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How to clean C Jere & C. Curtis metal sculptures

Q. Hello, I saved this metal and brass sculpture from being trashed. It's attributed to C. Curtis. It's really in bad shape.



Should I get a metal conservator to restore it or should I take a stab at it? The thin legs are brittle because of the rust. The legs are metal but the body of the birds are brass. Some of the feet have fallen off. I'm thinking a welder can put it back together. Take a look, Any tips will appreciate rated. Thanks!

MCM = mid century modern
Canon Cordero
Lover of MCM artifacts - Long Island, New York
September 7, 2022

Closely related historical posts, oldest first ...

Q. I have a metal sculpture that is 4-1/2 feet wide and 22" high. It is signed by "c fere 1976." It was my mother's. She hung it on the wall in her living room. I have been trying to clean off what appears to be layers of nicotine (my father smoked) and dust, along with some "pitting". I hope to attach a picture of the object so that you may see how time consuming and difficult this project is. I thought it was "brass" but a magnet will not stick to it, so I don't know what the metal is. It weighs about 20 lbs.


Susan McCully
- Linwood, New Jersey
June 28, 2008

A. Hi, Susan. Magnets don't stick to brass. It probably is brass or copper. There are dozens of brass polishes, and they work at all different speeds (usually the warmth of the color they leave is inversely proportional to the speed). If it's as hard as you fear, something slow like Brasso will take forever, but something more powerful like Revere copper cleaner may work fast enough, especially is you can put it on a soft buffing wheel on an electric drill. Good luck, it's a beautiful work of art.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. My apologies; a magnet DOES stick to the birds, so it is not brass. Any other suggestions for cleaning it?

Further research on the piece reveals the artist(s) as "C. Jere" and it is called "Birds in Flight."

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Susan McCully [returning]
- Linwood, New Jersey
July 2, 2008

A. Hi, Susan. According to www.truefresco.com/dcforum/DCForumID2/10.html it is possible but unlikely that the artist is actually C. Jere. Per that forum, although Curtis Jere was a real person, it's the name of a studio where works are done by apprentices and that trade name is affixed.

If a magnet sticks, the sculpture is steel. If it looks convincingly like copper or brass it is probably electroplated with that material. The same copper polish should work, but wax it when you are finished, and regularly, because it will rust as moistures penetrates the plating.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Ted's right, it very nice. The more elbow grease you invest, the better it will look when finished. I can see 8+ hours to make it look really good. I like Brasso [affil link], but there are many good products.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

Q. I am looking at a C. Jere on Etsy. It is hanging strips of metal on a metal "branch". It's really beautiful, but how do I ensure that it is an original? Thanks.

Kathy Stricklin
- Sacramento, California
October 28, 2016

A. Hi Kathy. Not to be facetious, but you either invest years in becoming an expert on the subject, or you retain an expert who has already done so ... or you ask for a certificate of authenticity that maybe you can trust but maybe you can't ... or you take a chance. There is simply no way for an amateur to tell from examination whether artwork is original -- a forger would always put more knowledge, skill, and effort into determining those clues than amateurs would and would always be a step ahead of you anyway. Sorry :-(

But it may not be that important, since it seems that some C. Jere stuff is beautiful, and some not so much. So if it's beautiful, that's probably what matters.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Hi, I have a black Birds in Flight wall sculpture that has been in storage for many years. The signature on it is C Jere '71. I would like to know a safe way to clean it. There are a couple of small spots that look like rust. Thank you.

Karen Holm
- Bayfield, Colorado US
August 22, 2018

A. Hi Karen. Depending on how large this is, it might be quite valuable. If you consider it such, you can retain a metals conservator from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works website (thanks to our reader Goran Budija for educating me on this) to examine and restore it.

Internet advice from people who haven't seen it is never "safe", but please tell readers exactly what you've got so misunderstandings are reduced. It was black, rather than brass colored steel like Susan's? Is it steel (magnetic) or is is not-magnetic? If it is steel, does it looks like it might be painted black, or does it looks more like the "blued steel" on a gun barrel? The rust can probably be removed with very fine ("0000") steel wool, but even this can scratch off the blackening. Is it also dirty, or was it carefully wrapped and the little rust spots are the only issue? If it's dirty, water and dish detergent is usually safe as long as you are sure you can quickly get it dry. Preventing it from rusting again will probably require the application of oil; very light rubbing with WD-40 will probably help deter corrosion, but keep it under climate control, not in an entry foyer or porch. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I just acquired a beautiful C. Jere pompom piece. I am not sure if it is rusted chrome or actually plated brass. I cleaned a small area with some lemon juice and baking soda and it was silver. Magnets stick to it as well. The back also looks silver colored. I was considering dropping it in Evap-o-Rust [affil link] because it is completely rusted but I don't want to ruin the piece. Any advice or knowledge would be much appreciated.

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Joey angelson
- Marlboro New Jersey
September 26, 2018

How functional is copper plated steel as artwork?

Q. I'm designing a geocache involving a compass print. I have a 10" diameter 1/4" round cutout of high carbon steel that I plan to cover in adhesive laminate and cutout my design upon. I wanted to etch the steel to create some depth in the cutout parts, and then plate copper onto it for some character. I have read here that copper plating steel is nonfunctional for anything further than a science experiment, but how about for art? I plan to seal it in lacquer afterward, so I'm thinking that there would be no way for it to rub off afterward at least.

Vince Botai
Hobbyist and geocacher! - Cotati, California, United States
July 19, 2019

A. Hi Vince. Copper plating, done properly, is a fine finish for artwork. What you are probably referring to was our instructions for grade school children on how to do copper plating with kitchen ingredients for "Plating Demonstrations for Science Class". True that this is non-functional plating just to show the kids the color change as a thin and probably non-adherent layer of copper is electroplated onto their coins or keys.

Lacquer may help prevent the copper from wearing off, but it is not shrink wrap, so it will not keep non-adherent plating in place. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify, when I am done etching, and I neutralize the work, do I need to buff out the steel? I have not seen anyone plate etched steel yet. It seems everyone is doing it on very smooth pieces of work.

Also, could you link me to an article of your preferred method for the amateur to follow? Or at least learn more from. I have read about a few different methods, but am not experienced enough to differentiate what is the most effective.

Thanks again.

Vince Botai [returning]
- Cotati California United States
July 19, 2019

A. Hi again, Vince. It's not your fault, but nonetheless we're going in circles a bit :-)

You said you read that copper plating is non-functional, and I said that it's the simple, student/amateur level copper plating that isn't robust enough to be functional, but copper plating is fine if done right. And now as an amateur you seem to be asking how to do that functional copper plating. Okay, that's not a problem, but I've got to sort of start over :-)

Electroplating is a well developed industrial process done by professional shops and one easy option is to send your device to one of them for high quality plating. If you want to do the plating yourself, it is certainly not impossible to do rather good electroplating, it's just quite a bit harder than most novices who saw it done in science class might think -- because, again, the copper plating you see in science class is to demonstrate a principle, not to do adherent & functional copper plating.

First off, you cannot do acid copper plating (copper sulphate, vinegar, battery acid or anything like that) on steel, zinc, aluminum, stainless steel, or some other substrates, it won't adhere -- you can only use it on copper, brass, nickel, or silver. To deposit copper plating directly on steel with adhesion, you would need to use a cyanide copper plating solution which is totally out of the question for an amateur, or a tricky copper pyrophosphate or a proprietary complex.

But, as noted, you can deposit an acid copper solution onto a nickel surface ... and you can directly electroplate nickel onto steel. So the path forward is to nickel strike first, and then immediately copper plate, and then apply a benzotriazole-based tarnish deterrent, and then lacquer it (or you can use a brass lacquer that contains the benzotriazole like Incralac). You absolutely can copper plate it yourself, but you have to really want to in order to have enough patience to learn enough :-)

Good luck. You could probably start by searching the site for 'nickel strike copper plate' since this process of nickel striking followed by acid copper plating is often done.

As for the need for buffing, that's a question of how bright you want it to be. After the nickel strike and before the copper plating you can do bright nickel plating as an alternative to buffing.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Hi my name is Steve Melville and I have a Curtis Jere Adobe House Wall Hanging and the signature has been painted over. I would like to know if there is a safe way to remove the paint and salvage the signature. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your time.

Steve Melville
- Palm Bay,Florida U.S.A.
July 7, 2020

A. Hi Steve. If the signature is engraved in metal it is certainly possible to remove the paint without affecting the metal. Turpentine or mineral spirits, will not to my knowledge hurt metal. And the super-stripper, highly toxic methylene chloride (aircraft stripper), will all remove paint without affecting metal (it's even used on airliners).

But if you're talking about paint of a different color applied over the same type of paint, chemistry unfortunately abides by its own chemical laws, not to our desires ... so it's probably impossible to find a solvent that will follow our wishes of removing the paint we wish to be removed without removing paint that we want to remain :-(

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Hi! I bought what was described to be a C Jere sunburst birds in flight sculpture that looks in parts to be badly tarnished and in parts to be painted over with a gold paint or lacquer. I am not sure if it is genuine. A magnet does stick to it (albeit weakly), so I suspect it may be plated steel rather than brass.

birds in flight c jere 49168-3

What would be the best way to Clean/restore it to a metallic shine? I was advised to use rustoleum metallic oil-based paint, but this seems like it might not be ideal.

Michael Wolf
- Nashville Tennessee
January 11, 2021

Q. Hello, I purchased a Jere Metal sculpture, "Owl on Branch", and noticed one of the eyes has probably fallen off then incorrectly glued back on.

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What would be the best way to repair this?

EM Cobb
Hobbyist - Suwanee, Georgia
January 4, 2022

Q. I found what I believe is an original c. Jere 1969 'Bird in Flight'. I've seen they are made with brass usually but this seems to be steel (magnet attaches) with some sort of painted on bronze/gold looking finish. Want to clean it up and verify it's original. Any help would be appreciated! Love this piece!

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S may
- Ontario Orangeville
March 21, 2022

A. Hi S. Virtually the same question is asked & answered earlier in this thread ... please review it! If you believe something is truly valuable or classic, it should be handled by a professional metal conservator though.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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