The value of jewelry is forever tied to the materials it’s made from, so it’s crucial that new jewelry designers understand how using different types of metals can enhance their work. I’ve compiled this jewelry metals list as a handy guide to help you understand more about the various metals available to you for your pieces.
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Customers are more conscientious about authenticity and quality than ever before, so as a jewelry maker, you’ll need to be well-versed in the various metal types and treatments that affect the look and the durability of your pieces. Read on for our highlights on the best jewelry metals to use in your fashion and fine jewelry designs.
The term sterling silver is used to refer to an alloy of metals, which in order to receive the designation “sterling” must be comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals; typically, this 7.5% is copper. Silver on its own is on the soft side in terms of strength and durability, so copper helps fortify the silver and make the metal tougher. It is generally resistant to corrosion and tarnishing, making it a wonderful choice for jewelry designers looking to provide high-quality pieces.
Sterling silver is a classic jewelry metal choice, offering timeless appeal to a variety of jewelry shapes and styles. With its unparalleled gleam and the clean, crisp look it brings to every piece, it’s hard to go wrong with silver. Sterling silver’s strength means that it can be used for many types of jewelry, in both more “casual” pieces with simple, crisp lines, or more elegant, formal, and highly detailed fine jewelry. Sterling silver is also the perfect metal to use as a setting for nearly every color and style of a gemstone, from semi-precious gems like turquoise to timeless precious gems like sapphire.
For fashion jewelry, brass is at the top of our jewelry metals list. Its strength, malleability, and versatility make it wonderful to work with. Due to its malleability, it is easy to create many different finishes that give brass an interesting texture, which is a fun way to explore the full design potential of this jewelry metal.
Like sterling silver, brass is also a metal alloy, composed of zinc and copper. With its yellow gleam, brass also mimics the look and feel of gold for jewelry that looks more expensive than it is. Brass is frequently used as a base metal for 14k gold and rhodium-finishing options, thanks to its toughness creating the perfect palette for high-shine finishes that have the luxurious appearance and feel of precious metals without the same investment—perfect for designers who are looking out for their bottom line.
14k White Gold
For jewelry that conveys subtle luxury, white gold is a lovely and elegant option on the jewelry metals list. White gold is made up of 58.5% pure gold, with other metals—typically palladium, manganese, or nickel—that improve its strength. Different types of white gold alloys are good for different jewelry types: for example, because nickel is strong, 14k white gold made with nickel is often used for pieces that are exposed to more wear and tear, like rings. Softer alloys are often used for setting gemstones, including both semi-precious and precious stones.
14k Yellow Gold
14k yellow gold is another alloy, which uses 58.5% pure gold and includes 41.5% other metals—often a mixture of copper and silver. Yellow gold is the “classic” color for gold, as it is the natural hue of pure gold, which gives it a timeless look. Yellow gold is a lovely setting for precious stones, in particular, providing an appropriate luxe backdrop for high-shine diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. Gold conveys a sense of warmth and creates a glamorous sheen for both modern and classic jewelry styles, making it one of the best jewelry metals for a wide swath of designers.
14k Rose Gold
Rose gold has been trending recently, but it has been one of our favorite jewelry metals on this list for a long time. Like 14k white and yellow gold, 14k rose gold is created using 58.5% pure gold and a mixture of other metals; generally, it’s copper that gives this gold its rosy hue. Rose gold is a great metal for engravings and for simpler pieces that will show off its color and shine. Some stones will clash with the warmer, pinker hue—while others, like opal, diamonds, and even some aquamarines, will show beautifully in rose gold settings.