Copper in the Arts

April 2011

Copper Sonja: Beautiful and Unusual Mixed Metal Jewelry

By Nancy Ballou

Copper-Silver Fern Necklace Copper-Silver Fern Necklace

Photograph Courtesy of Sonja Voss

Sonja Voss taught herself about jewelry, metals and hot glass in Munich, Germany. After she came to the United States, she started experimenting with multiple metals and quickly fell in love with the versatility of copper.

"There are way more possibilities with copper," Voss says. "You can add to it, solder on other metals or objects and it never looks overloaded. I like the warmth and health benefits of copper."

A few years ago, Voss was in an accident that resulted in broken bones and severely injured her hands, she crafted copper rings that she credits with helping her heal faster.

Voss describes her design ideas as "coming on the go." Her table is always piled high with hundreds of objects. Her eyes will fix on something like a hammered circle as she passes by and she starts working with it. She never uses sketches to create her jewelry and nothing is ever exactly like another. Items such as her hammered copper pretzel earrings evoke memories of her German heritage.

Sometimes Voss uses sheets of copper, sometimes wire or tubes. All her copper is recycled, coming from salvage yards. Friends who are roofers provide some materials. She hand-hammers, assembles and solders all her jewelry, makes all her own rivets and has easily adapted her goldsmith work to copper creations.

Mixed Metal Copper Wedding Band Mixed Metal Copper Wedding Band

Photograph Courtesy of Sonja Voss

"I particularly like making wedding bands that are copper based and often add silver and gold to increase the value of the copper rings," she says. "I use combinations of cold connections, soldering and hammer texture into my pieces." She also makes her own etching solution and utilizes some heat patinas.

Her ring designs employ unusual copper wrapping techniques and may contain adornments like sterling silver hearts on heavily textured copper. These are treated with a microcrystalline museum wax so they won't tarnish the fingers and can include circles, dots or flower patterns. PlayToy is a solid copper ring with sterling silver in a "movable granulation" technique. Hammered, textured earrings with hanging garnets or pearls might dangle back and forth to show off shiny or black oxidized copper.

Voss also created a line of ID tags available in copper and bronze with heart shapes, love birds and other etched designs as well as words/names.

"I recently started playing around with a pre-Valentine's Day heart," she says. 'I wanted to do something different. So I cut out a copper heart, soldered on a bronze frame and added special chalkboard paint to create a necklace.

She enjoys teaching jewelry craft classes at her CopperSonja studio in Philadelphia, PA and believes that anything is easy to do when you really want to.

"But learning does take time and many people just don't want to make that commitment," she says. "My advice to new copper artists is to just stick with it."


Copper Sonja, Philadelphia, PA, (828) 527-7174

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