Many jewelry designers would want to make jewelry using different types of metals wonder on which metals would bring the best returns. Finding the perfect piece of jewelry presented with various metals can be quite tasking. Well, all jewelry designers must understand the difference between base metals and precious metals. Let us dive in to understand what base metals and precious metals are and get which of these is the best choice.
What are precious metals? These metals are considered to be of high end-value in society due to their rarity and high economic value. Precious metals come in a wide range and designers have a variety of precious metals to choose from. They include Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Silver, Gold Vermeil (Gold plated over sterling silver). Some precious metals such as Gold, Silver, and Platinum are noble metals. This means that they are highly resistant to corrosion.
Gold is soft and malleable. For this reason, it is mixed with other metals like silver or zinc to make solid and wonderful jewelry pieces that can be worn for a longer period. Gold is cherished by most designers and is used for making jewelry designs in wedding rings, earrings and necklaces.
Don’t you love sterling silver? It is versatile, has a stunning look, and is cherished by a vast majority because of these. Not only that, it is the best option for people on a budget because it is affordable than gold. Jewelry designers find it great for everyday use because of its durability and it does not react with the skin.
Vermeil is a precious metal owing to its composition, gold, and silver. A gold layer is applied to sterling silver to make vermeil. The gold layer used in making vermeil jewelry in the United States must be of high quality. The minimum purity must be 14k with a thickness not less than 2.5 microns. Vermeil has no allergies since it is made of hypoallergenic metals. It is durable and the jewelry pieces created from vermeil look like solid gold.
Gold plated jewelry is also just like vermeil. However, the difference comes in on the base metal used in gold plating. The base metal could be brass or copper, which is low quality than silver. Unlike vermeil, there are no specific requirements set for gold plated jewelry, and the gold layer may be less than 2.5microns.
Platinum is becoming a popular choice for jewelry designers because of its beauty and physical properties. It is silvery-white, highly durable, and can be mixed with other metals. Besides, it is resistant to tarnish, making it ideal for making rings, bracelets and everyday jewelry. However, Platinum is extremely rare and therefore pricier than other metals.
This metal is also silvery-white in color, just like Platinum. Jewelry designers fancy it because of its color, density, hardness and tarnish-resistant nature. For designers looking to make lighter pieces of jewelry that require low maintenance, Palladium would be an excellent choice. Furthermore, its price is affordable than Platinum.
Base metals are an excellent choice for jewelry, though they are not precious metals. They are a mixture of few metals that are combined to form one base metal for jewelry. Metals that are durable and commonly used as base metals include copper, aluminum, tin, zinc, nickel, and lead. It is important to note that base metals can be plated. However, the plating wears out eventually, and replating may be needed. For jewelry designers who need to make desirable jewelry that is super affordable, base metal is the way to go. Let us have a look at a few of the base metals.
This metal is soft and does not rust. Besides, you can add custom colors to aluminum. However, when aluminum comes into contact with oxygen and water, it oxidizes. The oxidized layer then forms a layer preventing the aluminum from further corrosion, which is good news!
Copper is a soft metal and has a bright reddish-orange color. Because it is a highly reactive metal, it darkens and gains patina. It discolors the skin when worn in jewelry designs like a wedding or engagement ring and tight-fitting bracelets.
Nickel is an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel and is usually silver in color. However, it has no sterling silver component whatsoever. Jewelers find nickel components attractive because it costs less than sterling silver. Though jewelers and jewelry designers need to be aware that it may cause allergic reactions in some people. The law provides regulations on nickel’s use in jewelry.
Lead has been used to make jewelry pieces despite being a heavy and toxic metal, being that it is a cheap base metal. It does not degenerate therefore harmful to the environment. Also, it is harmful to human beings when ingested as lead accumulates in the human body. Jewelers are advised to comply with the strict laws by maintaining a low percentage of lead weight in their designs.
Why Is Precious Metal a Better Choice Than Base Metal for Jewelry Designers?
- Precious metal keeps its value and is a worthy investment
- Jewelry made from precious metal will keep most of its value when the plating fades or in case of damage, while base metal jewelry will become worthless.
- During difficult economic times, one can use precious metal jewelry for tender as they produce better returns. For example, families could get by the great recession of 1929 by selling their precious jewelry.
- It’s easier to make money from precious metal jewelry
- Most customers understand and appreciate the value of precious metals. As a jeweler, you will not have to sell precious metal in large quantities to get money since customers will pay a hefty amount for a good piece of jewel made from precious metal. Meanwhile, base metal costs less because it is imported from overseas at a low cost and their prices are market-driven and will not be worth the time or effort put in.
- Precious metal jewelry is of high quality and lasts longer compared to base metal jewelry. Moreover, when it comes to conserving the environment, precious metal is ideal because base metals have negative environmental impacts.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is gold-plated brass jewelry considered precious metal?
No. it is not a precious metal. It doesn’t matter how good the plating is done, it will eventually fade out and you will end up with a piece of worthless brass jewelry with an ugly faded gold plating.
- How about gold-filled jewelry?
Gold-filled jewelry is 5% of the total weight of gold bonded to copper/brass core. So, 95% of the jewelry is still base metal. A gold-filled layer will last much longer than most gold plating. However, it is still not considered a precious metal. Also, gold-filled jewelry can only be made from gold-filled sheets or wires, it cannot be made from casting. It imposes relatively high restrictions on the design.