Copper Quintessence

Copper makes the beautiful and much admired Rose Gold. Copper is usually considered the lower rank among the top three metals. Gold, silver and then…copper.

A few historical details about copper:
• it is prehistoric – this means it existed before written records
• copper gets its name from Old English, ‘coper’ which was born out of the Latin, ‘Cyprium aes’ which means a metal from Cyprus1
• on the Periodic Table, the copper symbol is Cu, atomic number 29
• humans have been working with copper for more than 8,000 years2

Much in the way that Rose Gold is a percentage of yellow gold, silver and copper there are many items including, the copper penny, that are now copper alloys. Copper is a very malleable metal and can be made into a stronger metal by mixing with tin, zinc and other metals to create an alloy. Copper is a highly used electrical conductive because it is ductile and thermal resistant.

Not only is copper useful in instruments for everyday use but it has tremendous health benefits. Do you take a multi-vitamin? Check the label for ingredients. Copper gluconate is in most common daily multi-vitamin supplements. According to “Medical News Today,” copper benefits cardiovascular health, neuron signaling, immune function, osteoporosis, collagen production, arthritis and antioxidant action.3 Of course all of this is good when taken in moderation. Excessive cumulation of copper in the blood stream can reap copper toxicity. This is rare but, it can cause liver damage among other side effects.

Why does copper irritate the skin on some people and not on others? Great question!
First, copper salt can be a natural irritant to the skin. When we sweat we create a reaction with the copper salt and our skin. Also, skin may turn green when wearing natural copper and this is a normal reaction to sweat. It is not harmful but if your skin starts to itch and develops a rash then discontinue wearing the copper. Many people have different reactions to different metals and much of this has to do with what is going on inside your body and the added mineral next to the pores of your skin. There are some who can’t wear sterling silver either.

In the book, “Copper and the Skin,” it states that much of the research that has been done on the impact of wearing copper and its “efficacy of dermal assimilation of copper in arthritic and rheumatoid conditions by skin contact … have been few, poorly conducted … and mostly subjective evidence of benefits to be expected by mere skin contact with the metal.”4 It also goes on to examine that the process of the salts in copper and how those salts interact with the “micro-enviroment” (eg. sweat from the skins pores) are unpredictable. In other words, everyone is different in how their skin will react to different metals. Your best bet is to try some and see what happens. You won’t die from it but, your skin may become itchy and swell a bit. Then you will know you can’t wear pure, natural copper.

Copper quintessence is warm with the color of a radiant sunset.

Copper adds depth when adjoined with silver, gold/brass. It is a versatile substance from the earth given to us. See the link below from the Britannica website that delves into some ancient ruins. This brings a deeper perspective to a common mineral element.

https://www.britannica.com/video/186016/Researchers-pre-Columbian-copper-work-Illinois-Cahokia-Mounds

Kaleido Wire and Stone, basically, me, myself and I, is going on a journey with copper in creating designs of chain maille and wired stone. Some of the designs will be bare copper which means there is no seal or clear coat enamel protectant. In many cases, I use a polymer-based resin seal instead of enamel which will be stated in the listing of the item.

Tidbit for hobbyists/crafters: There is a lot of copper wire sold in art and hobby stores that is already sealed and this is good wire to work with if you have questionable allergies but, you also have to be careful to understand that when working the wire, any nicks, cuts or abrasions will penetrate the protective layer of clear coat seal.

1 “Copper – Element Information, Properties and Uses: Periodic Table.” Copper – Element information, properties and uses | Periodic Table. Accessed May 7, 2020. https://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/29/copper.

2 Pappas, Stephanie. “Facts About Copper.” LiveScience. Purch, September 12, 2018. https://www.livescience.com/29377-copper.html.

3 “Copper: Health Benefits, Recommended Intake, Sources, and Risks.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288165#nervous_system.

4 Maibach, Howard I.., Hostynek, Jurij J.. Copper and the Skin. United Kingdom: CRC Press, 2006.

Getting a Natural Patina in Sterling Silver

Recently, someone had asked me to take necklace focal piece and turn it into a bracelet. This project led me to do a Byzantine chain maille bracelet and it also led to me antiquing that bracelet to show off the interesting detail of the Byzantine pattern. This project turned out so well I decided to create this blog piece to share how you can get a natural patina in your sterling silver with the simple boiling of eggs. This avoids chemicals and patina agents that can sometimes be a mess.

First, get a couple of eggs and start to hard boil them. It does not matter what kind of eggs, any eggs will do.

Once the eggs are hard boiled, approximately 7 minutes, then you can place them into a plastic container.

Now you are ready to smash them! Using a spoon, ladle or anything that can easily mash up the eggs, shell and all, within the container.

Quickly, while the eggs are still hot, place the metal you wish to patina inside the container with the egg and close the lid.

Let this sit for a good 15 to 20 minutes. For larger pieces, 30 minutes. It is important for the egg yolk to be hot and steamy. Why does egg yolk tarnish silver? I am so glad you asked! 🙂 Because the yolk emits a sulfur-containing gas called hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Silver naturally tarnishes in reaction to any sulfur gases in the air. This also occurs with copper so, you could easily do this same process with copper.

Next you can use a polishing cloth over the surface of the piece and achieve an appearance that serves to give the metal more depth. As you can see the difference in the chain before and after antiquing. With this method of tarnishing, you can achieve a natural patina look with your silver or copper pieces.

Polishing Wire Wrap

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Wire Wrap Pendant

So now you have this beautiful piece of wire wrapped jewelry. It is a treasure and something special you want to preserve and take care of. I receive many questions from people about how to care for the stones and the wire. Wire wrapped jewelry is not something you want to soak in commercial cleaning solutions. Sometimes, a mild soap mixed with water will do the trick.

I usually list in the description of my pieces as to whether or not I have sealed the wire with a clear varnish or clear resin to prevent tarnishing. Even with sealing, metals will begin to show the signs of exposure to the elements of air, sun, sweat and all those other things you don’t necessarily think about like, hairspray or perfumes and colognes. These do have an effect on all metals including, gold.

When you do see a bit of tarnish begin to spread on your sterling silver or copper wire, one of the first steps you can take is to polish the metal lightly with a polishing cloth. Most jewelry stores sell these cloths, you just have to ask for them at the counter.

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Wire wrapped pendant being polished using a standard polishing cloth.

Another step would be a polish that will last longer and protect the metal. There are many products sold for polishing silver, brass and copper metals. These are good polishing products and they put a barrier of protection on the metal so the shine lasts longer. You can use a cotton swab to spread the polish on and buff it off. A rinsing of mild soap and water also does the trick for lesser tarnished areas.

For copper, there are some more natural polishing products you can try such as ketchup and toothpaste. It takes longer with these products but, if you have some time and patience, it can’t hurt!

The best way to preserve any and all jewelry pieces is to keep them in separate containers and sealed. Jewelry boxes are fine but, if you are like me, you know how that goes. I am not the best at keeping things nice and neat and separated in my jewelry box. I am sometimes very bad at quickly throwing my earrings in the box and not thinking anything of it. Well, nicks and scratches occur when we do this so, if you really care about certain pieces, you will want to take the extra time and keep things neat and separated. Little plastic bags are the best for preventing future tarnish.

As far as the stones, you don’t want to put any stones in any harsh chemicals. If you go swimming in the pool, take your jewelry off! The chlorine is bad for metal and stone.

Enjoy that precious piece of history you are wearing and yes, it is a part of history. Metal and stone come from the earth and it has taken some time for both to evolve, grow, metamorphose into the very thing you are wearing.