COPPER JEWELRY CARE TIPS
THE HISTORY OF COPPER
Copper is the oldest metal ore. Originally mined by prehistoric man, evidence points to the first discovery of copper approximately 13,000 years ago. Refining processes took a little longer to establish, around 5000 BC, mainly in the Middle East.
The Egyptians were the first to create metal alloys from copper – bronze (copper and tin) and brass (copper and zinc). The metal was highly prized in its natural form, as well as for use as an alloy. The more copper a person owned, the greater their social status within society. Hieroglyphics depict that not only was copper valuable, but that copper jewelers and the owners of copper held an increased status in that era.
Early man in the Americas also used copper, mainly to produce jewelry items such as beads and earrings. To this day, Native Americans still value copper jewelry highly. In fact, many Native American reservations still produce copper jewelry, with bracelets, pendants and earrings containing Native American markings and etchings being a popular tourist souvenir.
[Information provided by Beatrice Quany for ILoveCopperJewelry.com – John S Brana, handmade copper jewelry]
THE HEALING PROPERTIES OF COPPER
Not only is copper an essential mineral for our body which can slowly be absorbed through our skin for proper assimilation but it is also antimicrobial. An antimicrobial is a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoan's, as well as destroying viruses. Copper is also an antifungal agent. It is still used in the treatment of skin disease and wounds today as it was thousands of years ago.
The copper layer that can form on your skin is readily absorbed by the body as copper is an essential nutrient required to form (along with iron) new red blood cells. It helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, and it contributes to iron absorption. Sufficient copper in the diet may help prevent cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, too.
Copper jewelry has been worn for hundreds of years not only because it is a beautiful metal but due to the belief of reducing or helping Arthritic and Rheumatic diseases. People also look to copper for its healing properties in improving the circulation of blood, increasing energy, detoxification, reducing inflammation, stabilizing metabolism and improving oxygen use. Although folk lore abounds with stories of how the wearing of copper helps ease the pain and discomfort of arthritis, you might want to wear copper just because it is a beautiful piece of jewelry.
THE HOLISTIC PROPERTIES OF COPPER
On a holistic level, copper has historically been associated as the body metal, and is considered a grounding metal for the human body and spirit. (Silver is the metal of the spirit, and gold is the metal of the mind.)
Spiritually, copper is also considered a metal capable of storing healing properties holistically, as well as having protective properties. This is why it was used in ancient times for totems and talismans.
Because holistic and spiritual uses of the copper properties are holistic in nature, copper can be coated for these properties to work, in theory. However, some people still believe these properties could be blocked by the physical barrier of a coating on the copper. For healing purposes, the copper should not be coated to allow direct contact with the skin.
OXIDATION AND CARE OF YOUR JEWELRY
Oxidization and skin discoloration is a recurring and known issue with wearing copper jewelry, which is reflective of the reactive properties of copper and not of poor quality jewelry. Below is a detailed explanation and hopefully helpful piece of information to enable you to thoroughly enjoy your piece.
Copper is a highly reactive metal and will always want to develop a patina, much like sterling silver, but faster and darker, especially in the presence of acids, heat, sunlight, sweat, swimming pools and chlorine water, chemicals and cosmetics. Personally, I love the fluid nature of copper. Its color is always changing and morphing and I kind of love the fact that it always wants to change (maybe that's more a reflection of my personality and my aptitude for change!)
I offer 2 copper finishes on most of my rings, bright and antique (or aged/patina) copper. Most ready to ship rings, all necklaces, all bracelets and all keychains are finished with an antique copper patina. All my copper pieces come standard without any treatment, wax or lacquers so you can benefit from copper's ancient healing properties. I am currently working on adding options to my pieces to offer high quality jewelry lacquer for $5. If you are interested in a particular piece, want a protective layer but do not see an option to do so, please contact me and will gladly add the option to the listing.
- Bright copper has a lustrous shine and will naturally darken (oxidize) over time. It can easily be cleaned back to a bright shine with a jewelry cloth.
- Antique copper has a dark finish. It may brighten as you wear it as it reacts to the oils on your skin.
The best way to bring back luster to any piece of jewelry is to use a jewelry polishing cloth that can be easily purchased at my store, most jewelry stores, online, and at many drugstores. A jewelry polishing cloth can last for years.
If you are wanting to use any harsh chemical cleaners, “dips” or any kind of acid soak, such as lemon juice, tomato juice or Worcestershire sauce to clean your copper, please make sure the stone you have is suitable to sit in acid. Some stones are ‘soft’ and acid may destroy the stone. A perfect example of a stone that should not be immersed in acid is Opal. It absorbs fluid and acid will, if left long enough soak through the Opal and destroy it. If you are not sure, you can use a cloth dipped in cleaner and wipe down the copper area only.
WHY IS MY SKIN TURNING GREEN?
Copper is a gorgeous looking metal and one of my favorites, but sadly many people are put off by the risk of turning the skin green when in close contact with the skin. For some wearers, the reaction will happen faster than for others. For many, it will not happen at all. Copper reacts to substances we come in contact with, as well as the sweat and oils secreted by our body through the skin. These oils will not only give the copper a darker patina but will also allow antique copper to become brighter over time.
The reaction between copper and the sweat and oils on your skin creates copper chelates. Pure copper cannot be absorbed by the skin but copper chelates can and do. Any excess copper that the body does not absorb is what turns your skin green. It is completely harmless and is nothing to be concerned about, it just looks unappealing. Most likely you're not allergic to the copper, very few people are.
Rings of course, are worn close to the skin and are the most likely to cause discoloration due to the lack of air circulation between your finger and the ring. Soap, creams and lotions can get trapped under the band or our finger sweats and produces oils which are then trapped. The same goes for bracelets, though not to the same extent. Soap and water should remove the discoloration easily, and for more difficult stains use lemon juice or white vinegar.
Copper often and easily reacts with the environment it is in - heat, humidity and the salt in the air can all have an effect.
The most common reason for green skin is our body chemistry (in particular a high pH level). Unfortunately, I am not able to tell you if the piece will react to your skin as I do not know your lifestyle, your body pH or the environment you live in. Some days there will be no greening, other days there may be. Many people report their skin discoloring at the beginning but within a few days or weeks the discoloration stops occurring and things start to settle.
If the discoloration continues to be an issue, consider that you have a high pH level (acidic) and the copper is reacting to the acid that is being secreted out in your sweat and oils. A high body pH is indicative of stress and dietary issues. In addition, an acidic body pH may even lead to health problems if not addressed (an alkaline body pH is considered very healthy and in turn, rarely causes green skin). Therefore, wearing copper is a great indication of your general health and what status your body is in, either alkaline or acidic. Some people wear copper just for this reason.
An acidic body is often due to the high intake of protein, processed food, red meat, dairy, sugar and soda. An alkaline diet includes soy, fresh fruits and veggies, beans, lentils and some whole grains like quinoa.
With a few simple steps and a little knowledge, the speed and likelihood of the oxidization reaction can be lowered. The oxidization reaction is also responsible for creating the aged copper effect, which gives the jewelry a unique rustic look as it is worn (and loved!) by you.
- Do not expose copper jewelry (especially patinated copper jewelry) to water or any type of solvent.
- Do not wear copper jewelry while swimming (chlorine and salt will permanently damage copper and/or patina).
- Do not wear copper jewelry while exercising, applying cosmetics, skin lotions or creams.
- Keep the copper clean and dry as much as possible. Wipe down with a soft cloth and place in a clean baggie after it has been worn. Use anti-tarnish paper if needed.
- Remove jewelry before bed. Also, while washing your hands, showering or bathing, so soap and water does not get trapped under the band/pendant.
- Check your diet and stress levels. Maybe the copper is indicating something may need to be changed in your life.
WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?
As mentioned above, if you are wearing copper for healing purposes I would suggest to leave your copper piece without sealant. I am now beginning to offer pieces with a choice of either without sealant or with an added layer of high quality jewelry lacquer (to create the necessary barrier between the metal and your skin). If you are choosing to keep your jewelry natural, then look at your diet, avoid using soap, make up and lotions, as well as making sure the jewelry is clean and dry and away from acid, salt and harsh chemicals, and that it is stored in a sealed baggy when not being worn.
If you regularly experience greening, it is easily removed with soap and water and as a substitute to jewelry lacquer, you can apply a layer of clear nail polish (or top coat) to the inside of your ring to create a barrier between the metal and your skin. No one will ever see it and will only need to be reapplied once the original layer has worn off. Alternatively, you can use jeweler’s wax, car wax or your own jewelry lacquer. All these methods are not permanent, particularly on rings because of the high amount of friction between ring and skin. The layer will have to be periodically repeated and reapplied once it wears off.
A lot of people are hesitant to wear copper but in fact it is less allergy inducing than most other metals as those often contain impurities. Electroformed copper is 100% pure copper.