the vinegar covers the jewelry. You can add a sprinkle of salt to the vinegar if you'd like. Wait several minutes. After several minutes remove your copper jewelry from the cup, rinse with cold water, and dry your jewelry with a soft cloth. To maintain a beautiful finish and protective coating after cleaning, you can apply a thin coat of Renaissance Wax.
Baking soda: Make a paste of baking soda and rub it on your copper. After a minute or two, you will see the baking soda start to turn grey from the oxidation build up. Continue scrubbing with your fingers or a tooth brush until you have removed as much oxidation as you prefer. Rinse with soap and water, dry, then buff with a polishing cloth.
Polishing Cloth: If you prefer the look of antiqued, oxidized copper with bright highlights, you can wash your jewelry with some warm soapy water, and then dry it off. Use a Sunshine polishing cloth, or a Pro Polish pad to buff your dry jewelry. To maintain a beautiful finish and protective coating after cleaning, you can apply a thin coat of Renaissance Wax to help preserve the shive for a few months.
All of my bare copper jewelry is polished with Renaissance Wax before it is shipped to you. Renaissance Wax is specially designed to help protect your jewelry from tarnishing over time, but it does eventually wear off and may need to be reapplied. You can purchase Renaissance Wax on Amazon. It only takes a tiny amount to polish your jewelry and one can may last you many years.
This page contains Amazon Affiliate links for products I have used and trust. If you choose to purchase an item through an Amazon Affiliate link, I may receive a small fee from Amazon.