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Copper prejudice?


#1

There seems to be a prejudice against working with copper, bronze etc. They are definitely more prone to tarnish than silver or gold but it doesn’t seem to damage the metal. We have bronze spear head and swords from thousands of years ago and can be polished up just fine. Is it that they don’t have intrinsic value? While copper is definitely hugely more abundant than silver or gold isn’t this a benefit? It is affordable for everyone. I understand pricing issues and not being able to charge for labour but silver (which is used a lot) is prone to these pricing issues aswell. Is there something I am missing about copper and it’s alloys that make it undesirable?


#2

One reason is certainly the perceived value of copper. But there is also the reactive properties that copper or high copper alloys such as bronze can have on many people’s skin. Copper is also a very soft metal (even though it ironically can harden other metals in alloy), even when work hardened.

That being said, I use silicon bronze often in brooches and in some places on rings and neckpieces. I am just careful to use it in suitable situations. I often pour ingots from this bronze. It forges beautifully and welds well, even with a torch. It can be beautiful when combined with silver or high carat golds.

Beware of steel in combination, however, mostly in wet places where a galvanic situation can occur.


#3

What is this silicon bronze alloy you speak of? Where can I get it?


#4

I love working in brass, copper, and nickel-silver, and have been making jewelry this way for over 40 years. It is affordable, so I can make the larger pieces I like. The matters of tarnishing, etc., can all be dealt with, and you can eventually gain a following for your work, if your designs are interesting enough. Take a look at the copper jewelry made by Alexander Calder!

I know that some folks have an allergy to nickel, but in 40 years, I have never had a customer have that problem, and nickel-silver worn constantly looks almost identical to sterling silver.

Basically, I enjoy myself and make some money doing this and never have to lock away my raw material!


#5

Silicone bronze and other types of bronze is now developing a following in watches, particular diving watches. Jewelers should take a look at these, because some of them are sold for good prices. The reason for the popularity (maybe this is too strong a word) of bronze cases is that they develop a patina, which some people like very much.

This bring to mind Berlin iron jewellery. Or at least it was German made in the 19th Century. I’m not sure why, but int he 19th Century German jewelers turned out a lot of iron jewellery, apparently because their customers couldn’t afford anything more expensive.

Both watch cases and German iron jewellery are two examples that prove to me that jewllery customers will accept jeweler that is not made out of precious metals and prize it just as much. Also, just as importantly, they’ll pay for it too.


#6

Thats a very interesting point. Thanks for that one :slightly_smiling_face:


#7

Berlin iron jewelry became fashionable because the Prussian royal family encouraged people to donate their gold and silver to help the war effort against Napoleon. In return people were given articles made of iron. Wearing it demonstrated your patriotism.


#8

I have an iron ring from my grand or great grandparents that was given in exchange for turning in their wedding ring. It has an iron cross on it.


#9

Lots of customers these day are just picky… They hear copper, bronze, brass, etc… and automatically think “Oh its not gold or silver”.? Besides the above mentioned skin allergies that some people have to these metals. Side note: some people also have allergic skin reaction to silver to.
I personally love brass. its fun to work with looks and polishes great, you can patina it nicely, and is easy to re-polish & touch up.


#10

I charge the same for my labor whether it’s silver, gold, brass, or copper. You should as well. It takes just as much skill and work to make something out of copper as gold. I charge a little more for platinum work because it takes more skill, designated tools, and it’s a pain in the ass to polish.
So my clients generally will go for “noble” metals when the see how much my labor is.


#11

This is a pet peeve of mine and I do my best to try and educate my customers and potential customers about copper. I work almost exclusively in copper, not because I don’t like other metals, I just love copper!