Jewelry can bear a significant symbol or personal touch that reflects the wearer’s individual personality and style. Depending on their sense of style and artistic talent, experienced jewelers can turn anything into fine ornaments.
They can even turn copper pipes into jewelry!
Before we dive into the process of making jewelry out of this unique item, let’s take a look at what copper jewelry really is.
What Is Copper Jewelry?
Copper is one of the oldest minerals that can be mined from the earth. This reddish-gold colored metal is malleable, ductile, and a great conductor of electricity. It is also used in the manufacture of coins, electrical equipment, plumbing, and industrial machinery.
The use of copper during the prehistoric age can be traced back as far as 13,000 years ago. But around 5,000 years ago, copper was used and refined into alloys in the Middle East. Native Americans and the Egyptians were some of the earliest peoples that used copper in their civilization and daily activities.
Historians and researchers have found that the earliest jewelry made from copper dates back to the 8th millennium BC. Due to its earthy color and malleability, it is no surprise that copper is a popular metal being used in today’s jewelry market.
The Procedure Of Making Jewelry Out Of Copper Pipe
Copper can be purchased in any hardware or plumbing store. You can use different sizes of copper pipes based on the quantity and types of jewelry that you want to make.
Here are all the essentials that you must have to make jewelry out of copper pipes:
- Different diameters of copper pipes (ranging from 1 inch to 6 inches wide)
- Pipe cutter
- Annealing pan
- Heat resistant work gloves
- Protective eyewear
- Dust mask
- Water (in a container)
- Butane torch/cutting torch
- Rubber mallet
- Steel wool (fine, 00 fine, and 000 fine)
- Polishing cloth
- Nail polish remover or acetone
- Jeweler’s rouge
- Half-round, round, and flat jewelers’ files
- Dapping punches
- Measuring tape/ruler
The most common types of jewelry made out of copper pipes are rings and bracelets.
- As with any other activities, safety should always come first. Wear your protective eyewear and work gloves. Then, use a pipe cutter to make 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch wide rings from 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1-inch copper pipes. Also, make 1/8 inch to 4 inch wide rings from 2 to 4 inch copper pipes.
- So that the rings can be pulled partially open, use a butane torch to cut across the width of each 2 to 4 inch diameter ring.
- Smooth and remove all sharp edges using half-round, round, and flat jewelers’ files.
- Pull the large diameter rings apart to turn them into nearly flat strips of copper. Then, place the strips on an anvil and hit them until they look beaten. Use jewelers’ files to smooth and remove all sharp edges.
- Polish all the small diameter and large diameter copper rings using fine, 00 fine, and 000 fine steel wool.
- Do another thorough polish using the jeweler’s rouge or a polishing cloth. You can also remove any dirt or buffing compound using a nail polisher and acetone, a soft cloth, and a clean paper towel.
- Finally, spray lacquer on each ring to prevent oxidation. Leave the rings alone to dry before wearing them.
- With a ruler or measuring tape, estimate the length of pipe that you want and cut it using a pipe cutter.
- Wear your safety goggles and work gloves before moving to the anneal phase. Then, put the copper tube on the annealing pan, gripping firmly the other side with pliers to prevent any sudden movement. Torch the pipe and make sure both sides are being heated.
- Once the copper tube has been annealed, dip it in cold water to cool the metal down. Then, dry it off with a paper towel.
- Put the copper tube on an anvil and slowly hammer it on one end. Once the tube can lay flat, continue to hammer slowly and flatten the rest of the tube. You can spare a quarter-inch of depth for texture-making purposes.
- Hammer the dapping punches onto the tube to create any texture that you want. When hammering, you can rotate or place the dapping punches at different angles to create a deep texture.
- Until you are happy with the shape of the tube, you can repeat steps 3 to 5.
- Anneal the tube for the last time until it is truly hot. Higher temperatures will ensure that the copper is more malleable to be shaped in the next step. Then, dip the tube in cold water.
- Using a rubber mallet, you can begin to shape to copper tube from one end and continue until you reach the other. If the tube isn’t malleable enough, you can anneal it a few times.
- Finally, remove any scale, dirt, or buffing compound created on the tube using steel wool. You can also smooth any sharp edges using sandpaper.
If you are feeling creative and want to add more colors to your copper jewelry, you can soak it in white vinegar and salt. This process will promote a blue or green patina. You can also bury the copper in sawdust soaked in white vinegar. The longer the copper is buried, the darker the tone of patina that will develop.
Some experienced jewelers use flame painting to create vibrant colors on copper jewelry.
How To Care For Copper Jewelry
Over a long period of time, metal like copper will oxidize and produce a greenish coating known as patina. Luckily, the process of cleaning tarnished copper is fairly simple.
First, what you need is a cleaner made from acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon. Then, soak the copper jewelry into the solution for about half an hour before rinsing it thoroughly. You can also mix baking soda with lemon juice and rub the solution on your jewelry using your finger or a cloth.
If you want the jewelry to look squeaky clean, you can use a soft to medium bristle toothbrush to wipe away all the dirt and stain. This is important, especially if the copper is set with gemstones.
Cleaning around the ridges and corners of a center stone without doing any damage to the gemstone can be quite hard. So, the best course of action is to purchase polishing cloth or commercial copper cleaner that contain low-acidic ingredients that won’t damage your gemstone.
On the other hand, you can also seal your copper jewelry to protect it from tarnishing and corroding. Copper sealing will be done using a polish or wax. However, the disadvantage of sealed copper jewelry is that it won’t look as shiny as unsealed jewelry.
This is not a big issue because you simply can polish them back using a polishing cloth and restore their original look. Aside from commercial copper sealer, you can also use car wax and nail polish to prevent copper from tarnishing.
Above all, copper jewelry makes a long-lasting impression if it is maintained carefully over a long period of time.
Even if it’s made from copper pipe, this type of jewelry can match with many earthy tones accessories such as red, blue, and green.
But most importantly, it can be refined and made into different accessories and doesn’t cost as much as other jewelry.