Dec 04 2013

Will copper jewelry turn my skin green or black? How do I clean copper jewelry?

Published by at 12:27 pm under jewelry

I get asked this question alot — especially on the hammered copper stacking rings that I make:

hammered copper stacking rings

And I gotta say, YES, turning your skin green is a distinct possibility when you wear raw copper – it depends on your body chemistry whether it will or not. However, I have found that it doesn’t turn your skin green forever — it may do so for a week or two, and then it stops — I’m not sure why — it could be that the body’s pH changes after consistent contact with the copper.

Also, in the pro-raw-copper column, many people rave about healing or helpful properties of raw copper. Now, I am a skeptic at heart (show me the data! where are the blind studies?!) (there are none!) so I don’t actually hold with this, but many people purchase the raw copper jewelry because of potential helpful properties that come from direct contact skin-to-copper, one I know off the top of my head is for arthritis — again, I don’t really believe any of it, but you could google for more info if you are interested.

A barrier between the copper and your skin can prevent any greenish smudge — one cheap way to do so would be to apply clear nail polish on the inside of the ring. However, it won’t last long — even with professional lacquers and such, the constant skin contact makes any blocking affect these have to be brief. This is why I don’t do it — also because I have lots of customers who WANT the copper to skin contact with no barrier.

If you want to be sure of no green skin completely, I’d stick with sterling or gold filled. Personally, I wear my copper ring all the time, and it’s been so long I don’t get any green fingers anymore.


Rings generally don’t need a lot of polishing, any tarnish is cleaned up by the rubbing against your skin. Bracelets, necklaces, pendants can be a different story. If you prefer a bright almost pink glow to your copper, rather than an old coppery penny look, it’s easy to clean.

My favorite way is with ketchup – mostly because with children under the age of 12 in the house, we have plenty of it! A quick dunk in ketchup for a few minutes will get rid of any tarnish.

Another way is with lemon juice (vinegar works too) and a bit of salt (1 teaspoon is plenty) in a small jar or tupperware. Place your jewelry in, making sure it’s covered, and let sit for a minute or two. VERY IMPORTANT — it only needs a minute or two — don’t walk away for a half hour — or even 5 minutes. The acid in the lemon juice which cleans away the tarnish, can also damage the surface of the metal.

Rinse and dry VERY well, and buff it up with a cloth. If the cloth doesn’t shine it up enough to your liking, you can rub with salt or baking powder to bring up the shine as well.

I hope this helps answer any questions about copper jewelry!

One response so far

One Response to “Will copper jewelry turn my skin green or black? How do I clean copper jewelry?”

  1. Catherine Franzon 31 Jan 2014 at 10:36 pm

    I heard toothpaste works too.