There are many different sorts of metals for jewelry. Today’s expert guide concentrates on the common metals for jewelry used in the US and internationally. In addition, this guide concentrates on the metals that are most commonly used in the jewelry business and by artisans and metals used in costume jewelry.
Classifications of Metals for Jewelry
Ferrous metals, which include iron, and nonferrous metals, which do not, are the two basic categories of metals for jewelry.
Noble metals are a subcategory of nonferrous metals for jewelry. Noble metals for jewelry are unaffected by air elements in their natural state. Silver, gold, and platinum are noble metals considered precious metals in modern civilization. Nonferrous metals are divided into two categories: base metals and nonferrous metals.
Base metals, like precious metals, are almost exclusively employed in jewelry. Copper, brass, bronze, aluminum, and other base metals are examples of base metals. Both ferrous and nonferrous metals can be used to make the best jewelry metal.
Noble metals are found in nature and extracted in their natural state. Noble metals are unaffected by air elements in this pure state. The easiest way to unite these metals in jewelry is to fuse them, but they can also be soldered. Most jewelers prefer to employ noble metals in alloy form rather than pure form.
Gold is the most pliable of all metals, meaning it can be treated to the maximum extent possible without shattering. It is known for its enticing color and sheen. Gold, for example, can be flattened to 0.000005 of an inch (0.00013 mm), resulting in a thin, nearly translucent sheet. One ounce of pure gold may be pulled into a several miles long wire, making it the most malleable of metals. Gold is also corrosion-resistant. Gold-filled beads, by virtue of having gold mechanically bonded to the surface of the base metal, is also resistant to corrosion.
Platinum is a malleable, ductile, and corrosion-resistant metal. In addition, platinum’s dark gray tone is appealing, and many jewelry wearers appreciate its high specific gravity. As a result, platinum is a popular metal in the jewelry business, particularly for setting expensive stones like diamonds, not only because of its color but also because it gives the best protection for diamond settings.
Byproducts of platinum ore include palladium (right), ruthenium, rhodium, osmium, and iridium. Platinum alloys frequently contain palladium and ruthenium. These metals can reduce the weight of more significant platinum jewelry pieces while also increasing the metal’s hardness and strength. Palladium is becoming more popular because of its beautiful silver-gray tone and lower price than platinum and white gold.
Silver is a cold, brilliant metal with the malleability and flexibility of gold. In addition, silver is corrosion resistant and can be highly polished and reflective. Together with silver’s intrinsic beauty, these facts explain why hollowware is so popular.
Silver is the best conductor. However, it is rarely employed for this purpose. Copper is most commonly employed in industrial applications due to its lower cost. The jewelry industry uses sterling silver (an alloy of pure silver) extensively for silver charms, silver beads, and silver findings, making it an awesome one among metals for jewelry.
Base metals are prevalent in the jewelry industry.
Base metals are affordable and straightforward to work with for a beginner learning new abilities.
Base metals are available in various colors, which can provide intriguing results when combined with various techniques.
These metals are soldered in the same way that precious metals are soldered. Therefore, even though different metals have different melting points, they can easily be combined during the alloying process.
Aluminum is a thin, white metal that is malleable, ductile, and corrosion-resistant. Cold connections are the most acceptable way to link aluminum. However, aluminum is rugged to solder and weld, even technically possible. Anodizing is a process that coats aluminum with a protective layer. Anodizing is an electrical process that coats the surface of aluminum with an oxide-resistant layer and other metals for jewelry. This oxide coating can be colored in various colors, resulting in brilliantly bright metal jewelry.
Brass is a copper-zinc alloy that is both malleable and corrosion-resistant. However, some brass alloys contain a more significant percentage of copper, which can cause the color to vary dramatically.
NuGold is a brass-colored metal alloy. It’s 88% copper and 12% zinc and has a darker color than conventional brass.
Jeweler’s brass is common in the jewelry industry. It is used as a base metal for gold-filled beads and findings, as well as mixed-metal jewelry.
Bronze is a copper-tin alloy that is simple to melt and cast. As a result, it is less prone to corrosion than its parent metal, copper. As a result, the color of bronze is slightly more orange/red than that of brass.
Copper is malleable and can be worked hot and cold, making it the first metal is known to man. It conducts electricity well and maintains a high polish, although it is prone to oxidation in the natural environment.
Lead has long been used in jewelry manufacturing, but it’s best to keep it out of your jewelry studio because of its toxicity and the potential of contaminating other metals. The alloy niello is the only time lead should be allowed in jewelry. Sterling silver, lead, and sulfur is used to make niello. It comes in a mellow, dark gray tone and can be utilized as a surface design inlay.
Nickel silver comprises 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc. Because it is flexible and has good working qualities, this alloy is employed in jewelry production. It has a deep gray tone that looks like white gold and is quite affordable. However, nickel is not suggested for earring findings or other jewelry that will come into touch with the skin, such as rings, because many people are allergic to it. Nickel can also be challenging to solder since it oxidizes quickly and is tough to remove.
Niobium is a soft, malleable metal with excellent polishing properties. It can be anodized, much like aluminum. Cold connections can be made using niobium, but they cannot be soldered.
The pewter has a very light gray tone and is highly appealing when polished. More oversized metal items, such as boxes and vessels, can be made using it. A low-temperature solder can be used to solder pewter. (This type of solder used to contain lead, but it is now lead-free thanks to the addition of tin.) Silver soldering is not the same as pewter soldering. You can use a soldering iron or a low, warm flame torch. Due to contamination concerns, pewter should be utilized away from precious metals.
Titanium is a strong, ductile metal with a grayish-brown tint that resists corrosion. Titanium is lighter than aluminum yet denser. It can’t be soldered, but it can relate to a cold connection.
A metal alloy is made up of two or more metals. Metal alloys are made for a variety of purposes. Of course, strength and durability are at the top of the list, but alloying the capacity to change metal color is also desirable.
92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper make up sterling silver. Copper is added to silver in its purest form (99.9% silver) to give it more strength. This alloy was initially intended to provide hollowware and cutlery the strength to withstand daily use, but sterling silver is now famous for jewelry.
Argentium silver is a silver alloy that substitutes germanium for some of the copper in sterling silver. Because of the usage of germanium, Argentium silver is more tarnish-resistant, fire-resistant, and ductile than standard sterling silver.
Gold alloys come in a wide range of karats or alloy percentages.
The term “karat” is used to describe the purity of gold. For varying karats and tints, different gold suppliers have slightly different alloys. Purchase the same alloy from the same supplier to keep the color and character of the metal consistent.
High Karat Gold
Gold is 24 karats in its purest form. Because of its beautiful orange/ golden tone, pure gold has been used to make jewelry throughout history and worldwide. In addition, 24-karat gold is the softest of all the gold kinds. On the other hand, 1S-karat gold comes in various colors, is easier to work with, and is more robust and harder than 24-karat gold.
Low Karat Gold
The color of 14- and 12-karat gold is duller than that of higher karats, although it is less expensive. Because of its reduced cost, low-karat gold is often utilized in high-volume commercial jewelry in the United States. However, 14- or 12-karat gold in jewelry is prohibited in Europe.
White gold is a gold-nickel or palladium alloy. White gold is lighter in color than platinum but darker in color than sterling silver. Nickel white gold is more difficult to work with than white palladium gold since nickel is a harder metal. Also, nickel white gold will cause firescale issues, making cleanup more difficult. On the other hand, it’s a joy to work with white palladium gold. It’s simple to make and doesn’t produce any firescale.
Yellow, Green and Red Gold
Yellow gold is made up of pure gold, silver, and copper in a mixture. The metals redder grow as more copper is added to the alloy. As a result, yellow gold and red gold have different working qualities depending on the metal ratios in the alloy.
Pure gold, 30 to 40% silver, cadmium, and zinc make green gold (picture, right). This metal is malleable and straightforward to deal with.
Shakudo and shibuichi are two of the most well-known Japanese alloys. Shakudo is made up of 5% gold and 95% silver. Shibuichi is made up of 25% silver and 75% copper.
Both metals are pretty malleable and have excellent working qualities. They’re frequently utilized in mokume gane and metal alloying. They take a patina beautifully and can develop a deep, rich black. As a result, shakudo and shibuichi are common in contemporary art jewelry in Japan, and wherever else, Japanese alloys are regularly used for making jewelry.