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Predjudice against copper materials?

Hello Orchidians, one and all,

So here I am with a couple of questions that concern different
aspects of the jewelry trade.

My second question is hard to even ask. I have found what seems to
be a predjudice against copper materials. Not here in Orchidland but
in the world. Is this a common phenomenon? Many people seem to turn
their noses up when they hear that a piece is made of “mere copper”.
That’s a direct quote. I’ve had good response to my work and I know
that I need to improve in technique. Don’t we all? That’s ok and
fine and all but I seriously do not understand the bias against the
less-than-precious metals. If something isn’t silver, gold, platinum
and such some people don’t even want to see the work. Am I missing
something here? At one time, albeit a long time ago, these were the
precious metals. Are people just becoming snobs? I’m finding it all
a little weird. Beautiful work is regularly done in copper, brass,
bronze, aluminum, even steel. Any ideas?


Hi, Mike,

I agree that copper is undervalued. It is a beautiful and versatile
material. My guess is that the reasons it is not really highly
regarded aRe:

  1. it turns your skin colors is worn under certain (or perhaps
    uncertain) conditions

  2. it is not costly, at least at present

  3. it changes color on its own over time and according to use

  4. (this one’s a little if-ier) it is too soft

  5. it is not practical to use for many purposes, like food, though
    you’ll for sure get your trace mineral. What do you think?

–Noel Yovovich

Mike –

I am a developing metalsmith and I have to admit I avoided copper
because o its supposed (perceived) lesser value. I figured to reach
certain markets I would have to be making things in gold – in fact,
I thought SILVER was the lesser metal!

But I had a recent experience that still has me happily baffled. My
mom wanted a copper necklace as she adores the metal. In developing
that piece, I messed around with heat-coloring the copper, and then
using the scrap I did a “Sunday afternoon project” pendant using
cheap rainbow hematite. But when I wear that piece, I swear I have
not had fewer than 3 people approach me and ask about it. It’s the
only piece I have that compels people to touch it (people just reach
out and grab it! which is disconcerting given where it lays on the
chest!!). I will be re-doing my website this weekend and posting it
there so I’ll send a note when that happens.

Now I am producing these pieces and they are a hot seller. And they
are not all that cheap considering the market of juried craft shows
and galleries ($65 to $135 – much less than the simple stone-setting
pendants)! The happy thing is, with less than $4 in materials, and
about an hour of work – well, you do the math! Weird, yes, but I’m
not complaining.

So the question: is it the warm tones of the copper? Is it the combo
with the hematite? Is it the shape (most are shields) that is so
compelling, or is it all of the above combined and thus is it truly:
beads) that constitutes ART?

And that doesn’t help much with Mike’s question except that, if it’s
the design that’s selling the piece, then is it the market that’s
important to get right for the type of work we do? Clearly I’m not
getting the prejudice he has. I didn’t WANT a line of copper, but my
market wanted it. That leads me to another post, which I’ll do
separately… Roseann

Hi, Mike and All-

I just wanted to add my opinion here, that copper is in fact the
most beautiful metal on Earth. Just my opinion of course! ;o) Copper
doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. Rarity? Demand?
Popularity? Tarnish issues ( but silver has them too)? I don’t know,
but it was always my favorite of all, followed by rose gold (which
contains copper) and THEN the white metals such as platinum,
titanium, steel and silver.

Some of the most gorgeous pieces I have seen were copper, set with
stones - from semi-precious to unusual… What are some of the more
unusual stones you have seen set in copper?

Mary Beth in NH

Mike, Copper and copper alloys have a serious drawback for use in
jewelry. They corrode away rapidly. How fast will depend on many
variables but silver, gold and platinum do not, this is one reason
for their value. If you use copper or high copper alloys for rings
or bracelets the corrosion is very rapid due to the hands and wrists
constant exposure to water. It will be even faster if you use silver
or gold accents on your copper or vice versa due to the electrolytic
cell you set up when combining metals. This is one reason for the
"prejudice against copper". It is a shame because you can get some
beautiful colors in the copper alloys but those colors are most
often the result of corrosion but when it is deliberate we call it
a patina. Another reason is that copper is just not very valuable
and there is still a strong connection in peoples minds between
jewelry and the value of the materials, design is very often a
secondary consideration. If you work in copper alloys be prepared to
get less for your time than if you do the same work in precious
metals. It may not be fair but it is the way it seems to work.

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

people, in an effort to cut short what could be a month long
exchange of opinions, impressions, observations, definitions, &
someone’s second cousin’s interpretations of true art after watching
nearly all of sister wendy’s series, here is the penultimate plus
one word on ART:

i finally tracked down ART in a little sidewalk bistro in south
miami. ART was incognito and not happy to have been recognized, but
after i offered to spring for the lunch ART mellowed a little,
shrugged and said "what the heck, it looks like this conundrum isn’t
going to be put to bed (eyebrow wiggle & flick of invisible cigar
ash) until i do it. so here’s my take on me (ART):

"i am any effort, in any medium, on any surface - including just
ears, eyeballs, brain, and/or heart or gut - that gives pleasure to
anyone - that’s ANYONE - seeing, hearing, touching, feeling through
the soles of the feet or by canceling anyone’s pain for one brief
period of time. i try not to be a harlot by just selling myself to a
high bidder, but if that bidder gets pleasure from me instead of
just buying me as an investment - then i’m still ART. i have no
medium preference, no rigid genre, no authoritatively recognized age
or time limitations. i am - just me.

"i did not exist until the first crude society gave a few artists
the freedom to create something beyond hunting, defending,
gathering, reproducing and finding shelter. the first puff of
pigment blown from the artist’s mouth around his hand onto a cave
wall was ART.

“those inflated detractors, self-crowned demigods, genre gurus,
trend benders, and ‘important style-setters’ do not bother me - they
amuse me with their declaration that without them i would not exist
when it they who would be reduced to writing weekly nasty,
opinionated letters to the editor were it not for me giving them a
locus for their expression.”

at this point ART gave a sharp whistle for the dessert trolley
waiter and made his selections. with his spoon hovering above the
first creme fraiche covered creation ART looked up, grinned and
closed the subject with “and all those gnats who use my name in
vain; analyze me into endless ennui; grind out their own insipid
interpretations & inflict them on poor students as ‘the final word’;
blather on about nonexistent acquaintanceships with me - tell 'em
all that ART keeps a LIST.”


Hi Mike – there is absolutely a predjudice against copper, brass,
bronze, aluminum, and steel; though bronze and steel carry a higher
perceived value than the other metals. Bronze is perceived more
valueable by the public because of its association with art
statueary; and my guess is that steel is considered more valueable
(perception-wise) because steel tools are/were valued above iron

I don’t think that copper was ever grouped as a precious metal. The
traditional precious metals are gold and silver, joined by platinum.
Aluminum is historically very young as a pure metal, so it would
not have even been considered.

The only real way to overcome this predjudice is by making art
pieces. You have to make something that supercedes the intrinsic
value of the materials.

If all you do is make items that are commonplace, then you won’t be
able to overcome the predjudice. Traditional jewelry items require
traditional metals, and should be made with them.

(Also remember that any piece made with an alternative metal would
have been able to sell for a lot more if it were made from a
precious metal.)

Just my opinion.


hey, I’ve found that people don’t like that copper turns dark colors
very fast. i’ve seen it change over the time of one day. anyhow, have
you ever held a fist sized ball of copper? it actually feels like a
ball of energy.

I’ve found that copper has some incredible properties. it is the best
thing for tendonitis and arthritis there is. if you are suffering
from any bone pains, a copper bangle worn over the spot really helps.
I’ve tried this on a lot of older people and had excellent results.
even a small amount goes a long way.

Xelani Luz
Lago de Atitlan

Hi Michael,

I worked in only silver at one time, and have worked much in 14k
gold, but now prefer to mostly make jewel objects mixing silver,
copper, and rose & yellow 14k gold although I have a line that is all
mixed colors of gold.

I find in my market that customers love copper when it is mixed with
silver or silver and gold, I don’t currently make pieces that are all
copper. I find copper a very interesting metal, unstable, but that
makes it interesting to me. I have seen necklaces that I made and
sold 25 years ago that are being worn and enjoyed and have aged
amazingly well. If I make a design in silver and duplicate it in
silver and copper, the mixed one will sell faster and often at a
higher price.

I used to worry about how copper might age adversely being worn as
jewelry but after having hundreds of customers return and buy more, I
stopped worrying. On average, at the art shows where I sell my work,
70 percent of my business is from previous customers. I am candid
with them about coppers unstable nature and ability to change color
though and have a standing guarantee to take back any piece that
doesn’t satisfy. No takers yet and I have been doing this for a long
time. These are not really expensive pieces, only up to about $600.

I honor copper just as I honor the other metals, and give it all my
creative energy when I work with it.

Have a good time with it.
Jima Abbott

Dear Michael,

For Orchidians to answer this question, I think you need to tell us
more about exactly who is giving you negative feedback.

My copper wire jewelry (I use niobium wires to finish the earrings)
sells faster than silver or gold-filled (and a lot faster than 14k,
which just sits there, doing its bit to raise the "perceived value"
of my line). Women who love copper (usually because of their
coloring) complain to me about how hard it is to find. My first
high-end sale was of an elaborately wire-wrapped necklace with glass
beads (you can actually see a lousy photograph of it in the Members
Gallery at ). I’d over-priced it because I
didn’t want to sell it, but one of the local red-haired painters fell
in love with it.

Alexander Calder made fabulous, funky brass jewelry that was worn by
the likes of Peggy Guggenheim. But the sales people at Harry Winston
would quite probably have turned their noses up at it.

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments
Benicia, CA

Mike, I also do most of my work in copper, and have had a lot of
positive response to it. I sell in our local museum gallery store,
and they actually love the work because it is different from most of
the other jewelry they sell. There are however a few people who have
snubbed thier noses at it and commented that “if only it were in
silver, I would buy it”. The point that they don’t get is that each
metal offers it’s own unique characteristics and surface beauty. I
choose copper for some pieces because it simply works better than
another metal. When it ages it becomes even more lovely in my
opinion. Please don’t give up on copper, there are many people who
appreciate it’s inherent qualities ! Ignore the ignorant commentary
and carry on with your work !! Much Luck, Rebecca

I've found that copper has some incredible properties. it is the
best thing for tendonitis and arthritis there is. if you are
suffering from any bone pains, a copper bangle worn over the spot
really helps. I've tried this on a lot of older people and had
excellent results. even a small amount goes a long way. 

An older couple were married last week.

Instead of rings they exchanged copper bracelets.


And more humor from The Stand-up Skeptic to =91enlighten-up=92 the
Orchid List after this public service announcement:

There is no credible research that indicates copper is a rellief for

removed copyrighted quote

it is the best thing for tendonitis and arthritis there is. if you
are suffering from any bone pains, a copper bangle worn over the
spot really helps. 

I don’t know about copper having medical properties, as I similarly
don’t kow about Crystals and there medical properties, but I do know
a sales angle when I see one. At the Pharmacy by my house, a simple
copper bracelet is $25. A selection of copper jewelry along side
silver and gold should sell well, if you go for the right angle. I
see people everyday with magnetic bracelets and copper bracelets to
help with arthritis etc. My biggest fear about renting a table to
sell my jewelry is that most of it is expensive. Gold is my favorite
metal to work in, but I have toruble selling it. I’m thinking that a
selection of copper jewelry, for medical benefits, alongside silver
would do well.

Copper is very inexpensive and profits should be very high. What I
concern myself with when making chains (all my jewelry is made of
jump rings closed into chains of one type or another) is that
regardless of material, my labour time is almost constant. an 18"
strand of silver (40g) sells for $200, the same chain in 18kt sells
for $2000, and in copper perhaps $50. I prefer to work in gold as it
has impression of being able to create more value per hour… but no
one buys it, so it’s not quite true. Without other items, I cannnot
justify renting a space, because I fear a lack of sales.

In conclusion, I agree a predudice against copper as jewelry does
exist, but there is a growing trend to try homeopathic medical
treatments, of which, copper contact is one. I am interested in
machine or hand made copper chains/anklets and bracelets as a way to
offer inexpensive items, alongside my silver/gold to accomodate
cheaper sales. An aquaintance of mine sold over $1000 in plastic
bracelets (stell wire with plastic beads) at a table at a fair, but
virtually didn’t sell anything over $20. I don’t beleive there was
anything over $100 for sale at this table. The point is that you can
sell anything, but it has to be marketted correctly. Labour that goes
into the production of copper jewelry is hard to justify to a
customer, as the piece of metal itself has virtually no value.

Just some thoughts, and I hope not to have offended anyone with my
opinions on copper jewelry sales :slight_smile:

Brian Barrett

Hi Mike & all,

This thread has reminded me on how I got into Jewellery making in the
first place. I was doing a fine arts diploma and took printmaking
there. I am one of those printmakers that falls in love with the
plates, rather than the resulting prints. I used a cancelled copper
plate that had deeply etched sections in it and cut it up. A
sterling silver ‘frame’ around it or set in a bezel, they looked
really good. I have given up fine art for now (maybe for ever!) and
I’m just concentrating on jewellery. I’d forgotten about the copper
plates until this thread, it has prompted me to get out my old plates
and have another look at them! I work mainly in Silver Clay and I
hope the two will combine well. There will always be people with
strong likes and dislikes for materials and designs, that’s OK by me,
it might not be fair, but it’s only a small unfairness in the scheme
of things.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all the
wonderful help freely given in this forum, it insipers me in many
ways. Thank you all!

Cheers from Oz,

Thanks so much for all the responses I got to this question. I
really learned a lot here. Looking at things from other folk’s point
of view always helps. This Orchid group is so great!

On the topic of copper jewelry, I found some copper jewelry in our
local Wal-mart recently that blew me away. They sell agonizingly
simple (single strand flattened wire, twisted 3-strand wire etc…)
copper jewelry to the “arthritis” crowd for $8-$10. No apparent
finish, minimal polish, no stones or, for that matter, surface
decoration… made in Mexico. Now, it is a well established local
tradition that copper jewelry is the best thing for arthritis. It’s
not just a local tradition as I’ve heard from a lady in Guatemala.
I’m not one to just throw things together to make a buck but, even
in my inexperienced state, I can make nicer looking stuff than I
found at Wallyworld. Perhaps a more artistic rendition in copper,
aimed at a more “Traditional” or holistic market, is something I
should explore a little deeper. These folks have told me that the
green tarnish is a sign that the copper is working. Who can say?

But again, thanks for your many responses. As always, I learned a
great deal.


  There is no credible research that indicates copper is a rellief
for ailments  

Well … not quite true. There are no large drug-type studies, but
it has been shown that very low flows of electrical current can help
heal broken bones, and much anecdotal evidence that the same current
flows can help bad backs, via “electric heels”. Electric heels are
made by forming a piece of zinc and a piece of copper into plates
for inside the heels of shoes; traces of body moisture turn the 2
metals into a very weak galvanic cell, with the current flowing up
one leg, across through the lower back, and down the other leg. My
guess is that all the hoopla about copper as a healing metal is
based on the same phenomenon - the tarnish it acquires is pretty
good evidence that chemical reactions are occurring, and are
probably setting up some kind of electrical flow. Never had it work
for me - I have to pay a chiropractor - but if it works for some,
that’s great.


    I don't know about copper having medical properties, as I
similarly don't kow about Crystals and there medical properties,
but I do know a sales angle when I see one. 

Does there really have to be a “sales angle”. I love copper and use
it in conjuntion with silver quite frequently (used in making
bracelets and earrings with “marriage of metals” technique). I also
do a lot of etched copper earrings which everyone loves. I have
never indicated that it was better or less valuable than other
metals, I have simply said “I like copper and if you do then take a
look at this design”. Personally I do not work in gold nor do I own
any gold jewelry (gave it all to my daughter). I simply do not like
gold jewelry, but then I don’t like diamonds either. I would prefer a
dynamic design in concrete to having a gold design with a diamond. I
can appreciate gold work but would not buy it. So there is always a
market for most everything. And I think you need to just do what you
enjoy. If you remember, a few years ago, people did not want silver
jewelry either, they found it inferior to gold. But all of a sudden
"Silver is in" and in the same manner, Copper will at some point in
time be an “in” thing. So I say, use copper if you like, don’t be
ashamed of it, and if people don’t like it, that’s okay too.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Just don’t let it influence
you or discourage you.


OK, I can weigh in on this one, having been involved professionally
with the issues of low-level electrical current and bone healing.

First, the theory behind this is that bone is peizo-electric, much
as quartz is, and that stress applied to bone generates electrical
microcurrents which trigger a cascade of biological events resulting
in the proliferation of osteoblasts. Now, to trigger that electrical
current, you need not just a piece of metal, like copper, but a
metal which serves as a conductor for electrical current, which in
turn generates a magnetic field of sufficient magnitude that it
induces an electrical current at the site of the non-healing
fracture, presumably a micro-current which mimics the current
created by stress on the bone. This requires not a static magnetic
field, but a dynamic field, possibly overlaid over a static magnetic
field, just as you would find in an alternator or generator. Again,
the idea is to induct an electrical microcurrent at the fracture
site at a frequency and magnitude which stimulates the formation of
osteoblasts. In order to get the job done at a specific site, both
the magnitude and the shape of the magnetic field must be

If you think that your good-luck copper bracelet is going to get
this done, you are probably overly optimistic- it has taken many
phenomenal scientific minds many years to find the amplitudes and
frequencies of electrical and magnetic fields which demonstratably
stimulate bone healing.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

All things come and go in cycles. If you find one of the books on
valuations of collectible jewelry, you can see quite a lot of really
good-looking, well made, not inexpensive copper jewelry from the 50’s
mostly. I even have a set, given by an early beau. Still love and
wear the jewelry.

As for the medicinal advantages of it, I had copper bracelets
recommended to me for arthritis, before I knew I had any, by bedouins
in N. Africa. Since found little assistance with the arthritis, but
love my copper bracelets anyway. It is truly a small, small world.
I have copper treasures all around the house, some very old and rare,
some not. All appreciated and cared for. Mostly.

Ye who love copper rejoice, and ye who don’t try to be broadminded.
It really doesn’t hurt a bit.


I have been watching this thread with great interest … I have used
a lot of copper in my work. During a recent class at Bonny Doon with
Anne Hollerbach, she indicated that copper jewelry is not legal any
more in the US due to the toxicity of copper, and that any jewelry on
the market intended to come in contact with the skin is so heavily
lacquered that there is no actual contact. Same for nickel, I was
told. However, I have not heard anyone mention this in
response to the thread. What are the parameters under which copper
jewelry is allowed to be sold? Not coming in contact with the skin
(ie dangling earrings and pins?) Or is there no restriction?

Donna Blow