Copper is gorgeous. I love wearing it and working with it. It presents well on its own and combines nicely with other metals. That’s why you’ll find a lot of it here in my jewelry collection. I do get a lot of questions, though, about whether a given person will be able wear copper next to their skin, how to care for it properly, or if it really has healing properties, so here is what I know. I find this topic fascinating and will keep adding to this article as I integrate more interesting tidbits.
How Are Copper And Silver Different?
Pure copper is a base metal that is harder than silver and has a higher melting point. This makes it especially useful in jewelry pieces where strength is desirable. Sterling silver has a small amount of copper added to it to make it harder and more durable. Copper and silver can be mixed and soldered together in many ways, and silver solder is usually used to connect copper pieces (such as the links of my handmade copper chains).
Does Copper Really Have Health Benefits?
Copper is an antimicrobial metal that is utilized in many contexts – from hospitals to water pipes – for purification and anticontamination. Humanity has made use of this for thousands of years, including in Ayurvedic medicine and ancient Egyptian culture. Current claims of copper bracelets (often combined with magnets) helping arthritis pain lack scientific proof but many people still feel that it helps them. The claim is that very small amounts of copper are absorbed from jewelry into the skin so that the body can benefit from its properties. For people who do seem to feel better, this may be a placebo effect, or maybe we just don’t understand it yet. It does seem safe to say that wearing copper does no harm and potentially does a great deal of good. Copper toxicity, by the way, is a real thing too, but it is not caused by wearing copper, just by ingesting it in amounts beyond what the body can process.
What About Skin Turning Green?
The concern about their skin turning green seems to be the number one thing that keeps people I talk to from acquiring copper jewelry, even if they love how it looks. Only some people will experience this effect, and probably only in certain circumstances. Myself, I wear copper chains and earrings with copper ear wires a lot without any reaction. If you’re one of the people who does, though, and this bothers you, that’s totally understandable. You can always stick with silver and gold. One thing to consider, however, is that the green skin thing may be something you can alter. First off, this is a chemical reaction, not an allergic reaction. It is caused usually by contact with sweat, and often only when the copper is in contact with the skin for a long period of time. It will wash right off. Traditionally, this reaction has been treated as a diagnostic. It may mean that you need more Vitamin D (this is a separate topic, but I’ve been reading lately that the recommended Vitamin D dose is 1000 units, per 25lbs body weight, per day). It may also mean that something else is out of balance and affecting your body PH levels.
Caring For Copper Jewelry
Your copper jewelry is durable and doesn’t necessarily need any special care, especially if you like the look of its finish and you like the idea of a patina changing and darkening over time. You can always shine it up with any soft cloth, or if you want to get serious, by buffing it with the finest gauge steel wool possible (look for #0000 at the hardware store). If you want to remove all patina, soak it in a solution of citric acid and hot water (it is non-toxic and available as a canning supply in many grocery stores). If you love how the existing patina looks and want to preserve that, you can coat it with a thin layer of wax. Renaissance Wax is a product that is specially made for jewelry and works great.