Alari Design

Fine Jewelry and Gemstone Showcase

Copper and its use in jewelry

MetalAlari DesignComment

Copper is one of favorite metals to use in the construction of jewelry. It is beautiful, affordable, and perhaps the most versatile metal to make jewelry with.  I use copper wire to crochet gemstone ropes, to forge clasps, to knit chains, and for electroforming.

The History of Copper Jewelry


Copper, named from the Roman supply source on the Island of Cyprus, was the first metal discovered by Prehistoric Man between 10,000 and 13,000 years ago.  It is the oldest mined mineral.  Copper beads dating to 9000 BC have been discovered in parts of modern day Iraq. Methods for removing copper from the ore were established around 5000 BC.  

By 3900 BC, copper was found in items the Sumerians and the Egyptians produced for daily living.  Evidence of the Egyptian's use of copper has been found in household items such as pottery cooking pots.  The Egyptians were the first to create Bronze, an alloy of tin and copper, and Brass, an alloy of zinc and copper.  These inventions created many possibilities, and paved the way to modern Civilization.

Ancient Egyptian Copper Jewelry

Between 3900 and 2500 BC, copper became a valuable mined item.  The amount of copper one used or possessed signified a higher social status.  By 2500 BC, the Egyptians employed jewelry makers to produce crowns and headdresses.  The highest of Egyptian officials oversaw the production of jewelry.  The jewelry makers were held in high esteem.  They were so highly regarded, that depictions of jewelry making were painted onto tomb walls.  Wealthy Egyptians wore copper jewelry and clothing with copper alloy fittings.

Copper became an important part of the medical, religious and spiritual rituals of Egyptian life, such as mummification.  Copper instruments were used during preparation of the mummy, and copper jewelry amulets were used during the reading from the Book of the Dead.

Copper Jewelry in the Early Americas

Copper's use in pre-Colombian America happened about the same time Egyptians were mining natural copper.  The earliest copper items found in this area are beads and earrings.

Prehistoric Indians, or Ancient Native Americans, also placed value and status on jewelry.  Copper jewelry has been found in archaeological digs.  Early Indian metalwork consisted of hammered and etched copper pendants and earrings, and formed copper beads.  Later Native Americans saw the value of jewelry and traded copper bracelets with the Europeans.

19th Century

Copper jewelry has been fashioned and worn by Native Americans since Ancient times.  History indicates that the Navajo are officially credited with producing copper jewelry specifically for trading purposes in the mid to late 1800's.  Copper jewelry was common in the Southwestern part of the US, due to Arizona being one of the World's largest deposits of copper.

20th Century

In the 1930's, Francisco Rebajes began producing modernist jewelry out of solid copper.  His jewelry caught the eye of America, and copper's appeal was on the rise.

In 1946, Jerry Fells of Los Angeles began creating Renoir-Matisse copper jewelry in geometric and abstract designs.  Solid copper pieces were signed Renoir, while copper pieces with enameling were signed Matisse.  The bold designs of Renoir-Matisse were highly sought after, and still command high prices with collectors.

In the mid 20th century, travel to the Southwest increased, and with it, a greater interest in Native American Indian copper jewelry.  Tribes made jewelry, often with traditional symbols, and sold as souvenirs to travelers.

In the 1970's, the appeal of copper jewelry again soared.  With the re-emergence of ancient healing beliefs in the properties of copper, emerged a new wave of desire for copper jewelry.

About copper leaving a green deposit on the skin….

Well, it may happen or not because it is related to the wearer’s metabolism.

The green stains are caused by copper oxidation when in contact with sweat glands. Therefore, if you sweat profusely when working out, or gardening in the sun, maybe it’s not a good idea to wear your copper jewelry.

Copper oxidation can also occur in an acidic environment. Your body acidity is related to your alimentation. Junk food, processed food and lots of red meat will make your body acidic. Fresh fruits and vegetables won’t.

That said, people’s reaction to copper cannot be predicted. By the way, copper is a material used in many alloys like bronze, brass and sterling silver. And yes, in extreme cases, sterling can also turn your skin green!

The green stains can be washed off with soap and water. Otherwise you will notice that they are  absorbed overnight by your body. This is in no way dangerous for your health and could even be beneficial…

About copper health’s benefits…

It is a fact that our body needs copper and can get it from food like milk, nuts, seafood and yummy chocolate. If you wear copper jewelry and it leaves a green deposit, your body will also absorb it and put it at good use.

But is it true that copper bracelets are effective to relieve arthritis joint pain? Many doctors say no. Many wearers say yes.

Copper has been used for medicinal purposes in Ancient Egypt, Greece and by the Aztec civilization. Hippocrates himself mentions copper as a treatment for leg ulcers. Could it be that doctors today prefer to prescribe expensive pills (and fuel the multi-billion drug industry) rather than recommend a natural and affordable alternative? or is copper really an old folks remedy?

The fact is, if it does not help you it cannot harm you. So, why not trying if you think it may help you. I just have issues with these commercials who claim that copper bracelets make miracles so that they can justify an exorbitant price.

About the copper I use in my jewelry…

I absolutely love copper jewelry and propose my copper jewelry pieces in a choice of 2 kind of copper depending if you want to wear copper for fashion or function:

- natural pure copper. It will tarnish (which can be cleaned off if this effect is not desired) and may leave green stain on the skin.

- non tarnish copper. This is natural pure copper that has been covered with a thin layer of clear polyurethane. This layer is extremely resilient and will isolate your skin from the copper, which also makes it also hypoallergenic.

And in any cases, earrings are also available with sterling ear wires.

With sterling silver’s prices going through the roof, why not giving this beautiful and affordable material a chance? And if you decide you do not like it, maybe one of your friends will.

Copyright 2014