Jewelry Materials

Here are some of the jewelry materials that I use when creating – and jewelry terms used when describing a piece.

Antique – 100 years or older. It is not often that you will find antique beads incorporated into a fashion piece.  They are usually rare, fragile, very expensive and generally these beads stay with the collector.

Antiqued or Aged Metal – refers to new metal (any metal) being oxidized and darkened to give an antiquated or aged appearance.  There are some beautiful brass Art Deco and Art Nouveau pendants, clasps, etc. available to jewelry designers that have been made from old moulds and have been “antiqued”.  They are new pieces made to look old.

Argentium Sterling Silver – a modern sterling silver that is highly tarnish resistant and harder than standard sterling silver.  A lot of the copper that is found in standard sterling has been replaced with an element called germanium.  It is still sterling silver as it retains the same 92.5% silver content. 

Brass – brass is an alloy of copper and zinc.  It is stronger and harder than copper.  Brass can be raw or plated.   I use either raw brass stampings or brass stampings that have been finished, polished and plated in the U.S. and there is no lead or nickel used in the plating process.  I also use wire or sheet called Jeweler’s Bronze – sometimes called Merlin’s Gold, red brass or Nu Gold.  Jeweler’s Bronze is a quality material that closely resembles the color of 14K gold.  It is an alloy that is approximately 85% copper and 15% zinc – whereas brass is an alloy that is 70% copper and 30% zinc.  Regular brass is more yellow than Jeweler’s Bronze which is a richer gold color.

Cloisonne or cloisoinné is an enamel over brass, copper or bronze. It is an ancient technique that evolved in the Middle East to decorate metal objects such as jewelry or small fittings for clothing. The same enamel technique spread to China in the 14 century where they began decorating larger items such as bowls and vases.  The Chinese improved and enhanced the technique.  It is a very long process but it produces some stunning results.

Copper – Copper is used to alloy silver and gold.  It has been used for many things such as jewelry designs, ornaments, decorative inlays in buildings for thousands of years. Copper will patina over time if it is not coated.  Some people like this look – it depends of your personal preference.  Uncoated copper jewelry is often worn for medicinal purposes.   I use uncoated copper and sometimes Artistic Wire, which is a coated copper.

Crystal – The difference between glass and crystal is the lead content.  Glass is composed of sodium and potassium.  Crystal is composed of sodium, silicone and a lead content of 10-24%.  Lead makes the glass heavier and lead changes the refraction index, making the item appear brighter and cleaner.  Lead crystal is not as brittle as standard glass, making deeper more complicated cuts easier to make.

You are in no danger touching lead crystal.  However, putting lead crystals in the mouth (ingesting) or allowing children or pets to play with your lead crystal jewelry is certainly not recommended.  Small items could be a choking hazard.

Czech glass – Czech glass making goes back hundreds and hundreds of years.  Glass as a decorative art form such as engraving was well rooted in Bohemia in the 17th century and held its dominance through the early 20th century and until the Nazi invasion in 1938.  At the end of the war there was the Soviet Occupation and factories no longer produced objects of art.  But families held on to the glassmaking traditions and today there are many small cottage industries where beads are made by hand.

Decoupage – decoupage is the art of decorating an object with paper cut outs.

Fine Silver – Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver.  It is softer and will tarnish more slowly than sterling silver.

Gold Filled – gold filled, also known as “rolled gold”, “gold overlay”, “metal cladding” is a joining of a base metal with an outer layer of gold.  A gold alloy is bonded to a brass core with heat and pressure. Gold filled is legally required to contain 5% or 1/20 gold by weight.  Gold filled products can be 10K, 12K, 14K or 18 Karat gold filled (also described as 14/20 or 12/20 gold filled).

Gold plating – is just that – gold plating over a base metal (a thin layer of gold) – the coating can be worn away.  Gold filled is much, much thicker than regular gold plating or heavy gold electroplating and gold filled products can last 20 to 30 years and they are commonly used in high fashion jewelry, money clips, watch cases etc.  Gold filled products are very durable and provide the look and feel of “real” gold at a fraction of the price.

Jeweler’s Bronze – Also known as Merlin’s gold or red brass (85% copper and 15% zinc).  It is durable and a true gold colour (12K/14K) – a warmer yellow than regular brass.

Karen Hill Tribe Silver – the Karen are people of the hills and forests of northern Thailand.  All silver is 99.9 percent fine silver.  Their tools can be anything from nails, chisels to scrap metal.  All of the hill tribes work with silver, but only the Karen have made silversmithing their profession.  My supplier is a member of a Fair Trade Federation who are committed to preserving the traditions of the craftsmen, ensuring that they are paid fairly, improving their education and helping them grow their business.

Lampworking – various techniques over the centuries have been used to create beads, such as kiln forming, furnace work and lampworking.  Lampworking is glassworking using a torch to melt and shape glass.  Many types of glass are used such as Moretti, Borosilicate or Bullseye.  Early lampworking was done with a single flame from a oil lamp allowing the artisan to control the flame.

Pewter – Modern pewter is a metal alloy consisting of tin, copper, antimony and/or bismuth – to replace lead.  Most of the pewter on the market today is a lead free alloy.

Retro – meaning retrospective or something new that is made to look like something from another era.

Swarovski Crystal – Daniel Swarovski founded his company at the end of the 19th century.  Today, Swarovski produces home accessories, gift ideas, eyewear, etc. worldwide – they are also known for their optical products – binoculars and telescopes.  Swarovski crystal is considered to be the finest in the world – they are unmatched in quality and crystal brilliance.   Swarovski also produces the finest faux pearls available.

Standard Sterling Silver – 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals (usually copper).

Vintage – vintage beads/findings/metal that are no longer being manufactured.  Vintage beads are highly collectible and cherished because of rarity and/or because of the condition.  European or Japanese beads from 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s are desirable and used a lot in fashion jewelry designs.  Trade Beads are sometimes used in fashion designs.  Trade Beads are also highly collectible.  Vintage metals from the eras mentioned above are also desirable and used in fashion jewelry designs.

 

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