Just What ARE All Those Metals?

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Even jewelry and bead artists with some experience behind their belts can have a hard time figuring out just what kind of metal it is they're dealing with. Jewelry buyers generally don't know either, and this can lead to a lot of confusion. 

What's The Plan, Stan?

  • I'm going to break down the basic details of the various metals you may come across in your jewelry travels.

Beading Metals:

  • Stirling Silver is softer and more malleable than most metals. It is prone to oxidization, when the metal begins to turn somewhat black.
  • Gold
    • When you work with gold, you will work with different gold carats. The carat measures the proportion of gold to other metal alloys, which make up the actual metal. The higher the carat, the higher the gold content, the higher the cost.
    • There are a few different colors of gold:
      • Yellow: pure gold with copper and zinc
      • Rose: pure gold with copper
      • White: pure gold with white metals such as silver and palladium
  • Rhodium 
    • A white metal, very similar to Platinum and is often used to enhance the color of white gold
  • Platinum
    • A very pure white metal when used in jewelry. It is dense and heavy and wicked expensive.
  • Titanium
    • A silver-grey-white-ish metal and has a wide array of colors. It is very strong, and very lightweight, however, it cannot be soldered.
  • Surgical Steel
    • Refers to a stainless steel, of the same grade that is used for surgical implanted or tools. It's an alloy of iron and carbon with chromium, molybdenum and a wee bit of nickel. It's actually pretty similar to Titanium, but not nearly as expensive.
  • Copper
    • A reddish-goldish metal, very maleable and inexpensive. It's recently very popular in jewelry, but you have to worry about oxidization.
  • Brass
    • An allow of copper and zinc, so it's generally darker and not as brilliant as copper. The more zinc, the darker the brass. The more copper, the redder the brass. It tends to be pretty hypoallergenic.
  • Base Metal
    • May be gold or silver colored, and thus all the more confusing
  • Plated Metals
    • Plated metals has a base of a non-precious metal, such as pewter or brass, which is covered in a thin layer of a precious metal, such as silver or gold. 
    • The good thing is, plated metals are cheaper. However, you risk wearing through the layer of plated metal. 
  • Vermeil
    • This is a type of plating process, however, rather than using a non-precious base, it uses a sterling silver base
  • Gold Filled
    • AKA : Gold Overlay or Rolled Gold Plated
    • Has several mechanically bonded layers, in which a non-precious base is covered with the outside layer of at least 10 Karat gold.