Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cleaning Copper Jewelry

I fell in love with copper while I was taking an “introduction to metalsmithing” class at Parks and Rec in Tucson some 10 or so years ago. I was flipping through a Lapidary Journal and there it was. awesome cuff bracelet with a primitive looking sterling band and an organic shaped piece of turquoise. And soldered onto that sterling band was a blob of copper and a dollup of gold. Seeing this tiny picture of a cuff bracelet at the bottom of a page in my Lapidary Journal was the single most important event that steered my direction in metalsmithing designs. When I started to make beaded pieces to complement my cuff bracelets, I incorporated a little copper into some of the designs, but that was all that was available at the time…a little copper. There were a few sizes of round copper beads and a few gages of copper wire.

As copper became more available for jewelry making (ie wire, chain, decorative beads), I began using more and more in my creations. One of my longtime customers commented on how much she liked the copper, but did I treat it with something so it wouldn’t change color. Actually, I hadn’t really thought about it!! When I used copper on my cuff bracelets, I always cleaned my pieces with a Scotchbrite…I like a more satin finish and it brought up beautiful highlights while leaving the darker tones in the background. That wouldn’t be practical with chain, beads and wire wrapped pieces, such as my signature handmade clasps.

At the time, after listening to some customers’ comments, I decided that I didn’t want to treat the copper because some people preferred it as it “aged” and even some of my jewelry looked better with darker copper. But cleaning the chain, etc with a Sunshine cloth (polishing cloth with compound embedded in it) was very tedious and it never really gave it that bright, brand new copper look again.

One day a woman came into my studio and commented on how much she liked copper and my designs incorporating the metal with gemstone. She said she used a lot of copper in her small sculptural pieces. I said I loved it, too, but it was a pain to clean. She commented, “Oh, that’s easy…use Ketchup!” I looked at her and thought to myself, “Yah, right, and I bet you clean your aluminum hat with it, too!!” She went on to tell me that it was the Vinegar and Salt combination and I thought, “She doesn’t really sound crazy…could she be right!!??”

That night I went home and tried cleaning a small piece of copper chain that had darkened…it was like magic!!! I got a little braver and threw in a few odd gemstones and even a couple white freshwater pearls. The copper was like brand new and the gemstones and pearls were unharmed!!! Since then, I have been cleaning entire necklaces, gemstone, copper and all, with ketchup. I even buy the big 3 pack from Costco…75% is used for cleaning jewelry and 25% for hamburgers, etc.!!

Basically, these are the steps I follow when I clean my copper jewelry.

I put a few “squirts” of ketchup in a small bowl. If I am cleaning pieces with gemstone, I use my fingers and apply the ketchup to the copper areas. (You may want to wear latex gloves…your hands will smell like ketchup the rest of the day…makes me crave French fries!!!) Once I have applied ketchup to all the copper areas, I hold it under warm running water to rinse…make sure you move the piece around so the water runs into the cracks and crevices so no ketchup remains. Then I lay out a towel and place the pieces on it, fold the towel over the top of the pieces and “blot”. Then I get out the hairdryer (this is a very important step!) and run warm/hot air over the pieces, turning them occasionally. I make sure to concentrate some of the heat over the beads so that the wire or Softflex, or whatever it is strung on heats up and dries off, too. (Do not use ketchup on any porous stringing materials such as silk or nylon thread!!! You should test first on anything questionable, by using a scrap or an extra bead.)

If I am cleaning pieces such as a necklace that is all copper, or a ring or earrings, I put them right in the bowl with the ketchup (several pieces at a time!) and “massage” the ketchup into the pieces simultaneously. Then, again I hold each piece under warm running water, making sure to remove all of the ketchup, blot and blow dry.

Do not leave the pieces on the wet towel after using the hair dryer…move them to a table or some other dry surface and let them sit for a few minutes to cool down and finish drying.

This method seems to remove any discoloration, spotting or darkening on copper. It does not, however, remove “pitting”. I am told that this same method works on copper pots, etc, although I have not used it on anything other than jewelry. I have not used it on any treated copper or copper plated pieces, so cannot say if it would work in those cases. I am also told that you can use just vinegar and salt, but I can’t stand the smell, so I haven’t experimented with it.

Hope this tip helps!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ancient Beads, New Creation!

My fascination with fossils began when I was a small child. We were visiting relatives who lived near an old dry riverbed in upstate New York. Walking through the riverbed “exploring” provided hours of entertainment. I had always picked up “pretty” rocks when on vacation with my family, usually handing them to my mom and asking her to put them in her purse!!! But I had never seen such rocks…filled with tiny little sea creatures frozen in time!!

Those memories flooded back to me when I saw this strand of fossils at a gem show over a year ago…Turritella fossilized agate found in Wyoming, dated at approximately 40-60 million years ago! I didn’t know what I would do with them, but they were calling me! A few years earlier I had purchased the shell centerpiece (antique Naga shell from northeastern India)…once again, because it called to me.

I have spent hours over the last year putting the turritella beads with dozens of other beads, and attempting to find the right match for the Naga shell. Then, last week, I had what I call a “duh” moment. The Naga shell center bead was the perfect match for the turritella fossils!!

But that combination, alone, was too monotone and something was lacking. I wanted an almost shocking touch of color, and had an inexplicable need for asymmetry, which is rare in my necklace designs. But I always follow these “feelings” I have when designing…it is as if I am being guided…and I always love the end result!

I had this whole “ancient” theme going on and I wanted to use things that have been incorporated into jewelry for hundreds of years. The small Tibetan turquoise bead is one-of-a-kind, colorful and actually an antique bead. It is quite possible that dozens of people have worn that bead over the past few hundred years! It gives this necklace history and is another connection to the past. The red and black bead is actually a seed from Peru, as are the seeds at the back, by the clasp. Seeds, of course, have been a favorite material for jewelry since the beginning of jewelry…whenever that was! Lastly, I used round copper beads to visually separate the main beads, and my signature handmade copper “looped hook” clasp to finish the piece.

This necklace is one-of-a-kind and one of my absolute favorite pieces ever! The price for this unusual piece is $269. This is your sneak preview and it will soon be featured on my website at

Thanks for listening!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The KISS Creation

When I buy a really interesting strand of beads, I live with them. By this I mean, I put them on my workbench right next to me, for weeks or even months. Every day I look at them, I pick them up and feel them and yes, even talk to them. I try to imagine what they are meant to “be a part of”. What other beads, or chain or pendant complements them.

When I saw these beads at a recent Gem Show in San Diego, they took my breath away!!! Each bead was more stunning then the last!!! The vendor told me that they are rhyolite. They don’t look like “typical rhyolite”, but this vendor has thousands of exceptional quality beads and has always seemed to know “his business”. I bought this strand and took them to the studio “to live with them”. For weeks I have spent hours just staring at them, holding other beads up to them, draping sterling, then copper chain over them, putting them with a very nice large piece of rhyolite as a centerpiece.

Nothing made me happy. Then, I thought of the KISS principle…keep it simple, stupid!! These beads don’t need anything else to make them special!!! Everything else just takes away, distracts from how truly stunning these beads are. So, I put them together with just a few simple copper beads to space them so they lay nicely next to each other. The sides and back are a unique pattern of copper chain that I designed using existing copper links from several different chains. The necklace is finished with my signature copper “looped hook” clasp. The price for this one of a kind piece is $269. This beautiful necklace is currently available in my studio and will be featured on my website next week. This is your sneak preview!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's "Hot" in My Studio

We had a heat wave in San Diego this last week…still having one!!! Our studios in Spanish Village have no air conditioning, and it was almost too hot for any creative thoughts to survive. I did manage to make a piece that I am very pleased with and want to share with you. The beads on this piece are actually somewhat of a mystery…perhaps marble, I am told!!! I just know that they are very pretty, and different looking…just what I like!!! I have combined these “marble” barrels with copper and finished the necklace with one of my signature copper “looped hook” clasps. This piece is currently on display in my studio. I will be posting it to my website as my featured necklace next week, so this is your sneak preview!!! The length is 17.5” and the selling price of this unusual piece is $149. This creation is One-of-a-Kind!!!

I have also been trying my best to “fill out” my website. Seems I never get past posting new necklaces and other areas suffer!! This week I added several beaded bracelets to the bracelet page. To check them out and see what else I have been up to, go to my website at

Maureen King (Mo)
Silversmith/Jewelry Designer

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Perfect Weather, Perfect Conditions for Creativity!!!

The weather in San Diego this week seemed close to perfect! It was warm and sunny with a cool breeze. Sitting in my studio, breeze blowing through and Josh Groban on the stereo, just made it the perfect conditions for creativity to flow!!! Some weeks it seems I don't have enough hours in the day to create the pieces in my head, and others I sit with a blank stare, thinking, "Will I ever have another original or creative thought??!!" This was one of those great weeks! I have a few new pieces I would like you to see before I post them on my website. I would also like to share a little of my thought process as these pieces evolved!

This first piece is made from copper wire and features individually handwrapped and hammered “S” shapes connected with copper chain links. The side pieces are long, curved pieces that hug your neck and prevent the necklace from rolling. I actually set out to design a long pair of copper earrings. After I had made a few pieces, at different lengths, I held each up to my ear...I wasn't impressed!! Then I laid them up against my neck...I liked that!!! So I made a few more and connected them with chain links. I had one long one and tried it on the side going toward the clasp. Of course it looked stupid as a flat "S" shape...but curving it seemed the natural thing to do. The necklace is finished with one of my signature copper “swan” clasps. The selling price for this beautiful copper necklace is $129.

The second piece is also a necklace. This one features small barrel shaped lepidolyte jasper spaced with sterling silver “balls”. The centerpiece is a small, sweet hexagon of lepidolyte jasper. This centerpiece is not an expensive bead. I picked it for the center because the color is beautiful and the shape interesting...that's what it is all about for me...visually pleasing. I wanted the necklace to have movement and I wanted to feature this pretty little center bead. So I hung it from sterling silver chain. But I felt it needed a little “frame” to “finish the picture”, so I fabricated a “V” shaped piece from sterling silver wire to capture and emphasize the centerpiece. When I have an idea that I want to add something like this "V", I don't usually know exactly what shape I want, I just know I want something. This is when I get out my copper wire and just start bending it into different shapes. Copper wire is a fraction of the cost of sterling, so I almost always experiment with the copper. What usually happens is that the shape just starts to evolve. I am not even sure I am in control at all!!! The necklace is finished with sterling silver chain at the sides and back and features one of my signature sterling silver “angled swan” clasps. The length is 16 ½”. This pretty purple number is priced at $139 and is one-of-a-kind!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Dog Blog

I know that they say when you have a blog attached to your website that you should talk about subjects related to what you do, why you have a website to begin with. But I want to talk about dogs...mine specifically. I have had the privilege of having 3 "bff" dogs in my far. I got my first dog when I turned 19 and moved into my own apartment. Her name was "Smirnoff" (named after my favorite liquor at the time...and, yes, the drinking age was 19 in Arizona then...really!). She was a black dachshund/
chihuahua mix who just so happened to choose me...much like jewelry-making (as I discussed in my first blog). She was a stray that a friend of mine had rescued. He had asked me if I wanted her, sight unseen. When he told me the breed, I was picturing another breed, and wasn't really interested. He was going to give her to another friend who had other dachshunds and who loved the breed. On the way to deliver her to his other friend, he dropped by to show her to was love at first sight!!! She was the cutest, wiggliest, funniest thing I had ever seen...but alas, she was spoken for! At work that day, all I could think about was her beautiful brown eyes and the way her tail wagged furiously when we first met...I was so depressed!!! After work my friend stopped by again...he still had the dog! It seemed, when he introduced her to his other friend...she lay down like a lump, tail still and limp. Well, even in the canine world, body language never it seems, she wanted me as much as I wanted her! And we had 16 wonderful years together!

Cindy-Sue came into my life as Smirnoff was getting ready to leave it. They never really got opposites. Cindy was a pure-bred, miniature beagle...with papers!!! Her real name was something like "Lady Leucinda Wellington Bla Bla, the Third"...whatever!! Her previous owners were old friends of my family who had never had children, but always had dogs. The husband had passed away, the wife was fairly frail, and her health was deteriorating. I knew how much their dogs had always meant to them, so I said I would take "Cindy" (which was her everyday name) when the wife died. When Cindy came to live with me, she was a neurotic basket case, addicted to sugar (she would kill you for a "grammy bear"...her drug of choice)! She was also used to "home cooked" meals...literally! A friend told me I should just get rid of her because she was too neurotic!!! I was horrified!!! I was given a menu of her favorite meals, snacks, etc. I immediately threw the list away!! She was going to eat dry dogfood like Smirnoff and she went cold turkey off the grammy bears. She began to calm down and become a very sweet little girl. She actually developed her own little game with the dry dogfood. She would pick a single piece from her bowl, fling it across the room and then chase it, hunt it down, stand over it and bark and then eat it...I prefer to look at it as cute and quirky...not neurotic!!

When I lost Cindy to cancer, I decided I couldn't bare losing another dog...I just wasn't going to have any more!! That lasted about 10 days. There was a big hole in my life that nothing could fill. So my boyfriend and I went to the Humane Society to find a dog to rescue! We thought we wanted a cocker spaniel, but there was this odd little white dog, on death row, that we were both drawn to. When we got close she jumped up, against the cage, wagging her tail, to greet us. That's when we saw them...big pendulous, hanging breasts and belly...we backed up, both saying "woah!!" at the same time. One of the employees there told us she had been on the street for a while and had obviously just had a litter of pups. We looked at each other as if to say "god, what if she stays like that!" We left, but couldn't stop thinking about her sweet little face. We went back the next day and looked at her again. A volunteer from another rescue group overheard us and assured us that she would look "normal" again in no time. But what was this funny looking little dog. She looked like a furry white pig with, what I called "Marilyn Monroe hips". Yet she had a sweet puppy dog face. We were told she was a Corgi/Lab mix. Never heard of a Corgi?! We took that sweet doggy home that day, and sure enough she soon regained her girlish figure! We named her Reesie after my boyfriend's favorite candy...Reeses Cups. It took some getting used to for all of us but she soon became our "bff". She jumps up on my lap and sits like she's a tiny little lap dog...she weighs about 40 lbs!! When she is happy, she boyfriend says she looks like a dolphin!!! Reesie and my boyfriend "pretend fight" together. She snarls ferociously, bares her teeth like a rabid wolf, all the time wagging her tail. Suddenly my boyfriend will say to her, "give me a kiss" and she stops growling and covers him with kisses. When we took that odd little white dog home from the Humane Society that day, we thought we were rescuing her. The reality is...she rescued us!!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

All Josh Groban, All Day!!!!

When I am creating jewelry in my Studio in Spanish Village...if I have my way...I listen to Josh Groban...all day long. Occasionally, there is live music out on the patio that is loud enough that I have to turn off my stereo in the Studio...that throws off my whole day! There is something about sitting in my beautiful studio, in beautiful Spanish Village (in beautiful Balboa Park...San get the picture!) and listening to beautiful Josh! His music calms me and inspires me. I feel I make more beautiful jewelry because of his music. Probably 75% of the people coming into my studio comment on how much they love the music...a few think it is Bocelli...but most recognize Josh Groban and also love to listen to him. Josh's fans seem to cross over all age and social boundaries. The other day a woman with three small children came into the studio. The youngest...probably 5 or 6 years old looked at me and said..."I like this music...this is the last song on the favorite is number dad plays it in his truck every morning. My favorite is number 7." So I cued up number 7 which is "Canto Alla Vita" and he smiled and said..."This song is in another's my favorite." The boy didn't understand a word of the song, but Josh's beautiful music had touched him...just like the rest of us Josh Groban fans!