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how to clean copper jewelry

New copper jewelry shines with nearly the same beautiful color as rose gold, for a tiny fraction of the price. But while that copper bracelet may be shiny and bright the day you buy it, you’ll be shocked at how quickly it tarnishes. Some people love the oxidized look, but, if you don’t, there are ways to keep your copper jewelry looking shiny and new.

What is Copper?

copper jewelry - copper bracelet

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Copper is an element and a natural mineral found in plants and animals, including humans. People have been using copper for more than 10,000 years. Pure copper is very soft, which made it easy for early craftsmen to work with. To make copper stronger, the Egyptians created alloys with copper. Bronze is made of copper and tin, while brass is made from copper and zinc. Statues, including the Statue of Liberty, are often made from copper, and many important, old buildings, especially in Europe, have copper rooftops. Over the centuries, these rooftops have oxidized (tarnished) to form a lovely green patina.

Benefits of Copper Jewelry

copper jewelry - rose gold color

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Shiny copper jewelry evokes the look of rose gold without the hefty price tag. As of August 17, 2020, copper is going for 18 cents per ounce, while an ounce of gold costs $2,035! That makes gold 11,306 times more expensive than copper!

copper jewelry - copper bracelet with magnets

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Many people believe that wearing copper jewelry improves your health. The claims result from the fact that when copper is in direct contact with the skin, copper minerals enter the bloodstream through the skin as copper salts. Claims vary from relieving arthritis and joint pain, to anti-aging properties, improving immunity, a healthier heart, and mineral absorption. Some people wear copper bracelets with magnets implanted inside, for many of the same reasons. There’s no solid scientific evidence for these claims, only anecdotal, although wearing copper won’t harm anything unless it irritates your skin, which is rare. People fitted with a pacemaker or other electrical implant should not wear any jewelry with magnets, which may interfere with the working of their device.

Green Skin

copper jewelry - copper earrings

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Sometimes, you might remove a copper ring and discover that your skin has turned a greenish color under the metal. These are copper chelates formed, as described above, when copper interacts with sweat and body oils. The green color is easily removed with soap and water. You can apply clear nail polish to the inside of the piece to prevent this from happening, or just let the green color be another good reason to wash your hands well!

Polishing Tips

copper jewelry - polishing cloth

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Copper jewelry tarnishes quickly. Sometimes you can begin to see a dullness in as little as one day. But tarnish is easy to control. To get some expert tips, we spoke to Jason at Perry Null Trading Company, one of the largest trading posts in the United States. Located in Gallup, New Mexico and adjacent to the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni reservations, this company does an enormous business in authentic, handmade Native American silver and copper jewelry.

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Jason said, “Here at the post we always recommend a jeweler’s polishing cloth to polish copper jewelry. You can use chemicals such as Tarn-X, but we prefer the cloth. Wright’s Copper Cream works well if your piece is seriously tarnished. It’s a cream and you can apply it with a rag, then polish with a clean part of the rag.” Tarn-X is an acid that is toxic if ingested, although safe when used according to the directions. For intricate jewelrycopper jewelry set with stones, or smaller earrings, Tarn-X is the easiest solution. As an alternative, you can also soak your jewelry in lemon juice, a non-toxic acid, but don’t leave it in for more than 20 minutes. Rinse well and dry.

Tarnish Prevention

copper jewelry - jewelry box

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The easiest way to keep copper (and silver) jewelry tarnish-free is to store it properly. I use a jewelry box lined with felt that is specially treated to prevent tarnishing. Another choice is to buy a piece of anti-tarnish felt fabric and sew yourself a simple bag. Put your jewelry in the bag and wrap the bag in a plastic bag. I do this for pieces that won’t fit in the box. You can also buy pre-sewn anti-tarnish bags. For copper jewelry, before putting it away, I always buff it with my jeweler’s cloth so it’s pristine and ready to go when I take it out. Silver needs buffing much less often than copper.

copper jewelry - anti-tarnish felt fabric

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Whether you wear it for health or just enjoy the beautiful rose color, enjoy your copper jewelry! Try stacking a copper bracelet or ring with gold and silver, for that tri-color look!

Copper Jewelry cleaning shopping list:

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.


Crista Worthy writes about aviation, travel, wildlife, and more from her home in Idaho.

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