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Stop copper from tarnishing?

Hi there, can anyone tell me what I can use to stop copper from
tarnishing? Thanks!

What environment will the copper be in, ,? Body jewelry, clothing
ornament, wall decoration, indoors/outdoors… Is it patinated,
bright polished, painted, ,? What size is it? Stones to be set?

john dach

Hello ‘learner’

Copper WILL tarnish. It’s the nature of the beast. Any coating (even
the ‘ceramic’ ones) will eventually be chipped, crack, or otherwise
deteriorate. Then cleaning the coating off becomes a chore. Perhaps
the renaissance wax offers the best option, but if the piece is used,
the wax will wear off and you are back to the tarnish bit.

Embrace the patina and teach your clients that the color change is
part of copper.

Judy in Kansas, where the wind is howling. Feeling sorry for those
working outside.

Stop copper from tarnishing?
You can’t in the long run, not really.

You can slow it down considerably by coating the piece in a lacquer
of some kind or by a layer of very hard wax, for example Rennaisance

Lacquer generally chips or peels off eventually. Wax will eventually
wear off.

Copper is a lovely material, but IMHO you and your clients should
learn to live with the changing colour. With careful application of
an impregnated polishing cloth occasionally, your pieces will develop
a beautiful patination unique to the piece and to the wearer, which
(again IMHO) can only enhance the piece.

The same applies to sterling silver - and even Argentium may tarnish
eventually, though I’m happy to be corrected by those who know the
material better than I.

There is a lot on this topic in the Ganoksin archives: search around
in there for more


At every show I do, there is almost always at least one person who
wants to know how to stop their jewellery from tarnishing.

Then the conversation generally goes roughly like this:

First I ask them if they would take off a garment they’d been
wearing, chuck it haphazadly in a box with all their other clothing
and expect it to come out looking great after being knocked about by
being rummaged around in that box.

Then I ask them if they would wear any item of clothing continually
without expecting to have it washed or otherwise cleaned regularly.

The answers are always (of course) “no” to each question.

So then I explain that they shouldn’t expect to treat any pieces of
quality jewellery in that way. OK - if you get stuff cheap from a
big box store, you might not expect it to last for very long, and you
may not care too much about that. But I explain that quality
jewellery pieces deserve quality care and attention, which need not
be onerous or difficult. I then briefly go on to explain how best to
look after their good jewellery. To any purchase made, I add
jewellery care notes printed on a postcard together with a couple of
photos of my work and my business name and contact details.

Equating the care of their jewellery to the care of their clothing
seems to make sense to people. I quite often see a light bulb of
understanding light up once I’ve finished my explanation. Most people
simply don’t realise that metal and stones (being apparently hard)
are a lot more liable to damage than they assume.


As others have stated copper IS reactive… period. Birchwood Casey
does make a clear coat made for copper alloys.Comes off with MEK
pretty easily then new clear coat can be reapplied. Made especially
for bronze sculpture in outdoor environments. also has a similar clear coat.
Copper and oxygen make for oxides… period and when you get it in
contact with body acids and salts, the only way to keep it tarnish
free is to have a VERY TOUGH clear coat to keep the chemistries off
of the metal.

john dach

Hi there,

Thanks for your comments. I run a Jewellery making class. We use
mostly silver, sometimes gold. We use copper to practice with and on
occasion people ask if they can use it in their pieces. I always
warn about quick tarnishing, no one minds the fact but something for
a bit of longevity would be great. I didn’t know about renaissance
wax so thank you! I’ll track some down. Thanks again,


I have to disagree on this one. I have no affiliation with Legor but
their clear nano ceramic electro plating solution works great and
makes the piece hypoallergenic. A great product. No oxidation ever.

I have pieces plated with the Nono ceramic plating that have been in
servicefor 2 years now and no signs of problems. Just my two cents
worth. Solvents will remove ti if it is ever needed.

I am very interested in this discussion, but for a very different

As many of you know, I like to create detailed imagery on titanium
using anodization. This involves masking areas that are not currently
being colored (pun intended). The mask needs to be electrically inert
and clear (so I can see where I’m supposed to add/remove color).
That’s easy-- clear tape, fingernail polish, and such.

The trouble comes in when I am anodizing to higher voltages, and
also when I want to remove small areas. Imagine, for example, I want
to create individual blades of grass (green=high voltage) over sand
(gold=very low voltage). Every mask I have tried lifts around the
edges at high voltage, and/or is gummy or brittle so I can’t get
clear, crisp, thin lines through it.

The nano-ceramic coating has been suggested, but there is one more
criterion, and it is crucial-- I have to be able to remove the mask
readily when it has done its job.

So if you are still reading, and you think you may have something
that fills the bill, and that I can try without investing a fortune
before I even find out if it will work (might well be worth investing
if it does work) then PLEASE let me know!



This intrigues me. Most masking products will at the higher settings
will lift, due to their adhesion properties. What you need is
something that will get gummy not melt or unstick at the edges. Just
for a thought, why not take a snippet of a latex glove, and use some
acetone to make it gummy. You can do that with a Q-tip swiping the
acetone on the back of the cut out. Experiment with sticking that
gummy surfaced piece on the metal.

It may or may not stay in place, but just the properties of latex,
(rubber would be better) It’s worth a try. It’s just one of my crazy
ideas at 1 am.

As for the tarnishing of copper, I know too much about this at least
of some obscure old ways of protecting the copper. Renaissance times
and back they would use bee’s wax. That wears off and we do not have
servants to polish and reapply the wax as needed in this day and age.
Today a cheap way that lasts just about as long is to use Hair Spray.
Problem with it, is it can end up dulling a nice shiny piece. Others
that last a bit longer are stray acrylics from hobby shops. A bit
longer. Then there are some dip like solutions Rio sells some. But
with wear they will end up flacking chipping or just plain wearing
off. Some people may have reactions to the chemicals.

Oxygen and even UV light will turn copper colors if just left out in
the open. It will turn from a nice pink new color to a deep orange
color as it ages (Why can’t my hair do that instead of turning pure
white) Oils are what turn it brown like the pennies we see. It needs
a barrier to keep these environments from affecting the copper.

Sorry Vernon, I had a friend with the nano set up do an ornament for
me to see how it would last. It didn’t make it through the summer.
But then I can kill a computer just typing on it. You don’t want to
see my garden.

Storage i use those black paper like strips in bags I zip lock. That
helps short run, but if they are handled, I have an apprentice (yep a
real one) who gets to polish the pieces on stage while I do my thing.
The worst thing that happens to copper is rain. Even wearing a piece
that has been protected, seems to get a mottled look if caught in a
downpour. Maybe it is just the rain in the mountains of So. Utah in
the summer.

What I found out was the best way to deal with tarnish is to educate
the people. I tell about the history of all the ways to protect a
piece then go on about patinas. Everyone loves my Al Gore patina
joke. Even made it on a video interview to be shown in Australia a
couple of years ago.

Get to know your market. Know what they would like to know about
copper care. A nice half page sheet of instructions about the care a
feeding of copper jewelry is a nice bag stuffer. You can also regale
them with ketchup being the best copper cleaner. Just instruct them
to go to their favorite fast food burger joint and ask for copper
cleaner with their fries. It gets a good laugh. I even put a little
packet in with a full set in a fancy bag. People love it, and it
closes those sales some hesitate about.

My motto is “Turn any disadvantage into an advantage.” It’s just a
matter of perspective.

This involves masking areas that are not currently being colored
(pun intended). 

What pun?

Elliot Nesterman

Thanks, Agnes,

It may or may not stay in place, but just the properties of latex,
(rubber would be better) It's worth a try. It's just one of my
crazy ideas at 1 am. 

Unfortunately, cutting up latex gloves will not be likely to give me
the detail and control I need, and edges I cut through with a ball
bur are not likely to be crisp and clean. But-- what is it about
latex or rubber that you think might hold? I’ve used rubber cement,
but it didn’t work well.

Neither did frisket, a latex product watercolorists use as a mask on
paper (though both work pretty well as masks for sandblasting).

The requirements that the mask be transparent and easily removed are
a major limitation, but absolutely necessary to the way I work.


This involves masking areas that are not currently being colored
(pun intended).

What pun? 

currently being anodized. see, anodizing requires current… um,
never mind. nerd humor.



Why I thought of rubber and latex is they are closer to their base
or pure form. Rubber cement and others like the frisket are mixed
with other chemicals that make they very good at regular temps. What
you are experiencing is the heat being given off by the current.
Rubber and latex can take the higher heat where substances that are
made from them ie the rubber cement can’t take the heat. To adhere
the rubber and latex, it is best to get it gummy. That is how the
layers of rubber are built up before they vulcanize it. Best
substance to make both gummy is to use acetone.

Just coat the surface. Do not pour it over or you will totally melt

All of this was just an idea to try. Now that it is not yet the
magical hour of all ideas for me, (12 pm not 1 am an hour to go) I’m
trying to think of if we have any rubberized threads that might work.
Think elastic. Problem with all my ideas is that they are not clear.
If you wait until Monday, I will head over to the fabric store near
me and snoop around to see what they have. It just needs to hold up
to a current type heat that doesn’t last long so if it can hold up to
my ironing it can hold up to ths short duration current. Ok out of
old lady mode.


IN stone printmaking we use gum arabic to cover areas that we do not
want the ink to adhere to it Gum arabic can be used to protect the
sensitized litho plate or stone from grease ie finger

I bought some to try and use with my etching in metal but haven;t
had a chance as in no studio yet.


*currently* being anodized. see, anodizing requires *current*...
um, never mind. nerd humor. 

Gah. Now I feel dumb. (It was a pretty far stretch, though.)

Elliot Nesterman

This intrigues me. Most masking products will at the higher
settings will lift, due to their adhesion properties. 

I imagine you’ve already tried watercolor masking fluid? And high
temp spray paint won’t work, because it’s too hard to remove?


*currently* being anodized. see, anodizing requires *current*...
um, never mind. nerd humor. 

Good one! I didn’t get it at first either, I guess I need to amp up
my attention level!


Rubber and latex can take the higher heat where substances that
are made from them ie the rubber cement can't take the heat. To
adhere the rubber and latex, it is best to get it gummy. 

What an interesting idea. I wonder if Noel could take the clear RTV
stuff, mold it into the flat shape that she wanted, and then stick
it to the metal?

What’s an easily reversible glue?

Why not use spray glue and then soak it off with Attack? I know
that’s maybe something you’d like to avoid, but given your
requirements, it might be the only way.