Sunday, April 28, 2013

Metal 101

Metals are one of the main components in my work.  A brief overview of metals and their uses will help you to understand why I use sterling silver wire in so many of my designs. 

Type of metals used in jewelry:  aluminum, copper, gold, platinum, silver, & stainless steel. I have not listed all metals because the list is long.  This is such a broad topic, I could easily spend days writing many pages about this.  I will keep this brief and focused.  I believe definitions are necessary and here are a few links for metals :

Silver                   Silver defined
Copper                 Copper defined
Nickel                 Nickel defined
Gold                    Gold defined

Metal sheet and metal wire are two shapes of metal use to create jewelry.   Metal sheet is in most kitchens, as aluminum foil.  It is quite thin and this gauge (size) is not commonly used in jewelry designs.  Metal sheet is commonly seen in boxes and textured items like earring components.
these are for sale: Copper Cascade Earrings

Temper and wire shape are two very important considerations when working with metal.  Temper is how hard or stiff the sheet or wire is.  Dead soft and half had or #2 hard are the two types I use most.  The dead soft wire is easy to manipulate and create curves and twists as shown below in this piece with square wire. 

this is for sale:  Seeds of Kambama Pendant

The half hard round wire is shown in this piece made with round wire, paper beads, & sterling silver beads.
 this is for sale:  Sterling Silver Teapot Bracelet

As I believe my customers want value for their money, I design my pieces  in sterling silver.  The cost of the wire has increase over 500% since I began using wire.  The 14 karat gold filled has increase as much as the silver.  The main difference is the gold is a high cost material.  An example of the increase - paying $15 for a piece of Silver wire, now is is $75 for the same wire.  Per customer feedback, I have begun using copper in my designs.

Wire shapes are endless. The common ones are:  round, square, half round, and triangle.   Wire comes in gauge(size) which are based on how many pieces laid next to each other fit in one inch.  The larger the diameter of the wire, the smaller the number. 12 gauge is thicker  than 21 gauge. I will cover this subject in depth in a future blog post.  It is a complex subject to those who do not work with metal materials.

Metal reactions are a concern of many people.  I use as many non reactive findings as possible.  My earrings are all available on surgical stainless steel which is 99.9% nickel free and it is lead free. I had a recent reorder from a lady who has had trouble with earrings and after wearing a pair she bought in December 2012, she came back and had me replace the ear wires on several other pair she owned but could not were with my surgical steel ear wires. 

Next week, I will write about my favorite charity commissions for Habitat for Humanity Women Build.  

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