Cleaning copper jewellery

Cleaning copper jewellery can be tricky, particularly when there are gemstones set into it. It can be very difficult to work around some of the more intricate pieces in your jewellery. You will need to take extra care to avoid damaging any stones that may be in your jewellery.

Step 1 – Examine your jewellery piece

Your copper jewellery may have been sealed by the manufacturer. You should know if your piece is one that has been sealed. Examine it carefully for dullness and corrosion. On a piece that is sealed, the surface will usually appear duller. If you see sports of corrosion beginning to appear, you can usually determine that it has not been sealed. Look for flecking that may appear as plating; this is also an indication of peeling lacquer.

Step 2 – Clean lacquered jewellery

Use a solution of detergent and warm water to wash your copper jewellery piece. This will remove any dirt, oily or greasy substances. When you have finished cleaning, rinse with fresh water. Use caution while washing so as to avoid loosening any inset stones. Allow the jewellery to dry thoroughly.

Step 3 – Remove light tarnish

To remove light tarnish that may appear as brown or red stains, make an acid based paste consisting of equal parts of vinegar, flour and table salt. Mix this paste in a bowl, then, using a soft cloth, apply the paste lightly to the copper surface of the jewellery. Briskly rub this paste onto the copper then rinse with warm, clean water. Allow it to sit until dry.

Step 4 – Remove moderate tarnish

Remove black spots by mixing a solution of baking soda (1 teaspoon) into a quarter of a pint of hot water. Immerse your piece in this solution and allow the soda solution to simmer. After ten minutes, remove the piece from the water using tongs. In gripping the piece with tongs, be careful to avoid clamping the ends of the tongs on gemstones that might be loosened. Use a soft, clean cloth to remove the soda solution then rinse with a slow-running stream of water.

Step 5 – Remove severe tarnish

On a copper finish where you find blue-green tarnish (copper carbonate), use a copper cleanser. Apply a small amount of this cleanser to a clean, absorbent cloth and rub the cleanser onto the tarnished copper surface.
When the tarnish has been removed, rinse of the cleanser with a soft stream of warm water. To remove tarnish from cracks where the cloth is unable to reach, use a soft toothbrush with cleanser applied to it. Be careful in brushing near gemstones set in the jewellery.

Step 6 – Buff cleaned jewellery

When you determine that tarnish has been completely removed from your jewellery, buff the jewellery with a copper buffing cloth.