All About Oxidation and Copper Jewelry Wire

We wrap the majority of our stones with raw or bare copper wire. The wire comes in different gauges, or thicknesses, and different degrees of hardness. At DebbyTammy we love working with dead soft copper because it's malleable and allows us to make beautiful designs. 

Unfortunately, copper tarnishes quickly and turns a dull black. We've learned by watching other jewelry makers that a common practice is to speed the process along through oxidation. When oxidizing a piece of jewelry, you need to have a few items on hand.

  • Liver of Sulfur
  • Baking Soda
  • Two Containers
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Steel Wool or Toothbrush
  • Polishing Pads

oxidation tools

  1. Put warm water in a container that is large enough to fully submerge a piece of jewelry into
  2. Add a few drops of liver of sulfur to the water and then stir it up with an old paintbrush
  3. Pour a tablespoon of baking soda into another container and then put about the same amount of water into it (enough to submerge your piece), stir well
  4. Put on your safety gloves
  5. Using a small piece of wire, connect it to the bail so you can lower your piece into the liver of sulfur solution

The copper wire on the piece will turn very dark, nearly black. Lift it out at this point and put it in the baking soda and water solution to neutralize it.

From there, lay out the pieces on some paper towels and prepare to gently scrub off the dark layers of liver or sulfur by putting some dish detergent on a small piece of steel wool. Still wearing the gloves, hold the piece under lukewarm water and gently scrub the wires until the copper begins to show through again.

These three pieces show how dark the wires get in the liver of sulfur and water solution!

We purchase special polishing pads online, and after thoroughly drying each piece after scrubbing it, we polish them to a high shine. By oxidizing the jewelry wire, the piece looks a little bit antique, and very beautiful!

We also occasionally use tarnish resistant copper wire because there are folks who prefer the shiny color of the wire, but it's not as easy to work with due to whatever the manufacturer puts on the wire to keep it from tarnishing.

All of our oxidized copper jewelry comes with a polishing cloth so that you can keep it looking beautiful forever! Just gently rub the cloth over the wires to see that shine return.

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