Oxidizing (commonly called “tarnish”) can give copper a darker patina, often deliberately done by jewelers to highlight designs in the metal or wirework.  Colors can also be applied to copper by flame, acids, inks, etc. Some of these may have a lacquer coating applied to protect the patina. It is best to check with the jeweler if you don't know if it's coated.

Oxydized Copper

If the jewelry is coated with a lacquer, simply swish in some warm soapy water, rinse, and gently towel dry. This may also be the method to use with other colored copper jewelry, such as flame painted, but it's always best to check first with the jeweler, or test the method on a small out-of-the way place.

Patinated Copper

If the jeweler has deliberately applied a blackish patina to show off the highlights and did not lacquer the piece, washing gently as described above, drying, and then gently polishing with a polishing cloth with brighten up the raised portions. Don't get too enthusiastic and rub too hard or the cloth will remove the desired highlights! Gentle is the key when using a polishing cloth..

If your copper has oxidized and you prefer the bright, new penny look (and it's not lacquered), you can clean your copper.  Here's an inexpensive and efficient method to clean your copper jewelry using a “bath”.

NOTE:  This treatment cannot be used with soft stones such as turquoise, opal, pearl, etc. If in doubt, check with your jeweler.

First make some warm, soapy water with a gentle liquid dishwashing soap.  This will remove the skin oils from the non-lacquered copper, laying bare the copper surface. 

Rinse well and pat dry (you don’t want to dilute the next step). 

Simply soak the copper in plain, household vinegar.  This will “eat” the tarnish.  Leave the copper in for a few moments. Do not forget the jewelry in the vinegar bath! Check every minute or so.

Rinse very well, pat dry with a clean terry cloth towel (the nap will help dry any indentations of the copper).  Let completely air dry before storing.

This is only a temporary measure.  Copper oxidizes easily; even high humidity or acidic skin can cause oxidation.  You may just want to let it go the natural way or talk to your jeweler about the pros and cons of a protective lacquer.



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