June 23, 2008

How to Take Care of Your Copper Jewelry and deal with Tarnishing? from Mei


Mei asked and Szarka handed it to me - Sherry/dancingfeather. Thanks darlin' -
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Hi Szarka,
I hope you don't mind me asking you this question...
How to Take Care of Your Copper Jewelry from Tarnishing?
Mei
http://wireblissmei.blogspot.com/
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Thanks for asking and giving us the opportunity to share.
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Here's my little bits of input on the ages old issue of tarnishing copper and green skin, since they really do seem to go together for most of the population....
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*I like the theory about the metal being a living thing, the ever changing colors showing it's character. Let it live!
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*Lemon juice with a dash of salt will clean copper in very short order. Rinse well or you will get lovely green in the cracks and crevices. The metal will start tarnishing again immediately. Try a little wax.
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*On the use of lacquer/shellac/other clear coatings - EVERYTHING wears off eventually and dealing with the worn mess of lacquer is a royal pain.
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*Waxes - The bracelets that I cleaned in lemon/salt and then used Turtle Wax car wax, 6 months or so ago, that have been sitting on my table awaiting sale, are still fairly decent looking. They spend Sat/Sun on display, then go into a plastic bag until next weekend. The Turtle Wax wears off quickly when I wear the jewelry, so it's only a display fix, not a wear-it fix. Apply according to directions on the can - wipe on, wait to dry, wipe off. Pay attention to cracks and crevices. Toothbrush helped.
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Major pain.
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*I love the look resulting from Perma Blue Liquid Gun Blue, [active ingredient - selenium dioxide, poison if you drink it, keep away from children. Otherwise, not harmful to use. Not much odor. Will NOT blue stainless steel, aluminum or non-ferrous metals] ((More complete directions below))
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*I tried Future Floor Finish on some bracelets. The jewelry got sticky/tacky during wear. Totally unacceptable to me. Lots of drips after dipping, royal pain! Same with any liquid, lacquer or otherwise. Watch out for drips and thick spots. Ugly.
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*The lacquer used on brass band instruments is also used in the jewelry industry, if you must go the lacquer route. Caution, it also wears off, albeit slower, then there are spots darkening and possible peeling. Watch out for ugly drips as it dries. Ewww yuk nasty to undo... I haven't tried lacquer...
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****suggestions from various forums around the net -
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*spray lacquer like Krystal Klear or Rustoleum.
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*Bullseye Clear shellac - spray can
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*Renaissance Wax or other micro-crystaline wax
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*Butcher's Bowling Alley Wax. 1 lb. cans for about $ 10. used on bronze work, especially sculpture.
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*Johnson paste wax - several coats.
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*An elder jeweler shared an old method - Heat the copper to cherry red and quench in oil. She said it brings out all sorts of lovely colors and it's permanent. Forgot to ask what kind of oil....
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*For verdigris colors - According to a copper verdigris artist, ammonia works OK, but you get the best colors from the cat box, or put the piece in a jar with sawdust wet down with ammonia for a week or two.
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Back to my thoughts -
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I turn green when sweaty. It wipes off. I don't turn green in air conditioning or in the winter. I know people who never turn green, ever. Personal body chemistry, think of it as a warning signal - fix your PH balance, you'll stop turning green.
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From all my note collecting, tarnish and green skin is inevitable unless you are really faithful with your health and diet, and/or maintaining and reapplying some sort of lacquer finish, doesn't really seem to matter much which kind, they all wear off eventually.
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So, have YOU any tarnish answers? Share! Leave a comment.

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Details on using Perma Blue written April 02, 2008 and added to this blog entry on Feb 26, 2009

I love the effects of gun blue on copper! I use Perma Blue, found in the US where ever gun supplies are sold, so check Walmart and all the sports stores. The chemical name - Selenium Dioxide

I dump it in a jar, use it as is, put the lid on and keep it in the cupboard until next use, alongside my jar of lemon juice/salt for cleaning copper. Not too strong a smell, no need for ventilation or gloves, poison if you drink it but otherwise safe for normal grown-ups. Read the label and don't be stupid. yada blah blah disclaimer *grin*

Step by step -
**First drop the jewelry into lemon juice with a dash of salt to clean off skin oils etc. About a minute, keep watch, I never time anything. No specific amount of salt, maybe 1/2 tsp to one plastic lemon (found in the produce area next to real lemons, easy to use, not costly, use any real lemon juice you prefer). Salt is not mandatory, but it seems to work faster. The cleaning step can also be done with ketchup, vinegar, salsa anything acidic, I like the smell of lemons.

**Rinse Well, and pat dry so you don't dilute the gun blue.

**Drop the piece in the gun blue and keep watch. In under 5 minutes the piece will be black. You can pull it out at any point in between for less darkening. You can re-dip if it's not dark enough. You can paint it on spots if you feel you can't dunk it or want spots, but painting works Very Slow, with repeated paintings.

**Rinse Well!!! and rub with a soft cloth, an old t-shirt is perfect. Very Messy if you go to black, beware for nice clothes. Rub until all the mess is gone and you get the highlights you want.

The process of wiping is usually enough to get the highlights showing. The rest I let happen naturally. The dark in the crevices lasts forever.

I tried tumbling a big batch one time, first with dry rice, thinking I'd get some friction, then with stainless shot and Dawn, neither was particularly successful, the rice not at all. But the soft cloth made pretty quick work of it after all.

**Finish up with a Sunshine cloth for beautiful shine. Not required, but oh so pretty!

Forever after, the jewelry just needs a quick rub with a soft cloth to be ready to wear.

Never ever never walk away from either jar in progress. If the phone rings, pull them out and drop them in the water until you can come back and finish. I left one piece 4 or 5 minutes and it got Very powdery black and took much longer to clean. I haven't experimented with longer, but it would be messy at least, don't know if the metal would be damaged.

If you use containers with lids, you can just put the lids on and store in the cabinet. No need to refrigerate the lemon, well. Both last for years, even if they look disgusting, (the plastic lemon type will last years, it has preservatives, don't know about fresh lemon juice).

I found the middle size canning jar (wide mouth, pint size?) at Walmart in the kitchen section, not grocery section, works really well, deep enough to cover a bracelet, wide mouth for inserting pieces. The jars hold two bottles of Perma Blue or two plastic lemons very nicely, so the liquid is deep enough to cover the project while it sits.

To date, I've done all kinds of quartz family stones, turquoise, malachite chips and glass. The malachite chips got a little powdery looking and maybe a bit dark, but they were small chips so it was hard to tell. A toothbrush and sunshine cloth restored most of their shine, so use discretion. One cab I would have sworn was white quartz lost all shine and absorbed a whole lot of the blue color. Totally trashed. I have no clue what the rock really is. I tried a couple of small fresh water pearls, and they came out fine. When in doubt, try a sample bead before dunking the whole project. You can also paint the blue in certain areas to spare the delicate rock, but it's a PITB and Very Slow to turn dark.
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Toodles!
~S~
http://sherrysjewels.blogspot.com/

http://www.magpiegemstones.com/

11 comments:

  1. Thank you Sherry and Szarka for all these information. I think I will try out the recipe by the old jeweler - heat it up and dip into oil. I guess I will try out cooking oil :). Wish me luck! Mei

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  2. Carolyn4.7.08

    Szarka,
    Do you know anything about Everbrite
    www.everbrite.net/
    They have metal coatings, and also results of testing they did to clean copper at
    http://www.everbritecoatings.com/copper_cleaner.htm
    Thanks, Carolyn

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  3. Anonymous11.9.08

    Some people have acidic systems and will even get a green or black band under a 14K gold ring - especially if they drink wine. These people do not usually get gum disease, but they get cavities.

    The reverse is true of people with alkaline systems - not such a strong metal reaction, but their mouths suffer - go figure :-)

    Then there are those who constantly put their feet in their mouths. Pretty hard on the toes, but they are not usually interested in jewelry (sorry for the silly, but couldn't resist)
    Norine

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  4. Anonymous2.12.08

    To Anonymous:
    Don't apologize! I loved your "silly".
    AnonToo

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  5. Great stuff here gals. I'm a "greenie" too....LOLOL and my natural teeth......well, my dentist could retire as it's all too true!
    One of my favorite tricks for the whole green thing is......tada........clear nail polish. Not too great for the wire wrap bracelets etc but it's super for rings, cuff bracelets and earrings. It does wear off but not quite so quickly!;0)

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  6. lately I've been experimenting with a drop of essential oil, olive oil or even safflower etc. after my copper wire items have been cleaned (lemon juice and salt is great) and oxidized (or patina'd), buffed and polished. The result is a non sticky great shine that lasts for ages and hey, when it finally washes off, just lubricate again!
    ~Anna Lee
    http://sassydlite.blogspot.com
    http://gahooletreedesigns.blogspot.com

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  7. Oh I wonder how tea tree oil would do, or geranium would smell wonderful!

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  8. AustinElements22.2.09

    Of course, I would reach for the bottle of patchouli eo ;-)

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  9. Thanks for the info. I have a bunch of old copper sheeting I might just have to dig out.

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  10. However, it is more likely that this continued interest in copper jewelry has much more related to its distinctive luster and colour than it does with its germ-fighting capability!

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  11. Thanks, It has been really helpful!

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