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Use Copper in Jewelry


#1

I’m going to making some copper bracelets and rings. I was wondering
how many of you all who use copper in jewelry, back it first with a
thin gauge of silver? If I don’t are their issues of skink turning
green to those who wear it? I searched the archives and most of the
discussion pertains to patina and to getting folks to buy it for
their arthritis as a selling point. Do I waste my time, $, and energy
backing copper that might not sell well? Or can I recoup the cost if
it’s backed with silver??

Thoughts,

Lisa Fowler
Fort Collins, CO 80526
@LisaF


#2

Lisa,

I don’t have a ton of experience working in copper, but I started
out using copper a lot in my designs and now am down to just one
copper piece in my line. Copper just has a wierd stigma attached to
it. It may come into style with the resurgence of pink gold, but I
sortof doubt it.

I don’t back my copper with sterling, I patina it.

I don’t think you’ll sell your piece any better or recoup the money
invested by backing with silver. With a patina on it, copper
shouldn’t turn the skin. Copper will turn without any sealer on it
though. So whether you patina it or not, you will probably set the
color with a sealant and therefore the copper won’t be on the skin
regardless.

I think if the design is outstanding, your copper pieces should sell
well. On the other hand, my pieces that I once designed in copper
and now design in sterling instead, sell much better.

Just my two cents.

Jocelyn
Jocelyn Broyles
Designer/President
www.jocelynbroyles.com
Costa Rica ph(011 506) 376.6417
U.S. fax (253) 669.1679


#3
Do I waste my time, $, and energy backing copper that might not
sell well?

I doubt that anyone can answer this-- it all depends. If the design
is strong, it may be worth it-- all-copper jewelry cannot usually be
sold for enough to make it profitable.

But here are a couple of thoughts you might want to bear in mind.
First, copper can still turn the wearer’s skin green if it is
backed-- it will still rub on the inside of the adjacent fingers. On
the other hand (so to speak), I made a pair of copper and silver
wedding rings (they insisted on copper and silver, and would not let
me line the rings) and the couple don’t have green fingers. They
wear them all the time, and the copper has stayed what I call “baby
pig pink” from the constant abrasion.

And here’s something you might not have thought of (I know I never
would have). Copper and silver expand differently when heated. If
you put copper over silver, then close a band to solder it, the
joint will open up when you heat it. You say, “Geez, I must be
slipping-- I thought that joint was tight!” You quench it to
readjust it, and lo and behold! it is tight again. You have to wrap
it in binding wire or some such to keep it together.

If you made a copper lining for a silver ring, I suppose it would
make the joint tighter… :>)

Good luck!
Noel


#4

Silver backed rings and bracelets (plated, bimetal or soldered
laminate) will not turn the skin green but it will create a galvanic
cell and the copper will be etched away rather rapidly. How fast is
rapidly? Well it all depends on what the customer does with their
hands and their body chemistry and how often they wear the ring. But
it can start to be very noticeable in a matter of months on some
people. Rings will show this sooner than bracelets. If your work is
relatively inexpensive the clients may not mind however if you
charge a little more for your work they might not take kindly to self
destructing rings.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#5

Lisa, try making a few copper pieces and use a patina like Jax-Black
(or anything that contains selenious acid) to darken them. Remove
most of the patina with a slurry of damp pumice. When rinsed and
dried, final-polish your piece with a Sunshine cloth (Rio). Then try
wearing the copper jewelry and see if this treatment doesn’t prevent
most or all of the “green skin” problem.

The patina has the additional advantage of bringing out any shadows,
etc., in your designs.

All the best,
Judy Bjorkman


#6
I'm going to making some copper bracelets and rings. I was
wondering how many of you all who use copper in jewelry, back it
first with a thin gauge of silver? 

Lisa- I have made a number of heavy embellished copper bracelets
lined with silver, and have gotten great response, especially from
men. The green wrist syndrome is indeed an issue. With the silver
lining, I feel like I can justify all the work because the purchaser
is more likely to actually wear it and see the value. Of course, you
don’t get the supposed “benefits” of copper against the skin. but
that’s probably a placebo anyway. So go for it!

Allan Mason
silvermason.com


#7
Silver backed rings and bracelets (plated, bimetal or soldered
laminate) will not turn the skin green but it will create a
galvanic cell and the copper will be etched away rather rapidly. 

Jim, say it ain’t so! Reading this on the same day as my own post
was printed about my success with silver-lined copper bracelets is
painfully ironic. And I was planning on making a couple more soon!

What exactly do you mean by etch away? I use 10 gauge copper lined
with 26 Ga. silver. Have I been selling time bombs? The bracelets
have been out there less than a year and I havent’t heard anything
Thanks!

Allan Mason
silvermason.com


#8

Galvanic corrosion is the culprit. When you pair two metals and an
electrolyte (sweat, tap water, pool water sea water, etc) you in
effect create a battery the cathodic end (the more noble metal) is
protected and the anodic end (the less noble metal) corrodes away.
This is why they place zinc anodes on ships the zinc preferentially
corrodes away rather than the iron or bronze parts. The speed of
this corrosion is determined by a whole bunch of variables so it is
hard to say how fast the corrosion will occur. But in my experience
copper alloys paired with gold in rings and bracelets are very fast
reactions. Silver is less noble than gold and is closer to copper on
the galvanic series (http://www.corrosion-club.com/galvseries.htm)
so it will be a slower reaction but it will occur. Bracelets are less
subject to wet conditions than rings but I have had a couple of gold
and shakudo bracelets that have come back in for one reason or
another and the corrosion is evident. If the bracelet is lined with
silver as you are describing I would guess that the corrosion would
be limited but I would not make any rings that way. In the end it is
up to you. If I were you I would make a bracelet for your own use and
wear it constantly and observe how it ages. Some customers will
probably have greater corrosion and some less but at least it will
give you a reference point.

There is no reliable way to limit the effect, coatings will work for
a while but as soon as any break occurs in the coating surface the
corrosion will begin and will be focused on the holes in the coating
making it even more noticeable.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#9

I know, there is always some that will think, “I don’t really agree
with that,” and decide to go ahead with original plans even after
receiving a post response such as James Binnion’s. My inclination is
to say heed his advice. There is no reason at all to reinvent this
wheel.

I believe Jim Binnion has the credentials to teach all of us. It is
wonderful that he tkes the time to do so.

Terrie


#10
If the bracelet is lined with silver as you are describing I would
guess that the corrosion would be limited but I would not make any
rings that way. In the end it is up to you. If I were you I would
make a bracelet for your own use and wear it constantly and observe
how it ages. Some customers will probably have greater corrosion
and some less but at least it will give you a reference point. 
There is no reliable way to limit the effect, coatings will work
for a while but as soon as any break occurs in the coating surface
the corrosion will begin and will be focused on the holes in the
coating making it even more noticeable. 

Jim, I have a “marriage of metals” - copper, brass and silver cuff
bracelet - which I lined with sterling when I made it around 12 years
ago. I have worn it a lot since I made it.

Tonight, after reading your posting, I really looked at it closely
with a high powered magnifier. What I am seeing is the appearance of
a tiny pin holes (very distinct and neatly round). They do not appear
to be in the copper itself but seem to be right at the edge of the
copper/silver join. The holes are very tiny but under magnification
very visible and do not go all the way through the bracelet. In total
there are 5 holes I found. These are not the ragged shape areas that
might appear in a joined seam where the pieces were not filed well or
did not fit well and the solder didn’t fill the gaps- these holes are
very distinctly round with very clean margins and located very neatly
adjacent to the copper sections. They are almost all about the same
size (almost like drilled with a fine drill) and in different areas
of the bracelet though 2 are close together. The bracelet is hardly
in danger of disintegrating within the next few weeks, but at some
point if more and more holes appear, it will no doubt weaken
considerably. Obviously there is nothing to be done but I would like
to know if this is what you are referring to as the "corrosion"
factor. Or should I be seeing the holes in the copper sections
themselves? Interesting phenomenon and one I’m very interested in
since my interest in “marriage of metals” has been renewed and I was
contemplating making some new pieces with this technique.

Does this corrosion only occur where copper and silver are layered
(as in backing the copper with silver) or will it also occur where
copper and silver are joined side by side as is the case in marriage
of metals but not backed with silver.

Thanks for your expertise - you bring much to the table here in
Orchid.

Kay


#11

What is a galvinized surface? My interest is that I have made copper
lined bracelets inside gold bangles for those who want a more
’fashionable’ look for their health inspired jewelry. One woman is
wearing her bracelet for 3 years. No complaints so far… thank
goodness.


#12

I find the galvanic corrosion phenomenon interesting. I must however
relate my own experience of making and selling several thousand rings
composed of sterling, copper and gold over the past 30 plus years. I
make a line of rings with a forged band of various gauges of half
round and low dome sterling wire on which I applique various elements
of copper, sterling, rose and yellow 14 and 18k gold. Only sterling
touches the finger, but there are substantial elements of copper in
some designs. I have personally seen rings of these designs that have
basically been worn mostly every day for up to 25 years. I sell my
work at juried art shows all over the west and have gone to some
shows for up to 30 consecutive years, so I get to see a lot of my
work over and over as it ages since a very high percentage of my
business at shows is with people who have purchased from me before. A
great advantage of this is that if there are any engineering or other
problems with designs, I am very soon made aware of them. I have not
seen in any of them any sign of the corrosion of copper that Jim has
mentioned. I’m curious why.

On another note. I’ve found that the mixed metal work I do, much of
it including copper, sells significantly better than anything else
I’ve ever done. I do almost no work now that is all silver, although
at one time that was all that I did. Increasingly the all gold work
that I do is a mixture of colored golds. The silver, copper and gold
designs outsell everything else 3 to 1. I ask and get more money for
designs that are silver and copper than I got for the same design in
all silver. For your info.

Be well. Follow your jewel dreams.

Jima Abbott
http://www.mixedmetaljewels.bigstep.com


#13

I have not been following this from the start, but with Edgar Cayce
and other alternative health professionals suggesting that copper is
good for things like arthritis it is some thing to conceder. However
I will share my mistakes with the class. Since assisting the now
departed Carrie Adel, I have done a lot of work in both shakudo and
copper mokume. The sad fact is that these metals react differently to
different people, their diets and their life habits. I have wore
copper and silver mokume pendants and rings for five years before
they show age from etching. So it is a guessing game. A person with a
very acidic body chemistry is obvious, but what if they spend a lot
of time in the hot tub eating olives and making sand castles with
their jewelry on? you may get a call about the mystical
disappearance of copper…in which case I would Blame the mystic
Edgar Cayce and suggest they call Ripley’s believe it or not.

***on a side note, there was a wonderful article in national
Geographic back in April 1999 called “JOURNEY TO THE COPPER AGE” the
article explored metal trade routes and the ancient practice of
smelting with blow torches. the ‘Elat’ stone as it was shown to me
in Egypt is about the same as malachite and is a copper ore. not only
were there many ritualistic things made from copper but it really
was the earliest version of man putting fire to stone. as far as I am
concerned putting tin in the crucible was probably a mistake but
proved to be a very happy accident.

Wayne Werner
MD institute of Art
www.wlwstudio.com
waynewerner@mindspring.com


#14

Galvanized (sp) surfaces are any receptive surface dipped in molten
zinc. —Dan Woodard, IJS


#15
Galvanized (sp) surfaces are any receptive surface dipped in molten 

Actually galvanized surfaces are electroplated with zinc what you
are referring to is hot dip zinc coating.

gal-van-ic

  1. Of or relating to direct-current electricity, especially when
    produced chemically.

  2. a. Having the effect of an electric shock: a galvanic
    revelation.
    b. Produced as if by an electric shock: The new leader had a
    galvanic effect on our morale.

gal-va-nize

tr.v. gal-va-nized, gal-va-niz-ing, gal-va-niz-es

  1. To stimulate or shock with an electric current.

  2. To arouse to awareness or action; spur: “Issues that once
    galvanized the electorate fade into irrelevance” Arthur M.
    Schlesinger, Jr.

  3. To coat (iron or steel) with rust-resistant zinc.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#16

Hi Jima

I have not seen in any of them any sign of the corrosion of copper
that Jim has mentioned. I'm curious why. 

I have seen your work from some of the shows and enjoy it. As I have
stated in my posts on this topic the corrosion rate is dependent on
environmental and body chemistry. There are several variables but I
have seen gold copper rings severely corroded in very short periods
of time (less than a year). The copper silver combination will have a
lower voltage therefore a slower rate of corrosion. In some cases you
will need to look with a loupe to see the corrosion but it is there.
Sometimes it is obscured by the burnishing effect of day to day wear
and you will not notice the gradual erosion of the copper. My reason
for bringing this up is just to make people aware of the potential
for a problem.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550