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Between 2004 and 2007 I participated in the I+D+I Project: MEC and FEDER (Ref. BHA2001-3607) related to non-toxic and recyclable materials in the creation and presentation of graphic work, directed by Rosa Vives, Professor of Painting and Engraving at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona. This team was dedicated to the investigation and recovery of copper as a basic metal in the production of jewelry making.

 

Initially we recovered copper by cutting calcographic plates using shears at the Engraving Workshop at the School of Fine Arts , University of Barcelona.

 

 

Later the recycling of copper was expanded to other areas. Once the metal was selected, it was classified according to purity,  obtaining special compounds of fine silver, the resulting compound being used to create a collection of jewelry.

Initially I worked with large pieces, necklaces, brooches and bracelets, and once the objective was achieved, we also applied this making smaller jewelry such as rings and other small desirable objects.

In our country, legislation on noble metals indicates that the compound of silver called "of law" or "Sterling Silver" should abide to a 925 thousandth. With this project we voluntarily kept away from official compounds because our goal was not to make traditional jewelry. Our interests lie in maximizing color variations and physical qualities of the different compounds with silver and copper.

 


Ring created with a calcographic matrix

 

At the University of Barcelona Engraving department, we worked with etching and aquatinting among other techniques, using plates of various metals, including copper. With a shear the metal sheets are prepared as molds. Previous months the remnants of copper were collected and reused.

Copper fragments that were considered useless after the prints were reused becoming another source of material for our project.

We recovered fragments of copper from computer circuits, appliances, clock parts and other mechanisms.

Six months without a fixed pattern for collecting scraps, we gathered more than 1,000 grams of copper. Undoubtedly the participants in this project could have retrieved more of this metal had they had the benefit of foresight.

Once the copper was analyzed and ranked according to quality and purity, compounds were prepared using fine silver and sterling silver, in varied proportions. Our intention was to acquire a wide range of colors, and with the obtained compounds to make exeptional jewelry.

Once the remnants of copper were melted and processed into plates again, a new cycle began. We worked with the plates again as calcographic molds in reduced measures. They were stamped on paper, finishing the process, and were then coupled with a gem. Rosa Vives, director of the project, made an etching that was printed on paper. The small mold was incorporated as part of a silver and copper bracelet, in which joints without welds were a priority to respect the part of the etching engraved mold. In short, once the engraving and finishing were completed, the mold was reused as part of a jewelry piece, agian reusing materials.

 

Detail of the chromatism of a brooch

Composition of copper and silver

Detail of the chromatism of a brooch

Slave bracelet made with a calcographic matrix

Copper and its color applied to jewelry

 

Copper is an admirable pink metal very interesting for tonal graduation it offers, and highlighting gold, green, red and black hues.

This line of research is mainly aimed at restoring, enhancing and acquiring all the chromatic possibilities using copper as a primary metal for a basic cosmetic finish.

A patina, or incrustation, as an aesthetic appeal may become another possible way to obtain a copper color, however our intentions are focused mainly on the binary compound of silver and copper.

Finally, we made color compositions using a process of embedding silver and copper with the Mokume-Game procedure. This technique has been used in Japan for more than 300 years. It is based on a seamless union of non-ferrous metals for fusion. Copper sheets are used as a basis where gold or silver adhere by fusion applying a lamination process.

To achieve a wide range of colors we made diverse compounds, ranging between 10% and 50% silver. Through changes in binary compounds, we achieved a wide variation of chromatism regression. Images on a tonal scale varied the proportions of copper-silver, presuming we started with a copper metal base.  These results are included in the research.

Some copper-silver combinations we worked with are: optimal quality copper with fine silver, compounds that have provided us with a golden-yellow hue and a very smooth finish resembling brass; industrial copper with sterling silver, a combination that further accentuates the pink hue, and copper of calcographic plate with sterling silver that provides a color leaning to red.

 

Popular tradition

 

Ancestral beliefs pertaining to copper describe healing properties. It is believed that it is one of the best transmitters of healing energy. In mystical terms, gold was linked with the sun and silver with the moon. Copper was associated with the planet Venus. The main source of copper was found on the island of Cyprus, known as the Sacred Island of the goddess Venus.

In modern pharmacies items made from copper are sold, perhaps the best known is the bracelet. Some pharmaceutical professionals refer to the Vade Mecum, which mentions objects made from copper. However, the properties attributed to coppert are not scientifically proven.

 

Brooch with colors of copper

Conclusions

 

As demonstrated, the recycling process that began with the hope of bringing a new dimension, and an extended life span to discarded copper, has proven highly satisfactory. Thanks to easy melting, varied compounds and the submissive nature of copper, our research has allowed us unlimited creative possibility.

We do not intend to prove scientifically that copper is effective in combating rheumatic pain, or that it facilitates mental clarity, nor that is favorable to the influence of Venus ... however we can conclude that copper is highly conductive to heat, and we can all appreciate its ability to host energy for long periods of time.

The jewelry made with copper compounds acquire a thermal quality, producing a very agreeable contact with the skin, and maintaining an even temperature. In the collection, we further appreciate other aesthetic and flexible qualities, and a wide variety of color.

The human eye perceives the beauty of a jewelry piece and the tactile aspect makes it attractive physically.  Sensations are closely linked with human emotion.

 

 
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