A Brief Overview of Different Metals

You may have noticed that I work in a variety of metals.  Maybe you’ve wondered what the differences are (besides cost & color.)

Sterling Silver

Memento Aurum ©2011 sterling silver, brass, pyrite

This is the most common alloy of silver and most jewelry is made from it (unless it specifically says “fine” or .999.)  It’s a specific mix of 92.5% fine silver and 7.5% copper, though sometimes additional metals (such as germanium or nickel) are in the copper percentage.  By adding the copper the silver becomes harder and stronger than if it were unalloyed.

Copper

Copper is a pure metal that can be found on the Periodic Table.  It is extremely easy to work (malleable) which makes it perfect for fold forming.  It has a nice orangey tone that can be either heat or chemically colored to give it almost any shade – yellow, brown, orange, red, purplish, green, etc.

This bowl is being made from bronze and nickel. ©2012

Bronze

This is an alloy of copper and tin that is similar to sterling in its working properties.  It’s stronger than copper, but still has a nice warm brownish tone.

Brass

An alloy of copper and zinc, brass is both stronger and more brittle than copper or bronze (though this varies depending on the exact alloy percentages.)  Usually a yellow tone, it can also be patinated to achieve different tones.  This metal is much harder to work with.  Brass is also used in a lot of industrial applications.

Chased Brass Cuff ©2011

Nickel

The hardest of the metals that I work with.  It’s more difficult to form, solder (due to how dirty it gets), to polish, to pickle, to patina, and many people are allergic to it.  But I love the challenge of it and the warm rich greys you can get from it.

2 thoughts on “A Brief Overview of Different Metals

  1. Fascinating. Thanks, Wendy. Where does steel fall in all of this (currently working on a project about a man who started a business that involved a lot of steel, and my curiosity is up right now regarding metals).

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    1. Well, I work with what are called Non-Ferrous metals and they behave a bit differently than iron based metals such as steel. In most cases steel needs to be worked hot and the metals I use can be heated periodically, but then worked cold. There are a variety of different steel alloys, each with different working properties. Mild steel can be worked fairly easily, but can’t be used for tools, where as carbon steel is harder to work with but proves much stronger and can hold a nicer edge in knives once it’s tempered. I don’t really work in steel, so that’s about the limit of my knowledge :^)

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