Copper in the Arts

November 2014

Sergio Lub, Inc: Pure Copper Bracelets Designed from Life Experiences

By Nancy Ballou

Sergio LubSergio Lub, artist.

Sergio Lub started his career making kinetic pendants out of brass tubes. He began by studying ancient metal techniques, traveling extensively and perfecting his trade. In 1999, he even spent a week working with the Dalai Lama at his residence in India. He went on to found Sergio Lub, Inc. which has grown to include 20 people working together as a co-op, sharing the profits of their collective efforts. The group was featured in James Liebig's 1994 book Merchants of Vision

"In good years, everyone does well, but we also share the downturns,” he says. “We hire for personality more than experience, so often we have to train newcomers from scratch. Wholesale buyers visit us throughout the year."

Copper is Lub’s metal of choice.

"Our red metal is Pure Copper, free of contaminants,” he reveals. “It is a friendly element since it can combine easily with others. Yellow metal is Jeweler's Brass, an alloy of 85% pure copper and pure zinc. White metal is German Silver, an alloy of 65% copper plus zinc, nickel and silver. Harder than sterling silver, the name is derived from first being used in the Kaiser's silverware.”

All of their handmade designs begin with solid metal wires. A craftsperson works the copper to desired shapes and anneals the metal repeatedly to relax the crystal structure and maintain malleability. Wires harden when braided or shaped. Soldering several metals into one piece requires vast skill because all need to be receptive to the silver solder at the same time. Complex patterns may be annealed several times to create an easily adjustable, comfortable bracelet. "The final results of handmade versus machine-made bracelets may look alike without a microscope, but feel much different,” he says.

braceletSergio Lub bracelets.

Lub had an opportunity to visit their supplier's Morenci Mine in Eastern Arizona, the largest producer of copper in North America. He watched the crushers and electrolysis plant perform their lengthy processes. "When I saw the copper plates being extracted from their electrolytic bath, it was the purest possible copper before being oxidized by air. The sight was so beautiful that it caught me by surprise. Even after 44 years of working with the unique red metal, I found myself enchanted by its beauty."

Bracelets are finished with organic lacquer that wears off unnoticeably with use. All metals are solid so a blemish/scratch can be removed with polishing cloth, brass polish or rubbing with lemon rind and ashes. Showering keeps them clean.

Ideas abound at the Lub studio. A sea inspired fluid design may comfortably embrace the wrist bone. The Harvest Dance resulted when watching couples dance around a pole with colorful ribbons. Viewing an ancient statue of the first goddess known to wear bracelets led to The Sumerian Queen. A cross section of double helix represents the ancient Chinese Yin Yang symbol.

One of Lub's favorites is Copper Sage #768, woven the way Native Americans weave sage to produce a smudge stick that is burned like incense before sacred ceremonies. "We burn sage to purify an area," Black Elk told him, "so the spirits will come to share with us their wisdom."

Brass and copper have been worn by many cultures since early times. "I've been entrusted with numerous beliefs as I learned to make bracelets. When creating a new design, I hold those beliefs as important as the technical situations," Lub says.

Lub will have many of their new and signature designs on view at several trade shows this winter including American Made (Washington DC, Seattle, WA and Minneapolis, MN) and ACRE (Philadelphia, PA and San Francisco, CA).

Resources:

Sergio Lub, Inc., 3800 Vista Oaks Drive, Martinez, CA, (925) 229-3600

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