Copper is an extremely resilient metal. There are copper artifacts dating back as far as 10,000 years, and even a copper tubing found from and ancient plumbing system that is 5,000 years old, which was found by archaeologists still in serviceable condition. Many people think that when copper patinas, it is showing erosion or deterioration. Actually it is just the opposite. Copper oxidizes with reaction to the environment, and creates a layer of patina. This layer of patina is actually a protective corrosion resistant layer. Depending on the types of environmental conditions and substances that the copper comes in contact with, will determine the color of the patina.
Circle City Copperworks (CCC) uses only Pure American Copper. To be considered copper, it must be tested to be at least 99.0% or more of copper. Our copper is tested at 99.61% copper and is purchased from one of the largest copper mills in the US. Some “other” copper products actually only test at 98.45% copper and actually do not qualify as copper. They are actually considered to be “bronze” products, and go into a different category of metal, especially for the recycling industry. This “bronze” metal has zinc and sometimes lead added to the copper in order for the copper to feel heavy, but be a thinner copper. Thus it seems to be a thick sturdy copper product, however, it’s actually a thinner and lower quality metal being used. Many other companies, especially foreign fabricators, use this “bronze” and still claim it to be copper. Although these small percentages of zinc and/or lead added to the copper probably aren’t in a large enough percentage to be harmful, it still should be mentioned. If these other companies are saving money and cutting corners on the type of copper they use, what other corners are they cutting to save money and offer you a lower quality product for cheaper?
CCC offers to provide our clients with a natural patina. We provide a cold patina on our products with liver of sulfur, which is a completely safe process, and is environmentally healthy. All we are doing is actually speeding up copper’s natural patina process and giving it an aged look. Copper in most environments will turn bronze over time. Although we do provide a plethora of patinas to our products, bear in mind that copper is ever changing and will continue to slowly oxidize over time. Hand-applied patinas are an artistic method, and the color can vary slightly. Patina ting copper is not like painting, where there is a color code to mix a paint color to be exactly the same every time. All of our custom hand-made copper products are one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork, and will never be exactly the same in finish. Many clients believe that these qualities add more character and uniqueness to copper products.
CCC has a standard policy of putting a coating of a food-grade wax to our finished custom copper products. This helps slow down the oxidation process, and aids in the prevention of fingerprints or other spots becoming visible on the copper items during shipping and installation.
If you are wanting a “living finish” on your copper product, and love the fact that copper can and will change over time, just keep it how it is, and let the everyday normal use and environment allow the copper to continue to patina and add to its uniqueness over time. As mentioned above, copper under normal environments especially inside, will continue to turn bronze and darken over time.
Clients that fall in love with a copper finish, and want it to stay that way forever have a few options. We recommend keeping a coating of wax on your piece, and not using any chemicals or abrasives to clean your copper. Also, certain acidic or basal foods will also get to the copper and cause different speeds of oxidation at the points of contact, and will change the patina color to a color that will depend on the type of chemical. The best way to keep care of this copper is to wash with mild dish soap and warm water (not hot) and pat dry after every use. Water spots or other spots that are not rinsed and patted dry can cause a spot on the copper even through the wax. The wax is essentially just a barrier to buy time for you to rinse and dry the copper product before oxidation will occur. No wax is completely resistant even with multiple layers. The only way to fully prevent anything from penetrating the wax and oxidizing the copper is to add a clear coat. We do offer a clear coat to our products for an extra charge. Just bear in mind that even clear coats wear over time. A clear coat may have to be re-applied after some years. Clear coats also may not withstand extreme hot water or temperatures as well.
The good thing about the copper finish is that it is always fixable, even for the client. If you get a spot or scratch, it can be lightly sanded with a scotch brite pad, and will then soon patina that spot and blend back in. You can also provide your own patina on your copper product and we would be happy to give you advice on how. If you get a scratch or stain in a stainless steel, or even granite or marble sink or countertop, the only way to get it fixed is to hire a professional to come and grind, sand, and polish this back out for you. Spots or scratches on copper are extremely easy to repair. Actually a scratch or spot will over time re-patina itself whether you sand it out or not. Also, remember that hammered and/or darker patina products will help hide and blend in any scratch, ding, or spot, whereas a smooth and lighter product will show these more.
Although adding a clear coat may extremely prolong the exact same finish over many years, repairing scratches or other blemishes on clear coated items can be more difficult. Sometimes you may be able to sand out the “blemish” and re-apply the clear coat; however, the clear coats may not match. In worst case scenarios you may need to fully strip the entire clear coat, fix the blemish, and entirely re-apply the clear coat. This is one reason why most clients prefer a wax only protection.
Copper’s living finish and its ever changing qualities are just a few of its features that add to the beauty and character of our pure copper hand-made custom products.
*CCC does not claim to be copper scientists of any kind; this information is a compilation of copper research and many years of knowledge discovered by its coppersmiths.