New, shiny copper jewelry can turn dark from oxygen and sweat exposure. So imagine what that means for a decades-old copper bracelet, which has probably developed a patina the original artist never intended. But whether your piece is old or new, cleaning it can be done in a flash by using simple products you have in your kitchen.
Most copper jewelry is non-lacquered and has no protective coating. This means your bracelet has probably been exposed to the elements for far too long. When tarnish appears, give your bracelet a gentle cleansing in a lemon juice solution to turn it bright and shiny once more.
- Fill a bowl with warm water and a few drops of mild liquid soap.
- Dip a soft towel into the solution and wipe down the bracelet to remove surface grime. If the bracelet is truly dirty, scrub gently with a soft toothbrush to get into crevices.
- Rinse and dry the bracelet on a soft towel.
- Fill a bowl with enough lemon juice to submerge the bracelet, then add 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Dip the bracelet into the bowl for one to two minutes, until the tarnish fades. Scrub with a toothbrush to get into crevices.
- Dry the bracelet on a soft towel and buff it with a jewelry polishing cloth.
Do not leave copper in the lemon solution for much longer than two minutes, as lemon juice can degrade copper. Once the tarnish disappears, remove the jewelry piece immediately.
A lacquered copper bracelet will usually not tarnish, unless it is very old and the lacquer has begun to flake off. If the bracelet sports a dark and tarnished patina, it is likely that the aged effect is intentional. Keep lacquered copper clean by simply wiping it with a damp cloth only. Never use lemon juice or polishing cloths on lacquered copper -- they can damage the finish. If you're not sure whether your bracelet is lacquered or not, dab a tiny amount of lemon juice on an inconspicuous part of the jewelry piece. If the tarnish disappears, the piece is non-lacquered.
Never clean copper bracelets with gemstones in lemon juice. Instead, toothbrush scrub bracelets with ketchup -- avoiding the gemstones themselves.
Store your cleaned copper bracelet in a plastic bag to delay tarnishing.