How to Care for Your Copper Jewellery
I have been making and wearing copper jewellery for over a decade now.
The main drawback to copper is that it tarnishes rather quickly. It also does turn your skin green to some extent. Depending on how much you perspire, and your own body chemistry, your green skin experience may vary. It's rather easy to clean your skin of the green layer. I just use witch hazel on a cotton ball. It does come off rather easily. Washing your neck in the shower also works.
As for the tarnishing of the metal itself, it too is rather easy to take care of.
I rather dislike strong smelling cleaners that require you to open all the windows just to use. I also don't like using anything bad for the environment, and I like multitasking products.
Vinegar and salt work wonderfully well. Just make a bath of enough vinegar to cover the item, and pour salt over it. I have no exact ratio for this, I just pour about a half teaspoon of salt (give or take), just until I start to see the copper lightening. Don't forget to turn the item and stir a little with your finger.
The darker brown will turn a nice pink rather quickly, but it can leave the metal dull. To remedy this, I use Bon Ami's polishing powder. It's safe, simple, and rather inexpensive. I also don't need to open all the windows to clean with it. It's just powdered calcium and feldspar. Cheap and safe? Win/win in my book.
To use, I take the item out of the vinegar and salt bath, rinse in water, and then dry it. Drying is important. Even if you skip the shining step, you must rinse and dry. The polishing powder can work while wet, but works best on dry items. I take a pinch between my thumb and forefinger, start at one end of the piece and work my way down it. When done, I rinse and dry again.
Another advantage to using Bon Ami's powder is that, when cleaning something with spirals, it is less likely to get lodged inbetween the wire. Creams are much much more likely to clog the design. If anything does get lodged, gently use an old toothbrush, or one bought specially for this purpose. You can also just use the powder by itself, without first using the vinegar and salt bath, but the colour of the copper might not come out as pink. It may be more orange/brown, as some of the oxidation is left on the metal.
Always be careful while cleaning. Remember, nothing is soldered, it's just wire that has been bent and curled into a shape. Work with the shape, do not tug anything, and you will be surprised at just how much pressure you can apply while cleaning.
My cleaning methods might sound like they take up a lot of time, but really they do not. I tend to start the vinegar and salt bath while doing something else, like brushing my teeth before work, and then rinse and dry, and work the powder over it, spending just a few minutes on any given piece.