How to Clean Copper Jewelry!

Kathy Kathy 19 Feb 2020 6822

Copper has a red-orange metallic luster, it’s a chemical element and used for all kinds of things, including jewelry. As for harvesting, copper occurs naturally and can be used without treatment of any type.

Copper is even a trace dietary mineral for animals and humans alike. As jewelry, however, it does require some special attention to keep it looking like the first day you acquired your piece.

History of Copper

Because copper can be used directly from its native form, it was immediately a popular metal in early human use. It is so important in the development of civilization that it had an entire Age named after it…The Copper Age. Copper was used as far back as 8000 B.C.!

The Mesopotamians first harnessed the use of copper as decorative and ornamental items. Its softness rendered it useless as a tool of any sort and cultures primarily used it for decorative items. They didn’t know, at that time, how to harden it as an alloy. Eventually, copper would be combined with brass to form an alloy that could be used for spearheads, harpoons, arrows, razors, chisels and more.

In about 2750 B.C., copper tubes were used by the Egyptians to transport drinking water. This is a practice that was carried well into modern times with the use of copper plumbing.

Copper is necessary to make brass and Egyptians and Israelites alike used it for many things. The Bible refers to the vessels of the Tabernacle being made of copper and Solomon’s Temple had columns made of Brass.

Various Grades and Color

Copper is one of the few metallic elements having a natural color. Pure copper is orangish-reddish and will tarnish when exposed to air. Unlike other metals, it doesn’t rust, but instead, it tarnishes. It forms a green layer that can be referred to as patina.

It varies in grade when you combine it with another metal to make an alloy. You can test your copper to ensure it’s purity. Apply lemon juice and rinse with water.

copper grades

The reddish color will glow (this is also a step in the cleaning process). Other than that, the grades are for scrap copper.

In scrap, you will find Bare Bright (most valued), then #1 Copper, and lastly, #2 Copper.

How Much is Copper Worth?

The answer is relative to the period in time. In the earliest of civilizations, it was a useful and prized material.

As such, it was a commodity for trading and payment for goods. Typically, it was formed into flat ingots.

Some, however, were shaped as circular buns, daggers, rings, and axes.

Apparently, where the copper was mined was a factor in how much it was worth. Grecian was for practical use and copper from Cyprus was reserved for ingots and exchanged especially between elites.

Another way it was valued was for monetary use. It was used as a coinage by the Chinese, Romans, Greeks, and others. Coins made of pure copper were lower in value and the one mixed with gold and silver were higher in value.

Before 1982, pennies were made from 95% copper. Since the year 2000, it has risen in price. It’s quite possible the pennies you have in your pocketbook, if they are pre-1982, may be worth way more than just a penny.

In fact, melted down, they may be double the face value (Note: It is illegal and carries a monetary fine and a jail term for doing so)!

Currently, it is listed at $2.58 per pound. It is wildly popular as a recyclable item and current price, for that, is about $2.00 per pound.

It is no wonder abandoned homes fall prey to thieves and looting.

The Power and Properties of Copper

Many folks often wear it for its healing properties. It is said to increase energy, improve blood circulation and detoxify the body.

This mineral is also purported to increase mental agility. Legend has it the god Hermes, who was known for his mental agility and quick wit, had an affinity for this metal.


Healing Lama copper bracelet

Get the Healing Lama copper bracelet

You may not be a mythological god, but you can still wear a copper bracelet and possibly experience relief from joint stiffness and gain a healthier immune system.

There have been studies done and, because trace amounts of copper are absorbed through the skin, people have shown improvement related to arthritis.

How to Clean Copper Jewelry

Copper will tarnish eventually, especially when in contact with chemicals and moisture; a good way to get minimal tarnishing is to care for your piece from the get-go.

If taken care of properly, it won’t turn your skin green when you wear it. Above all, treat copper jewelry like any other jewelry and take it off before exposure to water, chemicals, or sweat.

When not in use, store it in a plastic bag to slow the tarnishing process. Handle pieces carefully (copper is soft).

Use a polishing cloth regularly and gently rub away any residue that may accumulate. After that, there are several “made from home” cleaners for your copper.

Each of these methods requires about a 20 minute soaking period. Use them before tarnishing occurs and if your piece contains soft stones…think pearls… DO NOT use these methods!

How to Clean Jewelry Step By Step

Boil 2c. water; add 1 tablespoon od salt and 1 tablespoon of vinegar; dip your jewelry; rinse in cool water; dry completely on a soft cloth.

How to Clean Jewelry Step By Step

Mix equal parts of lemon juice and salt (if it needs to be thicker, add flour); apply a small amount to a clean cloth; rub residue off of jewelry; allow paste to sit 10 minutes; rub off; rinse in cool water; place on a soft cloth and let completely dry.

lemon and baking soda

Using table salt and vinegar, pour it over your pieces and gently rub until the grime is removed.

salt, lemon and vinager

Using salt and lemon (again, but a different application), pour salt on half a lemon and rub over jewelry. Rinse with water and polish with a soft cloth.

salt and lemon

Hint: You can even use tomato catchup or Worcester-shire sauce!

While there are natural methods for cleaning your jewelry pieces, you can also purchase commercial cleaners as well.

Our Favorite Copper Jewelry Cleaners

1. Wright’s Copper and Brass Cream Cleaner

Wright's Copper and Brass Cream Cleaner

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Did you ever think you could experience instant satisfaction and instant gratification from a copper cleaner? With Wright’s you can!

For long-lasting shine and only a little bit of cash, try this cream cleaner. Made with a non-scratch formula, it not only cleans your metal but will also coat it, protecting it from tarnish.

This paste will bring your copper back to its initial beauty, giving it luster and shine. It only takes a few seconds to polish, rinse and dry your piece.

Very versatile, this paste isn’t for jewelry alone. It can also be used for copper cookware, mugs, hardware, doorknobs, and other copper items.

You’ll be pleased with the sleek, glossy, shine you get. Wright’s is easy, gentle, fast-acting and has no odor.

It is recommended you wear rubber gloves and rinse the piece in warm water after treatment. Then, just dry. Definitely a high-quality value for the price you will pay.

2. 3 Sunshine Polishing Cloths for Sterling Silver, Gold, Brass and Copper Jewelry

3 Sunshine Polishing Cloths for Sterling Silver, Gold, Brass and Copper Jewelry

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Tired of gooey pastes to clean your copper pieces? Try these polishing cloths instead. These are easy to use and will not scratch the item being cleaned.

They safely clean your copper by simply rubbing the surface with medium pressure. For disposable cloths, they are worth the price.

And, they aren’t just for use on one side. These cloths are double-sided so you use both sides before throwing away.

For heavy-duty items, it is recommended a primary cleaner be used, then this for touch up cleaning.

A couple of great things are:

  • there is no lint left behind like other cloths might do
  • these cloths are non-toxic, making them safe for anyone to use

However, do not and we repeat, DO NOT run this through the washing machine!

3. Weiman Jewelry Polish Cleaner and Tarnish Remover Wipes

Weiman Jewelry Polish Cleaner and Tarnish Remover Wipes

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About the size of a baby wipe, this polish cleaner could be your one-stop cleaner for all your jewelry products. No messy cream from these wipes.

With these wipes, all you do is apply, wipe, rinse and buff, all in just a few short minutes. If you want something to protect your copper piece from re-tarnishing, this may be it.

Not only does it easily clean your copper, but it restores and protects as well. It leaves a long-lasting shine for years to come.

When you use Weiman’s, it has an anti-tarnish agent. This leaves a protective coating on the piece to guard against further tarnishing.

You can use it safely as well. Weiman’s is ammonia-free; no nasty fumes to inhale.

The price you pay for this product may be a bit more than others, but it’s worth it.

The upside is you don’t just get one, or two, or even three wipes, but twenty in a container! And, you get two containers. No-fuss, no muss, just shine, with this product.

4. EZ Brite Penny Brite Copper and Brass Cleaner

EZ Brite Penny Brite Copper and Brass Cleaner

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This is our favorite pick! If you’re like us, eco-friendly and like to buy “Made in the USA”, Penny Bright is for you.

It is a 7 oz. jar of paste that comes with its own sponge applicator. Penny Bright is an easy to use, cream and has been the gold standard in copper cleaning since 1947.

This product is primarily marketed for copper cookware, but don’t let that scare you. Many professional jewelry designers and craftsmen have used it to clean their pieces.

It will cut through tarnish like no one’s business and give you a piece that will look like new!

It doesn’t contain phosphates, ammonia sulfuric acid carcinogenic benzene, or chlorine. This makes it even more ecofriendly.

If that isn’t enough, it ‘s biodegradable and safe for the environment. Why does it work? The product contains a blend of polishing compounds with food-grade citric acid and environmentally and planet safe soap.

You needn’t limit your cleaning tool of choice to the sponge provided. Use an old, or new, toothbrush to get in the nooks and crannies; all those hard to get places.

For this product, we expected to pay double or triple the price. Not so. Penny Brite not only cleans pennies, but costs just a few (ok, more than a few) to have the pieces in your collection looking stellar.

5. Rolite’s Midas Touch Jewelry and Silver Polish

Rolite's Midas Touch Jewelry and Silver Polish

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You may remember King Midas from Greek Mythology; he had the ability to turn whatever he touched into gold. Now, we know that as the golden touch.

Using Rolite’s Jewelry and Metal Polishing cream will give you the copper touch!

Rolite’s has a few attributes we haven’t seen in a copper cleaner. It is swirl-free, acid-free, and odor-free (ok, we have seen that one).

Something else we haven’t seen in a copper cleaner is jeweler’s rouge which is an ultra-fine compound developed by the jewelry trade.

Something else different is that it comes in a tube. It’s easy to use, you don’t have to use that much, and it’s not messy.

It’s extremely reasonably priced and for what you get, we think well worth the cost. And, it’s made in the USA!

That Sums it Up

The Ancients used copper for many things, death masks included. But, we have come a long way in thought and practice. Some of the prettiest jewelry pieces are made from copper and, when you know how to clean copper jewelry, it will last you a lifetime and can be used as an investment.

Some people enjoy the patina copper creates with use. Others are like it bright and shiny. Whichever the case, we think it’s safe to say, most of us never thought about saving our jewelry or pennies for that matter as an investment strategy.

In whatever form you have your copper, taking care of it may be just that…an investment in your future!