COPPER (METAL USED IN JEWELRY)
The copper metal has always been in use for over ten thousand years. It is an essential mineral which can be found not only in plants but also in the human body. Copper, which behaves like an antimicrobial substance, is known to inhibit or kill fungi, bacteria, viruses or any other harmful micro-organism. It is a trace element, and its importance in the human body for the healthy functioning and development of the heart, the bones, the immune system and the skin cannot be over-emphasized. Copper, in its purest form, is soft, malleable and its use in the jewelry industry cannot be quantified. Copper has also found other uses as a conductor of heat, currency (copper is the chief element utilized in the United States penny). Copper is used in several medical instruments, on sculptures (the Statue of Liberty, which is one of the largest statues in the world, is made predominantly of copper). The environmental friendliness of copper has ranked it as the third most recyclable metal, and its durability accounts for the present-day use of over eighty percent of copper which was mined more than a few thousand years ago.
History of the Metal
Copper is classified as one of the oldest metals in existence. Archeological evidence has revealed that copper was mined by prehistoric men just about thirteen thousand years ago. The process of refining the mineral ore took much longer before being established in the Middle East.
Egyptians are credited as the first to conceive and create alloys from copper. Brass (a combination of zinc and copper) and bronze (a mixture of tin and copper) are some of the metal alloys created by the Egyptians. Any person with a large cache of copper, whether in pure or alloyed form, was highly regarded and given a respectable status in the society in those days.
The malleability of the copper mineral ore made it an excellent choice for jewelers as they used it to craft crowns for royalty as well as other elements which befitted their stations. The use of copper was not exempted from spiritual and religious ceremonies and medical practices as well. Owners of copper and copper jewelers enjoyed important high social status in those prehistoric days.
In the Americas, early men also made use of copper to create earrings and beads as well as in the treatment of wounds and skin diseases. When the Europeans arrived at the continent, copper bracelets gained prominence as a medium of exchange for the American natives. Even in this day and age, American Natives still produce pieces of jewelry made from copper in the form of earrings, pendants and bracelets. In modern day fashion circles, copper is still highly revered and used by celebrities as a jewelry item.
Taking Care of Your Copper Jewelry
Taking good care of your copper jewelry should be a priority. Copper always looks exquisite whether it is worked into a traditional handmade jewelry or that of contemporary designs. But over time, due to repeated use as well as exposure to dust, sweat, and humidity, the pink and shiny luster of the metal begins to darken into an unattractive brown color. Most times, as a result of oxidation, a green patina is created which further dulls the natural color of the metal. When you notice this change on your copper jewelry, it only means it’s time for you to get it cleaned by jewelers or artisans in your neighborhood or do it yourself.
Follow the guideline below to clean your copper jewelry if you chose to do it yourself. It is cheaper to clean the jewelry yourself, and the materials you will need to do a good job of cleaning the jewelry are household provisions:
i. Get some water warmed up on your burner and then add some drops of soap. The soap should be mild. Next, get hold of a rag, dip it into the mixture and use the cloth to clean your copper jewelry. Afterwards, you may rinse the copper jewelry with clean water and wipe it dry with another soft but clean cloth.
ii. In case the dullness persists, you will need to make use of vinegar to restore the luster of your copper jewelry. All you will need to do is to soak it in a cup of vinegar (to which one teaspoonful of table salt is added) for about ten to fifteen minutes. Then rinse the jewelry with clean water and proceed to dry it using a clean rag.
iii. To maintain the shine and pink color of your copper jewelry, ensure that you always polish your jewelry. For polishing purposes, you will need to make use of some lime or lemon juice and table salt. Get some lemon juice in a cup and add a small amount of salt in it. Then plunge the jewelry into the juice and twirl it around for a short spell. This action effectively gets rid of the copper patina. If the jewelry has some grooves in them, make use of any old toothbrush to scour the grooves. Then remove the copper jewelry from the lemon juice and rinse it thoroughly with clean, warm water. You may have a need to make use of the toothbrush here again if need be. Then, allow your jewelry to be totally dry before putting it on. If you don’t have lime or even lemon juice at home, then you may need to get hold of a polishing cloth to clean your copper jewelry.
iv. If you have to take a swim, whether at the beach or in a swimming pool, make sure you remove your copper jewelry and keep it away from chlorine water. Never bath, apply makeup or lotion or do the dishes with your jewelry on. Sunlight, sweat and heat all contribute to the appearance of the copper patina on the jewelry.
v. Store your copper jewelry in dry place. If you can get hold of an anti-tarnish box or pouch, the better it is for the jewelry. But if you don’t, then ensure your store your jewelry in an airtight plastic bag.
vi. WARNING: If the copper jewelry is inlaid with gemstones, then it is advisable that you take the jewelry to a jeweler for professional cleaning. You stand the risk of devaluing the jewelry if you proceed to clean it yourself without professional help. The second reason is that you may not able to tell if the patina on that particular copper jewelry was intentionally added by jewelry designers to enhance the beauty of the piece. Only professional jewelers can discern this.
Your Skin and Copper
Wearing copper jewelry on your skin is a good method of getting a small amount of the mineral into your body since it can easily be taken up via your skin. You may begin to notice (as you make use of your copper jewelry) the formation of a greenish tinge on your skin. This is as a result of the contact of copper with your sweat. These copper chelates are harmless and can easily be washed off your skin with soap and water.