I’ve been working on a few designs in copper over the past couple of weeks. I like using other metals with silver, because I think the contrasting colours work well together. I had been sticking to brass when it came to designs for the shop, because the appearance of copper changes so much when it is exposed to the air, and that can put people off.
Most metals will oxide and tarnish over time, but copper becomes dramatically different very quickly. It is a pale and bright pinky colour when freshly polished, but quickly loses its shine, darkens and mellows. Over time, it will develop an individual patina. I think that this transformation is part of the beauty of the metal, but I know that some people dislike copper for that reason.
Another issue with copper is that it can leave a green mark on the skin. This only happens after prolonged wear, and shouldn’t be a problem for a pendant or earrings. The green is completely harmless anyway, and easily washes off with soap.
It is possible to treat copper with wax or varnish to seal it, but these do wear off eventually, especially on items like jewellery which are subject to rubbing. Best just to celebrate the true nature of the metal, and give it a quick clean with a mixture of water, lemon juice and salt every so often.
So, I’ve taken the decision to make and sell some pieces in copper, and leave them untreated. I have advised that it is possible give items a thin coat of clear nail varnish to prolong the shine, but I really hope that others will see the natural beauty of this underrated metal, and learn to love the way it changes over time.