Jewelry Making Metals – Information and Techniques
Jewelry making metals are an important part of the jewelry artist studio. The most commonly used metals are probably silver and gold, however there is a variety of jewelry making metals that give the jewelry artist flexibility when they are designing and creating their pieces.
With today’s scientific and technological advances you can integrate many other alloys into your work.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Metals You Want to Work With
- Cost is probably the number one factor.
- What style of jewelry you design. If you are mostly attracted to silver, you will gravitate towards incorporating silver in your work. There is also the possibility of mixing metals to give definition and texture to a piece of jewelry. Using bi-metals were a layer of gold is fused into sterling silver, can also save money and accomplish the quality you are looking for.
- Different metals required the use of alternative equipment. You will need to factor in the amount of money you have to invest in tools and equipments to accomplish the type of jewelry designs you want to create
Metals have a variety of alloys that when added together provide the unique properties of each one.
Silver Alloys: Silver, has the highest thermal conductivity.
• Fine-Silver is about 99.9% pure. In this form it is a lustrous and soft.
• Sterling-Silver is an alloy containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other components, usually copper.
• Argentium Silver is a tarnish resistant silver and firescale free. It is perfectly malleable once annealed, and is almost twice as hard as traditional sterling silver.
Most high quality silver items are stamped with a “fineness” or “quality” mark. This mark designates the content of the jewelry, and under federal law, must be accompanied by a maker’s mark or registered trademark. The most important thing is that silver is more affordable than gold and makes wonderful jewelry!
Pure Gold: is 24 Karats, which is the reason for the high price on jewelry made with 24K.
The solution to making gold consumer-friendly is to mix it with another material, creating an alloy that results in a stronger and frequently less-expensive piece.
Carats (also written as karats and abbreviated as kt) are the measure of the ratio of gold to other metals contained within the alloy. The more gold an alloy contains, the higher the caratage is.
Gold alloys typically span a range from 8 to 18 carats. An 8 carat alloy means that the gold content is 1/3 and an 18 carat piece is 75% gold. Other common caratages of gold jewelry alloys are 10 kt and 14 kt.
• Gold Overlay or Bi-Metal: Gold overlay is an application of gold on a base metal piece. This technique gives an item the expensive look of gold for a fraction of the price. A piece of gold overlay jewelry is always stamped indicating the process and the gold’s karat quality.
• Gold Plate: This technique chemically bonds a layer of gold to a base metal using electrolysis. It is created when the base metal is coated with layer of gold with at least 10 karats.
• Gold Filled: This is the process in which a metal is layered with at least 10-karat gold by using heat and pressure. In order for jewelry to be “gold filled,” the gold content must compose at least 1/20th of the item’s total weight.
• Gold over Silver: This is a gold overlay using a silver base metal. Jewelry made with Silver covered with a layer of yellow gold is considered to be the most luxurious of the bi-metals. You can use this metal with confidence because it is durable and to gives jewelry a more expensive rich look.
Copper: is a great alternative to the skyrocketing prices in the precious metal market. Many jewelry artists and designers have discovered Copper as exciting alternative. Copper jewelry making can be very versatile, not only because of the cost, but also because Copper is one of the easiest metal to work with. Copper is also very pliable and thus easy to cut, form and fold. Copper jewelry making is easier than ever because of the accessibility of the metal. Copper can be found at jewelry supply and metal supply stores. Like many of the other metals, Copper can be purchased in many forms: Wire, sheet, tube, chain, beads and jewelry components.
Platifina: Introduced in 2005, platifina is a new sterling silver alloy comprised of 92.5 percent silver, 1 percent platinum and 6.5 percent other metals (that’s a trade secret). This new alloy creates a metal that is brighter in color than either silver or pure platinum and is guaranteed tarnish-resistant, yet platifina jewelry is much more affordable than platinum jewelry.
Karatium: Alloys are a new family of alloys containing a percentage of gold and have been formulated in response to industry demand for less expensive metals. They are available in Yellow which contains 20% gold, Pink and White options which contain 10% gold as well as a sterling silver alloy which contains 2.5% gold. Although Karatium alloys polish to a high luster much like traditional karat gold alloys, they can be priced considerably less than 10kt gold and are an attractive alternative to gold filled products since they are a true “Alloy” and not a clad product with a base metal layer making up the majority of your jewelry. Karatium alloys also have the advantage over gold filled that the gold layer will never wear off. Karatium alloys are formulated to work well for all jewelry applications and can be cast, formed and fabricated just like karat gold alloys. All Karatium metal jewelry supplies have been formulated for optimum tarnish resistance. These qualities make Karatium a jewelry making material to investigate and experiment with.
Stainless Steel: Has recently gained in popularity as a jewelry making material, Stainless steel was developed in the 19th Century and is a combination of iron-carbon alloy. It has been used in tools, structures and manufacturing. Jewelry artists have recently started using it because its resistance to Its attractive grey color, strength and low cost, has made stainless steel a good alternative metal for making jewelry.
Titanium: Titanium is probably the strongest available. It is an industrial metal that has been recently introduce into the jewelry industry. Titanium has an attractive gray tone and gives jewelry a modern look. It is corrosion, tarnish and discoloration resistant. Titanium can be fabricated into different designs and has become a great alternative for wedding and engagement rings.
Tungsten: Also called wolfram, is formed from super dense alloys and is used in products ranging from golf club heads to weapons. This metal is as strong as steel and about twice the weight, making this metal almost wear proof and a perfect alternative for jewelry making.
Palladium: Is a lustrous silvery white jewelry making material used in electronics, jewelry, and certain other industries. Palladium is considered to be a precious metal. With its bright color and durable nature is the perfect metal to use for wedding jewelry which is expected to keep its appearance for decades.
Bronze: An early copper alloy; so early, in fact, that an entire era – the Bronze Age – was named for it. Bronze was used for making bracelets, ankles, and earrings, and beaded necklaces. Bronze is gaining in popularity because of its color and the easiness to create interesting textures.
Brass: Combine copper with zinc and you see the golden luster of brass. Brass is a malleable, and has a high-luster, that gives it the appearance of gold. Bronze was used primarily to create functional items such as door knobs and picture frames. Brass has now gained in popularity as a metal amongst jewelry designers
Some of the metals, such as, bronze, copper and silver can be etched by using a prepared solution of ferric chloride which also contains hydrochloric acid. This process allows you to create unique textures and designs. Make sure you follow instructions when etching any of these three metals and that you dispose of the solution properly.
Alpaca (Alpacca): Not to be confused with the animal, alpaca is a relatively new metal jewelry making supply, predominantly made of copper alloyed with nickel, zinc, and tin. The reduced expense of alpaca makes it a natural jewelry making material substitute for silver in fashion jewelry.
Pewter: As copper alloyed with tin became bronze, tin alloyed with copper and lead resulted in pewter. Pewter was mostly used in the manufacturing of tableware as well as being a base metal often used for rings and pendants. When polished to a high luster, pewter approaches the elegant sheen of fine silver.
Now that you are familiar with the different types of jewelry making metals, you can begin to enhance you designs.