Collecting Mania: Caring For Copper Cookware & Country Dolls

Copper Cookware

Copper is a pure metal mined primarily in South America. It's a nonrenewable resource, which makes it an investment worth protecting. It's easy to treat your copper like gold.

There are a number of commercial copper cleaners on the market but it's easy to make your own solution that's just as effective. Saturate a sponge or clean cloth with lemon juice and then sprinkle on some salt. Rub the metal, rinse thoroughly, and dry. You can also substitute vinegar for lemon juice. In extreme cases, powder copper cleansers may work better on tough stains. Never use an abrasive cleaner or steel wool.

To remove small scratches, try rubbing the piece with jeweler's rouge, a polish compound that brings out the colors of precious metals.

Most copper cookware is lined with tin so food interaction is not a concern, but avoid putting copper utensils in direct contact with acidic foods such as fruits, certain salad dressings, or tomatoes. Keep in mind that, however unsightly, tarnish does not affect cooking efficiency so those hand-me-down pans and yard-sale finds will still work hard for you.

Decorative copper items require less maintenance. As a rule, these pieces are protected by factory-applied lacquer to retard the oxidation process caused by moist air. To keep these items looking their best, simply dust on a regular basis and wash, as needed, with lukewarm, soapy water. Never polish.

Copperware is a marriage of form and function, so keeping your collection in good shape will pay off in more ways than one.

Country Dolls

If there were a beauty pageant among dolls, country dolls would be long shots for the crown. Born of great imagination and creativity, they appeal to collectors less for their good looks than for their heritage.

These days, authentic country dolls are hard to come by. In addition to their frail constitutions, customs of the time prevented many dolls from being passed down to the next generation. When a child got sick, possessions were often burned to keep disease from spreading.

If you're lucky enough to find an antique, here's how to keep it safe. The first step in preserving country dolls is proper handling. Always make sure your hands are clean and dry when handling. Oils from skin can leave a residue, which hastens fabric deterioration. Jewelry may also be an unintentional cause of injury. A bracelet can snag clothing or inadvertently rip a seam, so play it safe by removing all chains and rings.

Leave any major clean-ups to the pros; doll doctors will tell you to proceed with caution even with routine maintenance. Despite good intentions, collectors often wind up creating problems that can lead to a reduction of the doll's value.

Light vacuuming is the ideal method to clean cloth dolls. Try a small vacuum designed for a computer keyboard or a bulb syringe, used by photographers to dust off camera lenses. A clean makeup brush will also do the trick. Vacuuming is also a safe way to clean doll clothing. The alternative - washing - could be disastrous, she says. Colors frequently run or bleed, silk sometimes shatters, and if the fabric is dry-rotted, the whole outfit could fall apart when it hits the water.

Antique dolls should always be displayed in a dry area of your home where humidity and temperature levels remain constant. Direct light will fade not only clothing but the precious faces of cloth dolls. The best protection, not only from dust but from pets and kids, is a showcase, glass dome, or cabinet.

To store an antique doll, avoid damp areas such as the attic, basement, and garage. Dampness can lead to mold. Wrap dolls, clothes and all, in acid-free paper and then in a layer of bubble wrap. Place dolls face down in a sturdy box.

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