I'm a metal girl. I like working with metal, playing with metal, melting metal or just making it turn colors. Silver is my favorite, as gold has been just too expensive. The price of silver has seen an increase in the last couple years, and with precious metals at an all time high, what's a girl to do?
There are several other kinds of metals that can be used instead of precious metals, even used in conjunction with them. Here's a rundown of some of the hottest ones:
- Copper: This metal is another one of my favorites to work with. Whether wire or sheet, it's very soft and malleable, and can be easily formed into other shapes. Copper wire is fairly common to come by, whether at the local hardware store or at a jewelers supply store. Copper has some interesting properties to it; it is resistant to corrosion, so it won't rust, but if the air around it is often damp, it will change from its usual reddish orange color to reddish-brown. Eventually, it's coated with a green film called a "patina" that stops all further corrosion. Whether bright and shiny or with a patina, copper is a very pretty metal. Since copper is used as an electrical conduit, it is also thought to direct energy in the body and aid in the healing process.
- Brass: This metal is a mix of copper-zinc alloys, so you could say it's copper's half-sibling. Brasses have a range of attractive colors ranging from red to yellow to gold to silver. Once you have the copper-zinc alloy, other metals can be added to it to make it look like other colors. For example: with the addition of 1% manganese, brass will weather to a chocolate brown color. Add nickel silver and brass will polish to a brilliant silver color. The range of copper-nickel-zinc alloys containing 10-20% nickel are known as nickel silvers and these are considered special brasses. This type brass has an attractive silvery appearance rather than the typical brassy color. The higher nickel versions have superior tarnish resistance and resistance to stress corrosion cracking. This is the most common kind used in jewelry. Wearing brass is thought to ward against negative energy by reflecting it back to the sender.
- Pewter: This metal is mostly made from tin. Since tin is so soft, it is alloyed with other metals, mostly antimony and copper, which help in hardening the tin. Pewter never tarnishes. All pewter made today is lead-free, since lead is hazardous to a person's health. Many fetishes and charms are made from pewter making it a fairly inexpensive and tarnish free choice for jewelry. Legend has it that pewter is thought to bring good fortune to its wearer, and if placed on the forehead, thought to reduce headaches.
Then again, if you absolutely must have a precious metal, consider gold or silver filled wire. These wires are made by bonding a layer of silver or gold to a base wire of brass or copper. Filling a wire is different than plating. Plating only puts a coat of the precious metal on the wire, kind of like putting frosting on a cake once it's cooled. Filling a wire with precious metal is more like making brownies, and when they come out of the oven hot, melting chocolate chips on top of the hot brownie. The chocolate chips are now fused into the brownie. In a similar way, the precious metal gets fused to the base metal wire. Both of these wires are less expensive than precious metal wire, but they are not always good for soldering. Keep that in mind when using these.
All of these other metals are all good to work with, and if you haven't already tried them, give it a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised!
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Charlene Gary is a mild mannered secretary by day, rogue creator of recycled goods by night. I love working with metal, and went to trade school to learn how to properly use a torch and hammer. Silver and copper are my favorite mediums. Throw in gorgeous beads and some found, repurposed items and I’m in love. I’ve become reacquainted with my sewing machine, as we’ve been apart for too long. Yoga and my dogs keep me fit, and my husband and I have taken up photography.