I I sometimes get questions from readers who email me. I can't claim to know all the answers but I do my best to try and help. As some of these inquiries might be of interest to other readers, I will post selected questions and answers from now on.  Your name will not be used if you'd rather not.

Ode to Copper Coiled Wire Necklace by Pearl

Reader Question :
Kimberly : I have a question about copper that so far other jewelers have not answered because they feel I should only be using sterling silver or gold. But I'm new to all jewelry making and I'm disabled and living on very little money.

The question is what do you do to the copper to make sure the jewelry doesn't turn anyone's skin green? I know that copper jewelry has turned my skin green and I don't want any of my potential customers to end up green and I lose future sales. I understand that I need to incorporate some st. silver, gold, even gold filled metals into some of my designs, but until I get more money coming in I have to use copper, brass and bronze. Thank you for all of your advice and love how you go into detail about your topics of the day. Thank you again.

Answer :
Pearl : There is nothing wrong with copper, brass and bronze - I use all of them.  But they do not sell as well as silver or silver colored metals. The  majority of people in the West seem to prefer the silver colored metals. In parts of Asia, gold is king.

The green skin effect is due to copper oxidizing with prolonged contact with skin which has sweat glands - the salty perspiration promotes tarnishing. The cosmetics and skin lotions we use plus the daily exposure to pollutants in the air don't help either.

There are 3 ways to reduce this problem:
  • Don't wear copper jewelry all the time. Remove it and store it in a zip lock bag to reduce the tarnishing effect. It also helps to keep bright copper shiny i.e. remove any beginning oxidation by cleaning it regularly. Ketchup, vinegar or lemon juice works! See post below.
  • Use renaissance wax to protect the jewelry. This though is not a permanent solution.
  • Deliberately patina your pieces for the vintage look ie add a layer of oxidized material. The patina layer will thus act as a barrier between the copper and your skin. Liver of sulfur is the most efficient way although there are other methods.  Again not a permanent solution as the patina eventually rubs off with use.  Some artisans create gorgeous patinas and they wax coat the pieces to protect the patinas (see posts below).
Consider other silver alternatives.  Silver plated is a fraction of the cost of sterling silver and some people are fine buying plated as it is cheaper for them. Even better is sterling silver filled wire which is much thicker than silver plated. It's about 1/2 the cost of sterling silver the last time I looked.

I also use stainless steel (a silver-grey metal - use jewelry supply types for softer tempers unless you have strong fingers) and bright aluminum. The latter is not regular aluminum which leaves black marks on you and the wearer. Bright aluminum is popular with chain mail jewelry makers as it is inexpensive, shiny like silver and light too (just clean it regularly because with time, it will eventually leave black marks). The downside is it can become brittle if you over work it.

Check out my past blog posts :
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips