Each month some of the members of the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic. This month the topic is our favorite metal (or bead, for non-metalworkers). I work with both metal and beads, but I’ll stick with metal this time around.
To my mind, there are two kinds of metal: precious and base. Precious metals include gold, silver, and platinum. Base metals include copper, iron and nickel. In practice, many of us call any metal that isn’t precious, base metal.
Of the precious metals, I have only used silver. I’ve worked with both fine silver (99% pure) and sterling silver (92.5% silver), and I like them both. Each has its particular useful attributes. Sterling silver has to be soldered together, whereas fine silver can be fused to itself with no solder needed. Of course, one need not apply heat at all; in wire form you can make all kinds of fanciful shapes with hand tools alone.
For years I only worked in silver, and turned my nose up at the base metals. However, when silver prices skyrocketed, I was associated with a bricks-and-mortar bead store, and our customers needed solutions that were not as expensive, and the store manager asked us to start making samples in other metals. The metals generally available at bead stores and shows are copper, gunmetal and brass. I am not an expert in these matters and I suspect some of the metals are coated something else, but don’t ask me what – I don’t know. As I started working with these base metals, they started to grow on me. Which one I work with is dictated by the colors of the beads I’m using. In looking over my work, I see that quite a bit of it is made up with gunmetal, probably because the blues I like to work with go best with it. To my surprise, though, my favorite pieces are not the gunmetal ones. Check out these pictures:
These necklaces are the same design. The top one is made up in silver, with onyx beads, and the lower one is made with brass chain and coated wire, and kyanite beads. The silver one sold for three times what the brass one did, incidentally, due to the cost of the materials.
Despite my earlier silver snobbery, I actually like the brass and kyanite one better!
See what other members of the JAC have to say here: