Still Copper after 15 Years

August 2, 2007

copper wire jewelry

ABOVE – Copper wire jewelry.  Triskele earrings with African iron beads (2007), wirewrap pendant with tumbled hematite (1992).

This summer I can celebrate 15 years of metalworking.  Not continuous work, but slowly evolving anyway.  In 1992 I began making jewelry from recycled copper.  No jigs or specialized tools, just ordinary jeweler’s pliers, coils of 14 and 16 gauge wire, and a handful of beads cut from old evaporative cooler tubing.  It was what I could afford, it was portable, and it seemed appropriate for the desert.  Recycled copper was cheap at the scrap yard, and copper ore surrounds us in the mountains.  I soon added inexpensive stones (including the turquoise “donuts” that I still love), leather cord, and silver earring wire.  I bought a forge and started blacksmithing in 1994, and got a torch and began working with silver in 1997.  Now, many pieces of jewelry later (some remembered and a lot forgotten), I have decorated my yard with blue-green stones – copper ore from half a dozen mountain ranges – and I still have days when all I want to do is curl up in a corner of the shop (sitting on the floor, of course) with a coil of copper wire and my battered pliers, and make spirals, triskeles, and chain links.  I also enjoy the challenge of hot-forged copper, when I hammer my favorite iron motifs out of the softer red metal.  The necklace below (finished today) is cold-hammered 16 gauge wire and hot-forged heavy 8, 6, and 4 gauge wire.  

hot-forged copper necklace

Here’s a “copper ore” bag – green for malachite, purple for cuprite, light blue lining for turquoise, and dark blue embroidery for azurite.  Even has copper cord for drawstrings!

copper ore bag


6 Responses to “Still Copper after 15 Years”

  1. sravana said

    Gorgeous, Lorena.
    Congrats on those 15 years. Who would’ve thought that your initial start would’ve become something so precious – and you a master. Here’s to 15 more!

  2. Beth said

    Hi Lorena – Congratulations on 15 years! Beautiful work!
    I was wondering, though, if the incredible copper necklace will be for sale?

  3. sherri said

    Your work is not only beautiful but conveys the influence of your landscape. Your blog and work made me want to experience your desert part of the world!

  4. Hemera said

    Congratulations!15 years is a long time!

    I wonder what it is like to wear copper jewellery. Does it stain your neck? Does it change colour or do you laquer the copper in some way to keep it from reacting with gases in the air?

  5. ironwing said

    I don’t put laquer on the metal – it looks artificial, and it would eventually wear off and the copper would tarnish unevenly. The bare copper quickly tarnishes (like the heavily-worn jewelry in the top photo) although of course it can be polished any time. I’ve sold a lot of copper chain bracelets and necklaces with leather cords and copper clasps, and haven’t had problems with people’s skin turning green. That happens more with copper bangles, where there is a large flat area of copper next to the skin. It also seems to depend on the individual’s skin. I don’t know if this would happen with the forged necklace or not. I plan to wear it for awhile to help it get a nice brown glow (it will tarnish if it’s sitting in the bag, but it won’t look as “alive”). Then I’ll photograph it again. If it doesn’t sell, I may use it on one of my iron bells, or I may put it on one of the cat dolls that I’m working on.

  6. Hemera said

    We have a copper shade above our woodstove and my husband said the exact same words about laquer: it looks artificial and it would wear off! (Maybe I´ll have to start believing what he says since you confirm it here :))
    Oh, the one on the top photo has been heavily used? It looks very nice!
    Copper is really interesting material for jewellry! I think it was Homer who said that Goddess Aphrodite wears copper jewellry. It sounds so interesting. Why copper and not gold? One reason may be that Cyprus was an island that sold copper in the old days and so the myth wanted to combine those three (the Goddess, copper and Cyprus).
    but it is also a very beautiful metal, with that soft rosy coloured glow.It makes sense that the Goddess of beauty would choose copper for her earrings!

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