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How to Clean and Care for Copper Jewelry

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Copper bracelet

Copper has been used in jewelry for centuries and is a favorite among collectors who appreciate its warm red-orange hue, affordability, and alleged healing properties. Whether it’s a cuff bracelet or bangle, an intricately detailed ring, a pendant necklace, or a pair of dangle earrings, copper jewelry can add spice to your wardrobe and set you apart from the crowd.  

After prolonged wear, however, copper jewelry can fade to a darker, duller brown due to tarnishing. If left unattended for a long time, it can form a green coating called a patina (picture the Statue of Liberty) that prevents the copper jewelry from looking its best. (More on that below!)

Thankfully, there are a few basic steps you can take to remove copper tarnish quickly and easily. Ahead, we’ll share effective ways to clean your copper jewelry using common household products. With proper and frequent cleaning, you can restore a bright shine to your favorite copper jewels and enjoy them for years to come.  

 

The Origins of Copper

Copper was first discovered around 10,000 years ago, during the Prehistoric era. The use of copper in jewelry emerged around 2,500 BC when Egyptians employed skilled artisans to craft crowns and headdresses. Wearing copper signified a higher social status. Ancient Native Americans also placed value and status on copper jewelry; metal arts from that era include hammered and etched copper pendants, earrings, bracelets, and copper beads.

 

The Allure of Copper

Picture of copper stones on a black background

Copper is extremely malleable which means it can be easily stretched, molded, and shaped. This feature makes it the perfect metal for crafting decorative and intricate jewelry. While stunning on its own, copper also pairs well with semi-precious gemstones, particularly if the stone has pink or red undertones (think rose quartz, rhodochrosite, or garnet).

In addition to its functional and aesthetic attributes, copper is known to have therapeutic benefits. Since copper is an essential trace mineral in the body, wearing jewelry that’s made with it can potentially help improve its natural ability to break down and absorb iron, and build red blood cells, collagen, connective tissue, and brain neurotransmitters. 

While not scientifically proven, wearing copper jewelry also has been associated with improving blood circulation, reducing inflammation, relieving arthritic pain, increasing energy, and reducing stress. 

 

What Causes Copper Jewelry to Tarnish?

All metals are prone to discoloration over time; however, copper is more vulnerable to tarnish than others due to a chemical reaction called oxidation. When copper jewelry is exposed to oxygen—water, sweat, lotions, and even oils from your own skin—it can begin to corrode and develop a green layer on the metal’s surface known as a patina. The green residue can even rub off on your skin! But don’t worry, it’s nothing that a little soap and water can’t fix.

 

Tips For Keeping Your Copper Jewelry Tarnish-Free 

If you take the following steps to prevent your copper jewelry from acquiring a patina, you won’t have to clean it very often!

  • Use a lint-free or microfiber cloth to gently wipe your copper jewelry before and after you wear it. 
  • Keep your copper jewelry in an airtight plastic container or plastic zip-locked bag. 
  • Use anti-tarnish storage bags or wrap each piece in a soft cloth.  
  • Store in a cool, dry place. 
  • Avoid wearing copper jewelry when swimming.  
  • Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals like household detergents. 
  • Clean frequently-worn copper jewelry at least monthly or more if it begins to dull. 

 

Hold On—Is Your Copper Jewelry Sealed with Protective Coating?

Before we dive into how to clean your copper jewelry, it’s important to know whether or not your piece(s) has been sealed (with wax, spray, or liquid sealant), a common practice among jewelry artists. If you've had your jewelry for some time, and it hasn't discolored (but still looks dull), it's likely been sealed to prevent the copper from tarnishing and corroding, as well as staining skin green.  

The easiest way to clean sealed copper jewelry is to wipe it down with a microfiber cloth and warm, soapy water. If you’re unsure whether your copper jewelry is sealed, you might want to take it to a professional for an assessment or ask the original jeweler or artist who created it.

 

How to Clean Copper Jewelry at Home

Picture of lemon, salt, baking powder, and a toothbrush on a wood background

Cleaning your copper jewelry is easy, as you can remove tarnish instantly with the help of a few common household items. Got a lemon, vinegar, baking soda, ketchup, or salt? These mild, naturally acidic ingredients are non-abrasive yet tough enough to remove dirt and grime. Surprisingly, these items are all you need to bring your copper jewelry’s luster back to life. Keep reading to see what copper jewelry cleaning methods you might like to try when the tarnish presents itself and you want it gone in a hurry:

Note: if your copper jewelry item has gems, avoid the methods below as cleaning it with acidic items and vinegar can potentially damage the stones. 

 

1. How to Clean Copper Jewelry with Lemon and Salt 

The natural acidity of a lemon does wonders to remove stubborn tarnish on copper jewelry. Pairing it with salt works even better.   

A lemon itself can act as a sponge. Cut it in half and sprinkle some table salt on it. This creates an abrasive, sponge-like surface. Scrub the copper jewelry with the halved lemon. Rinse with warm water and pat dry with a soft cloth. 

You can also use lemon juice: 

  • Mix one tablespoon of salt, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and water in a bowl. 
  • Dip your copper jewelry in this mixture and let it sit for a few minutes or up to an hour, depending on how tarnished your piece is. 
  • Use a toothbrush to gently scrub away dirt or sludge from the corners. 
  • Rinse the jewelry with warm water and pat dry with a soft cloth.

 

2. How to Clean Copper Jewelry with Baking Soda

Baking soda is a great way to restore shine and luster to dull copper jewelry pieces. To clean copper jewelry, baking soda can be used on its own or paired with lemon juice or full-strength white vinegar.

To clean with baking soda:

  • Combine three or four tablespoons of baking soda with spritzes of water to form a paste.
  • Apply this paste on and around the copper jewelry by using a cloth, an old toothbrush, or your fingers.
  • Rinse the jewelry thoroughly with water and dry it off with a soft cloth.

Baking soda + lemon juice or vinegar:

  • Combine three or four tablespoons of baking soda with spritzes of water to form a paste.
  • Apply this paste on and around the copper jewelry by using a cloth, an old toothbrush, or your fingers.
  • Rinse the jewelry thoroughly with water and dry it off with a soft cloth.

 

3. How to Clean Copper Jewelry with Vinegar and Salt 

Vinegar and salt are a powerful combination for removing dirt and oxidation from copper jewelry.

  • Pour one cup of white vinegar and one tablespoon of salt into a small pot.
  • Place copper jewelry into the pot. 
  • Bring the solution to a boil on medium heat for five minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let the jewelry sit in the solution overnight.
  • Place the jewelry in a bowl of warm water the next day.
  • Use a toothbrush to gently scrub off any dirt.
  • Rinse your jewelry thoroughly with cold water, then pat dry with a soft cloth.

 

4. How to Clean Copper Jewelry with Vinegar, Salt, and Flour

  • Mix one tablespoon of salt and one cup of white vinegar in a bowl, then gradually add flour and mix until it forms a paste.
  • Apply the paste to your jewel and rub it over the tarnished areas.
  • Let it sit from 15 minutes to an hour.
  • Rinse off with warm water, then dry with a soft cloth.

 

5. How to Clean Copper Jewelry with Saltwater

  • Add some water and salt to a pan. Heat it on low until the salt dissolves.
  • Dip your jewelry into this solution and leave it for a few minutes before scrubbing away any residue.
  • Rinse your jewelry thoroughly with warm water and then pat dry with a soft cloth.
  • Use a lint-free or microfiber cloth to buff the jewelry and bring back its shine.

 

6. How to Clean Copper Jewelry with Tomato Ketchup 

Ketchup is not just for dipping fries! Believe it or not, it’s one of the best weapons against copper tarnish due to the acidity in tomatoes. This method works best if you have small, hard-to-access deposits of copper tarnish.

  • Squeeze some ketchup into a bowl.
  • Submerge your copper jewelry into ketchup and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. 
  • Fill a second bowl with soap and water and use it to rinse the piece. 
  • Use a soft toothbrush to remove all remaining ketchup.
  • Rub a thin-to-moderate layer of ketchup over the most heavily tarnished areas of your piece and let it sit for 15 minutes. 
  • When ready, rub and wash it off completely, then pat dry with a soft cloth.

 

7. How to Clean Copper Jewelry with Worcestershire Sauce

Like ketchup, Worcestershire sauce has acidic properties which can remove tarnish from copper jewelry. 

  • Apply Worcestershire sauce to the copper surface. 
  • Let it sit for a bit, and then gently rub the tarnish off. 
  • Wash with warm water and dish soap and then dry with a soft cloth.

 

When to Use a Commercial Copper Cleaner

If your copper jewelry is heavily tarnished and doesn’t improve with an at-home cleaning method, you may want to consider a commercial copper jewelry cleaner. Simply dip a microfiber cloth into the copper cleaning solution and rub it into the surface of your copper jewelry item. Rinse with water, then dry and buff with a clean, soft cloth. 

While routine cleaning and maintenance is crucial for preventing and removing copper tarnish, it cannot completely guarantee that your copper jewelry pieces are protected. Obtaining personal jewelry insurance through Jewelers Mutual is an affordable option and covers loss, theft, damage, and disappearances. You can check your rate by clicking the button below. 

 

 

 

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Jewelers Mutual was founded in 1913 by a group of Wisconsin jewelers to meet their unique insurance needs. Later, consumers began putting their trust in Jewelers Mutual to protect their jewelry and the special memories each piece holds. Today, Jewelers Mutual continues to support and move the industry forward by listening to jewelers and consumers and offering products and services to meet their evolving needs. Beyond insurance, Jewelers Mutual’s powerful suite of innovative solutions and digital technology offerings help jewelers strengthen and grow their businesses, mitigate risk, and bring them closer to their customers. The Group insurers’ strong financial position is reflected in their 37 consecutive “A+ Superior” ratings from AM Best Company, as of November 2023. Policyholders of the Group insurers are members of Jewelers Mutual Holding Company. Jewelers Mutual is headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin, with other Group offices in Dallas, Texas and Miami, Florida. To learn more, visit JewelersMutual.com.