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How do I restore a copper finish on a 120 year old steel fireplace mantle?

December 5, 2008

I have a house that is 120 years old with a 120 year old fireplace. It is solid steel with copper finish and it is badly tarnished. So bad that texture is totally buried in it. I decided to buy a Tarnish remover but as I started to see detail emerge, I ended up removing some of the original copper coating. (but not all)

This mortified me, not just because of how beautiful it is, but the history of it. The fireplace was the best preserved part of the whole house and it pains me to think I destroyed a piece of history.

I have been looking all over the internet and can't seem to find the best way to fix this.

The steel is NOT stainless and does get exposed to quite a bit of heat. I need to know of any products and/or methods that I can use to apply a new layer of copper plating onto the steel so that I can restore the fireplace to it's original beauty. It has to be real copper, not just something that looks like it (I came across many plastics).

It's all a bit too big to dip into something, so I'd have to find something I can coat on. But I want to restore it, not cover it up in plastics or paint.

Or if anyone knows of any company in my area that can do it for me that can also work.

If anyone can help, I would greatly appreciate it. I just want to make it all look like it did 120 years ago.

I can provide photos if it would help. I have photos taken before I started to clean it, and I can take photos of how it looks right now.

Richard Eldridge
home owner - Alton, IL, USA

First of two simultaneous responses -- December 5, 2008

Most likely the copper is worn off. The piece will have to be cleaned all the way down to the base metal and copper plated. Most of the fireplace surrounds I have done come in several pieces that are bolted together from behind. I think you should be able to take it apart and have it restored by a plating shop that does copper plating. The size and condition will determine the price.

Frank DeGuire
- St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Second of two simultaneous responses -- December 8, 2008

That is job for professional metal conservator,try AIC website(members list),there must be some metalwork conservators in your area.Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia

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