Notes on Copper

Copper is probably my favourite metals because of it's colouration. Generally we think of it as being the golden orange colour that we see in the plumbing or electrical section of the hardware store, or the dull brown of the once shiny pipes that have been under the kitchen sink for the last 10 years. However when treated with heat it also goes through colours of "fire staining" including silver and purple hues.

Then there are the colours produced by chemical effects, the most obvious being the "verdigris" (green) that we see on oxidised copper roofs. Treatment with ammonia results in a rather beautiful blue colour from copper nitrate.

Unfortunately, these colours are not permanent unless sealed. The chemically obtained colours can rub off, while polished or fire stained copper will tend to darken as it ages, eventually turning that dull brown colour we see on old plumbing.

I generally finish copper pieces in one of three ways:

1. Lacquer

A lacquer, also known as varnish, seals the surface keeping whatever colouration I have created. This can only be used on pieces that do not need any adjustment, such as earrings and pendants. Collars and cuff that may need a little bending by the customer to get the perfect fit. I generally use an acrylic varnish or spray lacquer (as used on cars).

2. Renaissance Wax

Renaissance Wax was specially designed to preserve museum exhibits. It seals the surface while being pretty much inert itself. I generally use renaissance wax on items the the customer may been to adjust upon receipt to get the best fit.

The only issue with Renaissance Wax is that it may begin to wear off after a period of time. Options are to replace it with more Renaissance Wax, or, having now made all adjustments, to remove it with white spirit and apply a lacquer / varnish instead. You can even use nail varnish on small pieces. There is a third option: strip it off and leave it raw (see below).

3. Leave it raw

As you will have gathered from the introduction: I love the various colours that copper can display. Consequently I enjoy leaving copper in it's raw state such that it ages and "matures".

Of course this will eventually result in it becoming a dull brown colour however it's not simply a choice between, shiny polish and dull brown. Different degrees of polishing will reveal different shades. In addition, pretty much any copper piece that I leave raw will have texture... so a polishing that beings raised areas to a high shine while only giving a light polishing to lower areas, and not catching indents at all, can (and this is often the state in while I will sell them) be very beautiful.

One thing to bear in mind with raw copper: acidity from the oils in your skin can oxidise the copper turning it, and your skin, green. Consequently if I am leaving a copper in a raw state, I will generally only do this for the front / outer surface raw, while applying lacquer or wax to the back / inner surfaces (see individual product descriptions).