It's just copper, who'll buy it?

Was: Torch firing on copper

"Yeah, but it's just copper, who'll buy it?" 

I must confess that I’m a little prejudiced against copper too. I’m
not sure why - perhaps it’s its perceived “cheapness” that bothers
me. I love the colour but would sooner use red gold to achieve that

When I first started making jewellery, my husband suggested that I
buy some copper sheet and wire and practice with it. I’m afraid I’m
an all or nothing type of person so I don’t really do practicing. I
didn’t see the point. I figured that I could learn in silver which
is what I chose to work in. If anything went wrong - which of course
it did - I would just melt it down and re-use it.

The other thing, apart from its lower value is the fact that it
doesn’t stay its lovely red colour. Of course sterling tarnishes too
but not to the same extent as copper.

However, although I love using sterling silver, I have decided to
move onto gold as soon as I can afford to do so because fabricating
jewellery in sterling just doesn’t pay an acceptable hourly rate for
the labour involved. No matter how good a piece is when it’s
finished, the value of the piece will only give a wage that’s below
the minimum wage - unless you’re a really famous designer I suppose.
To this end, I’m now incorporating gold into my sterling pieces to
add value to my work. Hopefully this way I can slowly move towards
the gold jewellery market and raise my prices (which is something
many people have advised me to do).


Hello Helen,

You mentioned " When I first started making jewellery, my husband
suggested that I buy some copper sheet and wire and practice with
it. I’m afraid I’m an all or nothing type of person so I don’t really
do practicing. I didn’t see the point."

That made me recall that my first guitar - the one I learned on -
was a Martin, borrowed from a cousin. It was a joy to play and had
wonderful sound. When I returned the Martin and got my own
instrument (which was good, but not that good), it was a

When you learn on/with the best, you enjoy learning! Happy soldering

  • and you’ll LOooove working in gold. So forgiving!

Judy in Kansas


I attended a juried art show over the weekend here in Iowa, with a
fair number of “craft” jewelers I evidence. The booth with BY FAR
the biggest crowd of females, checkbooks in hand, was one who
combined copper, sterling and gold into their earrings and pendants.
Some of the copper was torch-worked, some not. Some was patinaed,
some not. On most, the trim was Sterling, with a little gold bead or
flat snippet added here there. The most popular seemed to be the
torch-worked copper, no silver, with an added gold ball or three.

All had been dipped in a lacquer to seal the patina, which, in my
experience can be very durable if you use the right sealer.

The prices started at around US$25 up to maybe US$80, ans she was
very busy writing receipts both Saturday and Sunday.

The point is that people often do not buy based on what the metal
is, they buy because it’s pretty. At least these people did!!

I cut stones, natural and synthetic, almost four decades of
experience. These days, I am kept busy with a backlog of orders for
large, fancy synthetics, and some of the colors have no counterpart
in Nature, or are so expensive in the natural that it would take
forever to sell it.

I used to say that I would NEVER cut synthetics or simulants, but
guess what? The money all spends the same, but I had to learn to
leave my preconceptions of “what people want” or “what people should
buy” behind. Way behind.

Wayne, copper is good

Copper, the symbol of eternal life. Copper, although non-precious, is
one of the oldest And most celebrated metals known to man.

Copper, the symbol of eternal life. Copper, although non-precious,
is one of the oldest And most celebrated metals known to man. 

I absolutely love copper and working with copper. Most of my sales
are from items made with copper. It’s a beautiful metal.


I, too, love copper and working with it. I love to incorporate it
with silver and/or brass. I have no problem selling copper jewelry
in the shops, and I believe it’s attractive because it’s different,
you don’t find it at the mall, and some people are seeking it for the
arthritis claims. Not to mention that it’s very affordable.


Hi Helen,

When I first started making jewelry, a little over 40 years ago, I
worked some in brass and copper. Actually one of the first pieces I
made was from brass wire pounded on a cement floor with a
carpenter’s hammer. In the mid 60’s in Hollywood you could sell
almost anything that was handmade. As I kept working I moved into
silver and soon that was most of what I did. By the way, I have
supported myself and my family with making jewels from the time I
made that first piece. At the time gold was $35 an ounce and seemed
way too expensive for me to use. LOL. Later on I bought some gold,
made 10 pieces with it and at my next art show sold 7 of them, so I
really got into gold for a while and setting faceted stone and some
diamonds as well as lots of cabs.

Further along in my evolution I discovered that I really liked the
effect of mixing copper with silver and then adding bits of gold to
the mixture also. I now make almost all of my work mixing silver,
copper and rose and yellow gold & rarely white gold. I find that this
work sell better than anything that I have ever done. There are a
great number of people out there who appreciate copper and copper and
silver. It sounds odd but I am able to get more money for pieces that
contain copper even it costs me less. I can make a similar design in
all silver, all gold, and silver, copper and gold and I will sell 5
of the silver, copper gold mixture for every one of the others I
sell. I even mix copper and rose gold side by side on the silver and
the contrast is interesting and people appreciate it. I have been
able to watch some of these pieces age for almost 30 years because a
very high percentage of my sales are to people that have bought from
me before and they are often wearing old pieces that I have made when
they come back to buy more. I have found that the pieces age very
well and I rarely have someone who is dissatisfied with the work. I
worried about people having problems with the copper when I first
started to make these pieces but after selling so many and having
minimal problems I stopped worrying. I have customers that have
collections of up to 30 pieces.

I am now starting to feel like working in mixed colors of gold more
and will create a larger line of designs in all 14k mixtures. In some
ways I don’t decide what I’m going to make when I set at my bench, it
happens to me as much as me deciding. I find that if I let that
process happen in its on way, I make better designs, I’m happier, I’m
healthier and I make more money. Of course, if you do special orders,
you don’t always have that luxury, but at this phase of my career I
do very few of those.

My advice is to follow your heart when deciding what metals to work
in. Silver and gold is great. Jump into some all gold pieces too,
you’ll have fun and they’ll sell. Happy tinkering to you.

Jima Abbott
On the Mendocino coast
north of San Francisco

I sell a lot of copper. Copper pendants even. There are people out
there that like copper jewelry. It’s funny, many of them like silver,
but HATE gold.

The point being, Copper Jewelry Buyers/wearers are out there. There
are not as many, but they are there.

TL Goodwin

Hi Wayne,

I used to say that I would NEVER cut synthetics or simulants, but
guess what? The money all spends the same, but I had to learn to
leave my preconceptions of "what people want" or "what people
should buy" behind. Way behind. 

I never say never. I may well have a go with it at some point but I
need to decide where I want to place myself in the jewellery market -
huge field that it is. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you stay
at the lower end of the market, sterling silver, copper, brass, etc,
then you’re always going to be chasing your tail, constantly
fabricating pieces which won’t make you much money and therefore
returning a very low hourly rate for your labour.

Many people have suggested working in gold, or at least adding gold
accents to raise the value of the work I do and that is where I’m at
just at the moment.

Your analogy with natural vs synthetic and simulants is a similar
thing. I’ve got a large number of lovely synthetics and simulants
and don’t have a problem setting them in silver. But I also have a
large number of natural gems and have recently found a good source of
natural gems in calibrated sizes and consistent quality. What I’ve
decided to do is use only natural gems in my pieces where I intend
to incorporate gold and put those pieces in galleries. Then I can set
the lab gems in silver and sell them through my Etsy store.
Hopefully going down two avenues will show me the best way for my

But yes you’re right, copper is good.


Hello Judy and all others aswell,

I disagree with your statement about starting with the best. If one
needs to buy the best equipment and tools to start in the jewelry
tread, he will very soon realize that this he should start learn how
to paint or do some quilting. With all respect to the people who
paint or quilt!

I started with very little and used tools. A large majority of the
tools was made by myself like a polishing machine tumbler and other.
I’ve learned how to deal with the “unproffesional” stuf and know
what I can with it. As I learned from mistakes and correction, I’ve
bought better tools in order of more fancy and good looking. However,
I still work with my old ones and frankly enough they still give me
the finish I want.

It’s all -as far as I think- a matter of howmuch effort you want to
spend in learning it. The love you find in working with metals.
Howmuch fun you have dealing with this craft. I still have some
"first made pieces" and believe me it’s not worth it looking at it
laugh. But the point is, I’ve learned, I accomplished something,
I’m much much better as I was bevor. This is not achieved by better
tools but by being open mindet, focused on getting better and learn
from others as I still do today.

I agree however on playing instruments because sound can not be
better than the instrument itself. You go for the sounds and a good
instrument will sound much better then other cheaper ones. A
proffesional musician will not perform better with a cheap guitar
but a layman will not play better with an expensive one nor learn

I’m not using the expression that you can start of with a rusty file
and a hecksaw but don’t go to expensive if you learning working with
jewelry. After a while, you will find your way and your skills will
develop in the way you work. Change what have to be changed but
remember how you got there and the tools, well the tools are helping
you getting there but YOU need to make it happen, not the tools!

I’ve seen people soldering with a blow pipe and freehand. This guy
was awsome!!! I’ve looked to his jewelry and I’m still amazed what
he produced with this stupid copper pipe, his knowledge and
craftmanship !!! Ceck out the Maya culture, The phiramids, medevial
castels and much much more. Accomplished with very basic tools and in
a way which we not can with the their tools.

If you’re really out there to learn making jewelry then nothing can
stop you and you will keep-on going untill you achieve what you have
in mind. If it doesn’t work out from the first time then you’ll give
it another try. You’ll harden yourself by doing and making mistakes.
As american people use to say “the sky is the limit”. Well it’s
wrong! Space is the limit and finances too.

With all respect to Judy, I’m sure you just picked a wrong example
to make your point.

Keep up the good work and enjoy.


i love making alloys of copper with gold in little billets and wire

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Copper is one of my favorite metals. I would say 65% of the art
jewelry I sell is fabricated out of copper or a mix of copper and
silver. I use it because I love it. My customers buy my pieces
because they fall in love with them. I have used gold in the past
but found that I am so worried about ruining it that I don’t enjoy
working with it as much. So, I stick with using what I love. I am
not working toward becoming a traditional jeweler. I am an artist. A
metal artist. And that just works for me :slight_smile:


1 Like

Well, not sure if the issue of starting with the best was address
under the topic of If it’s just copper, or under another topic.

But I wanted to add this: When I was getting my undergraduate degree
it was in commercial art and math. My commercial art instructors
insisted on our using the cheapest of materials - cheap paper, cheap
paints, cheap brushes. Their contention was "If you can produce
acceptable end results using cheap everything, then when you switch
to “best” you will do superb work.

And I must say it did turn out that way. So when I started in
jewelry at the community college, I had inexpensive (not the
cheapest, but not the top of the line either) tools, I worked a lot
in copper and nickel and gradually added sterling and then gold. I
now work almost exclusively in silver because I like it, I wear only
silver (don’t look good in gold) and it’s more affordable for me. I
sell through a gallery and they sell my silver work and my silver and
bead work quite regularly and for good prices I might add. So again,
it’s a matter of finding your market (actually my market found me).
But I see no reason to start out with the most expensive of

Actually some people in my jewelry classes dropped out as time went
on because they just didn’t have the passion for it that the creative
life style needs.

But then that’s just my opinion. Yours is probably very different.
Starting with inexpensive things was just fine for me but then I
grew up in a very poor family and knew how to “make do”. If you were
born with a gold spoon in your mouth it may not work for you.


Hi Jima,

Thanks for sharing your experiences of copper. Most of the pieces I
make are set with stones, either cabochons or faceted or both
combined. The stones generally dictate to me what metalwork needs to
be done. I rarely make pieces that are just metal but have done on
occasion. I’ve added gold accents to such piecesl and I did like the
contrast. But the big problem for me is that the pieces I make
aren’t worth big bucks and so my aim is to use metals of higher value
to raise what pieces are worth and therefore pay myself a better
hourly rate for my labour. I love what I do but poor health means I
can’t do it for as many hours as I’d like and so for the hours I can
do it, I’d like it to pay a reasonable return.

I’m making casual sterling silver jewellery with nice quality stones
but I’m practicing my skills with the hope of moving into making
fine jewellery at some point in the future. I love the colour of
copper but it doesn’t really belong in the fine jewellery market -
hence my wish to move into gold. What gold work I have already done,
I enjoyed very much. It’s all about where you want to place yourself
in the market place for me.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. You’ve obviously been doing
something right all these years to be able to support your family -
I just need to find the right market for what I make. Many, many
people tell me they love my jewellery and I’ve had a few sales but
it’s slow to get going. I’m not offering enough choice at the moment

  • maybe some pieces with copper would get the ball rolling! :wink: I’ve
    been given all sorts of advice, from making lots of inexpensive pairs
    of earrings, to raising my prices, giving more choice (which I know I
    need to do). I’m going to try and get my work into some galleries
    and see if that works.


Hi Laney,

I am not working toward becoming a traditional jeweler. 

You’ve hit the nail on the head. I absolutely love your jewellery
and it’s clearly selling really well. I especially like your copper
pieces that are pierced with tree shapes, etc and love the colours
in your “ode to fall” piece - it’s beautiful. I have made some
art-type pieces but I’ve found that I get more enjoyment from making
and wearing pieces that are leaning towards the traditional jewellery
style. I don’t mean that I want to make the things that you find
everywhere in the malls - I do try to make things that are different
and contemporary. But I am wanting to work towards becoming a
traditional jeweller. My pieces that are made more traditionally -
faceted gems set in silver (perhaps with gold accents) - are the
pieces that get noticed by people more often. My more arty pieces
stay in the bottom of my jewellery box and are never worn (but when
I did wear them they weren’t noticed). Every time I see them I think
“I’ll make something new with that stone” because if it’s not being
worn then the piece isn’t right.

I think I’ve finally found a style that I’m happy with and am having
lots of fun developing it. Photos to come soon all being well.


Hi Pedro,

With all respect to Judy, I'm sure you just picked a wrong example
to make your point. 

I think you missed Judy’s point altogether. She was not talking
about buying the best tools you can in order to start learning how to
make jewellery. The “conversation” was about whether or not to use
copper to practice on, in the beginning. I didn’t see the point as I
didn’t want to make copper jewellery - I wanted to make silver
jewellery - so I made my pieces in sterling right from the very first
piece I made. Different metals behave differently - they have
different personalities and so I wanted to learn how silver handles
so I used silver.

Judy said “When you learn on/with the best, you enjoy learning!”.
She didn’t mention buying the best tools. I’m still using tools I’ve
begged and borrowed and adapted - but I have bought some expensive
tools also. My arsenal of tools works very well for what I want to
make and I add to it as and when I can afford to do so, depending on
what techniques I want to learn.

It's all -as far as I think- a matter of howmuch effort you want
to spend in learning it. 

I’m not sure what you are implying. Personally I am making very
great efforts to learn metalwork and enjoying every minute of it. If
somebody wanted to spend lots of money on the best tools available,
that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to put lots of effort into
learning - it just means that they can afford to buy the best tools
available. They will still have the learning curve to go through,
just like the rest of us who started with cheap tools.


I really do think that people are missing the point of what was said.
This topic was never about learning this craft using the best tools
possible. Only a fool goes out and buys all the best tools in the
business before even starting and getting a feel for what they need,
or if they even enjoy the craft/art.

I made a comment that I didn’t see the point of starting to learn to
make silver jewellery by using copper - as my husband had suggested.
It had nothing whatsoever to do with cost. It was the fact that I
wanted to make silver jewellery and wear silver jewellery (NOT
copper), and so wanted to learn how silver handled - get to know its
personality. How some people have turned that into me (or anyone
else) suggesting that you should use the best tools possible, I
really don’t know. Judy said that it’s more enjoyable when you learn
with the best, but was referring to my comment about using silver as
opposed to copper.


alot of people like copper, i am one of them, likley as not,
industrial demand from the growing asian economy for copper scrap
from western countries will most likley put us in a position of
reclassifying the stuff as precious metal, my suspicions are only
jewelers will be able to afford the stuff. here in ohio they find
people dead on a regular basis from thier attempts to steal copper
in the form of electrical wire and gas pipes & plumbing to sell as
scrap. a couple hundred years ago aluminum was used for flatware
because it was so darn expensive and difficult to refine that it was
an exquisite symbol of status and wealth. then technology took over
and the stuff is every where.

Hi Gang,

One very valuable thing about copper is it’s cost & similar working
characteristics to silver.

It’s also generally available at home centers & hardware stores.

It’s a great metal to use for ‘trying out’ a new design or to get
the techniques down to make the final piece. I

If done with care, the experimental piece can be sold to the ‘copper
lovers’ out there.


Judy said

When you learn on/with the best, you enjoy learning! 

She didn’t mention buying the best tools.

I’ve been reading this thread with some interest - don’t have a lot
to add, but it’s been an interesting read. I will clarify the
musical instrument connection, though, because it is a well known
saying in music - “Buy the best instrument you can afford, because a
cheap instrument will only frustrate you.” Nowhere is that more
evident than in stringed instruments, and most popularly, guitars.
On cheap ones the strings are an inch above the fingerboard, the
frets are out of whack, they won’t stay in tune, they sound awful.
You have to do battle with the guitar, which is bad when you don’t
even know how. By contrast even a moderately priced instrument will
feel like silk in your hands, and the sounds you can make with much
less effort are twice as pleasing, too. And part of the saying is
that fine or even good instruments keep their value. I would agree
that a person who wants to work in silver or gold probably shouldn’t
be very serious about copper - silver is 500% easier, overall.
Someone who likes copper to begin with doesn’t need this thread,
anyway…;<} “Nobody told me it wasn’t supposed to sell, so I got
rich on it…”