Monday 18 February 2013

Copper and Brass Jewellery – Cleaning How To

Copper is pretty when it is clean-pink and shiny.  Brass has a golden glow.  The problem is that these metals will oxidize.  The metals can be coated with many different protective coatings.  Eventually though these do wear out.  It’s for this reason that I do not apply permanent protective coatings to the metal in my jewellery
With gradual wear you will notice a tarnish develop on the copper surface.  Brass will become dull first, before the tarnish is visible.  In a worst case scenario the coating can become scratched in one area, which can result in a deep tarnish developing in the scratched area.  This type of tarnish can be very hard to remove because any remaining protective coating interferes with cleaning
If you want to keep your jewelry shiny here are some options:
1.      Start by making sure to properly store your finished pieces in a zip loc bag.  It’s the oxygen in the air that causes jewellery to tarnish faster.  Just make sure they are completely dry before storing
2.      Clean your jewellery after use.  Just use warm water and a mild soap
3.      Avoid commercial products for cleaning copper or brass.  Many of these products will remove a thin layer of metal during the cleaning process
4.      Even when treated with care, jewellery will eventually need a deeper cleaning.  Try one of the following natural methods:
·        Baking Soda:  A simple solution of baking soda and water works well.  It will counteract the effect of salt and acids in skin that can cause havoc with many metals, especially copper and brass.  Start by placing aluminum (tin) foil in the bottom of a glass bowl and sprinkle it with baking soda.  Place your jewellery pieces on the foil.  Add near boiling water to the bowl.  The reaction will be almost instantaneous.  Bubbles with a sulphur smell (rotten eggs) will be released by the interaction.  The tarnish will be released from your jewellery and will stick to the tin foil.  When cleaned, rinse your jewellery and dry completely before storing
·        Warning:  Do not place gemstones in this solution.  Many gemstones, including Amazonite, Amber, Labradorite, Moonstone, Opals, Pearls and Angelite will be severely damaged by this method.  This is something I learned the hard way
·        Lemon Juice:  Use lemon juice poured straight onto a cloth and wipe down the metal.  If this doesn’t work, mix the juice with vinegar and/or baking soda.  Mix up a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice with a couple of teaspoons of vinegar.  Add just enough baking soda to turn it into a gritty paste.  Use a cloth to scrub your brass or copper items with the paste.  Rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a clean cloth.
·        Caution:  Avoid getting the lemon juice or mixture on gemstones or pearls.  Once cleaned rinse and dry the pieces completely before storing
·        Ketchup or Worcestershire Sauce:  Who ever came up with this idea?  Both of these will remove dirt well due to their acidic nature.  Start by using a soft cloth to rub the sauce onto your piece.  If this doesn’t work very well try coating the metal completely and leave it to sit for a minute or two.  Rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a clean cloth.
·        Caution:  Again, avoid getting the ketchup or Worcestershire sauce on gemstones or pearls.  Rinse and dry thoroughly before storing your items
·        Pepsi or Coke: Both types of cola contain phosphoric acid which is a well-known stain remover.  Soak metal pieces for approximately 5 – 10 minutes and they will come out bright and shiny.  If there are a lot of dirty pieces in the solution it may need to be replaced and the timer started again
·        My Experience?:  I have not tried this method myself and cannot vouch for its safety.  I have read other jewellers and bloggers comments where they indicated various gemstones and pearls were submersed in the cola without any issues.
Full disclosure:  I do apply a temporary coating to the metal in my products to protect it from the frequently harsh conditions experienced with craft shows.  This coating will come off with the first exposure to soap and water
Further disclosure:  Some of the components that I use have been protected by the manufacturer

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