Jewelry Metals

jewelry metals

Introduction to Jewelry Metals

Jewelry metals are used to create beautiful and unique pieces of jewelry. It is typically precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum that are used, although semi-precious metals like brass and copper are also used. They can be used in many different ways, from intricate designs to simple shapes. Jewelers will often use alloys, a combination of metals, to create a more unique look.

Jewelry is an important part of many cultures, used to signify status or to commemorate special occasions. It has become increasingly popular in recent years with trends in fashion and the ever-growing variety of jewelry pieces available.

No matter your purpose or your budget, there is a wide range of options available when it comes to creating the perfect jewelry piece.

Popular Precious Metals: Gold, Silver, Platinum

Precious metals are used extensively in jewelry-making to create timeless and elegant pieces. Gold, silver, and platinum are the three most popular precious metals and each has its own unique characteristics and uses. Let’s explore their characteristics, common uses, and relative affordability.


Gold is a soft and malleable metal often used to make rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants, and bracelets. Gold is alloyed with other metals such as copper and silver to produce different colors and karats. The gold color can range from yellow (pure gold) to white (mixed with silver or palladium) and even rose (mixed with copper) depending on the alloys used. Gold jewelry is typically priced according to the purity of the gold (the higher the karat number, the higher the price).


Silver is a relatively inexpensive and malleable metal often used to make earrings, necklaces, and other types of jewelry. It is softer than gold but more resistant to tarnish, though it may still require some care and maintenance. Silver can be found in various colors, such as white, gray, and black. It is usually alloyed with other metals such as copper to make it stronger and less prone to tarnishing. Silver jewelry is typically less expensive than gold jewelry.


Platinum is a rare and valuable metal that is becoming increasingly popular for making jewelry. Platinum is harder and denser than gold, so it is not as malleable, but it is also more durable and resistant to scratching. Platinum comes in shades of gray and white, which is often combined with other metals such as gold to produce two-tone jewelry. Platinum jewelry tends to be more expensive than gold or silver jewelry, but it is also known to last longer and withstand more wear and tear.

Uncommon Precious Metals: Rhodium and Palladium

Rhodium and palladium are two metals that, while not as widely used as gold and silver, are still seen in jewelry designs. They are classified as “precious” metals due to their rarity, as well as their strength and resistance to tarnish.

Rhodium is a bright, silvery-white metal from the platinum group. It is most often used as a plating for other metals such as gold, silver, and copper to give them a more durable finish. It is also commonly used to plate costume jewelry to enhance its look.

Palladium is a grey-white metal that is part of the platinum group. It is very durable and often used to replace gold in wedding rings due to its lower cost. Palladium is also used to create alloys with platinum and silver, creating white gold and sterling silver respectively.

The cost of both rhodium and palladium have been on the rise due to their rising popularity. While they may be a bit more expensive than other metals, their beauty, durability, and low maintenance costs make them worth the price.

Semi-Precious Metals (Brass, Copper, Aluminum):

Semi-precious metals are an affordable option for jewelry making and have become popular in recent years. While they don’t have the same value or rarity as precious metals, they can still be great to work with. Brass, copper, and aluminum are among the most common semi-precious metals used for jewelry.

Brass has a warm and inviting look to it, with shades of yellow and orange. It’s very affordable and is easy to shape, making it great for earrings and pins. Copper has an appealing reddish color and is often used in rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Aluminum is lightweight and silver-like in color, making it ideal for costume jewelry.

Each of these metals can be used for a variety of different designs, from intricate filigree to simple hammered pieces. You can also combine semi-precious metals with precious metals, like gold or silver, to create unique and beautiful pieces. When setting stones in semi-precious metals, you should use settings that are designed specifically for the metal you’re using to ensure a secure setting.

Alloys: An Introduction

Alloys are created when two or more metals are combined together to create a new material with unique properties that are different than the individual components. Alloys are used in jewelry making to create pieces with a variety of colors, strength and durability. Many of the most popular alloys used in jewelry making have been developed over centuries, as goldsmiths around the world experimented with different combinations.

Examples of alloys commonly used in jewelry include:

  • Bronze: An alloy of copper and tin
  • Sterling Silver: An alloy of silver and copper
  • Electroplated Gold: An alloy of gold and other metals, electroplated onto a base metal
  • White Gold: An alloy of gold and other metals (often including palladium and nickel)
  • Rose Gold: An alloy of gold and copper

Metalsmithing Basics

Metalsmithing is the art of working with metals to make jewelry, tools, and other objects. The process involves shaping and merging multiple pieces of metal together, which requires a range of tools and techniques. Before you start on any project, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the basics of metalsmithing.

Some of the essential tools used in metalsmithing includes hammers, anvils, pliers, soldering tools, files, and dapping blocks. Depending on the project, you may also require saws, polishing wheels, and a flex shaft. Each of these tools has a specific function, from forming the metal to adding texture or detail.

The most commonly used techniques for metalsmithing involve hammering, stretching, cutting, and soldering. Hammering and stretching are used to shape the metal into the desired form, such as a bangle or cuff. Cutting and filing allow you to create intricate patterns or shapes in your metal. Soldering allows you to join multiple pieces of metal together.

In addition to these techniques, metalsmithing also involves various finishing techniques such as sanding, brushing, and polishing. These can be used to give your piece a smooth, shiny finish. With the right tools, techniques, and practice, you can create beautiful pieces of metal jewelry.

Casting: An Introduction

Casting is a process by which metal is melted down and poured into a mold. These molds, or casts, can be made from a variety of materials and are used to create intricate shapes and textures that would otherwise not be achievable through traditional metalworking methods. There are two main types of casting: lost-wax and spin-casting.

Lost-Wax Casting

Lost-wax casting is one of the oldest known metalworking techniques and involves creating a wax cast first and then covering it in a ceramic material. The wax is then heated, causing it to melt away and leave a hollow mold. Molten metal is then poured into this mold and the ceramic is broken away once it has cooled. Lost-wax casting is usually used for more intricate jewelry designs, as it is more time consuming and expensive than other casting techniques.


Spin-casting, also known as centrifugal casting, is a much simpler process that involves pouring molten metal into a rubber or plastic mold that is spinning at high speed. This spinning motion causes the metal to be pushed into all of the nooks and crannies of the mold, creating a detailed and complex design. Spin-casting is typically used for mass-produced jewelry due to its quick and cost-effective nature.

Setting Stones on Metals

Adding gemstones to jewelry pieces can be a beautiful way to enhance your design. But setting those stones onto metal can be a tricky process. So here are some tips for making sure your gemstones stay in place.

The type of metal you’re using is important when setting stones, as some metals are softer and more prone to scratches than others. Gold and platinum are ideal for holding a stone securely, since they are strong and don’t corrode easily. Silver is also a good option, although tarnishing may occur over time and needs to be taken into account.

Brass and copper are softer metals, which makes them a more affordable option. Despite this, they are still sturdy enough to provide a secure setting. However, they may need special care when cleaning, as they can easily become scratched and damaged.

When placing a gemstone into a setting, you should make sure that the stone is placed correctly before soldering the metal shut. The stone should fit snugly in the setting, with no spaces or gaps, and the prongs should be securely placed around it. This will ensure that the stone does not move or become loose during regular wear.

Finally, after soldering you should check the stone again to make sure it is secure. You can also use a burnisher to clean up any excess metal, as this will help to make the setting look neat and polished.

Finishing & Polishing

When crafting jewelry, a high level of quality is important for the piece to look its best. Finishing and polishing are two key processes that will give jewelry pieces a professional look and feel. There are a few different techniques that can be used to finish and polish jewelry, including sanding, brushing, filing, and buffing.


Sanding is a process of using an abrasive material like sandpaper or steel wool to gently remove surface dirt or metal shavings. This technique can be used to clean up rough edges or unrefined metal surfaces. It’s important to use the right grit grade of sandpaper for the metal being worked on. It’s also important to sand in the same direction to avoid damaging the metal.


Brushing is done with a metal brush such as a brass or steel brush. It is used to create texture and patterns on a piece of jewelry, as well as to remove tarnish from metals. As with sanding, it’s important to brush in the same direction to avoid scratching the metal. Brushes can also be used to create higher levels of contrast between parts of a piece.


Filing is done with a fine-toothed file or rasp. It can be used to refine shapes and details, as well as to remove any burrs or sharp corners. As with the other techniques, it’s important to file in the same direction to avoid damaging the metal. Filing can also be used to create textures and patterns on the surface of a piece.


Buffing is the process of using a polishing wheel or felt wheel to create a mirror finish on a piece of jewelry. This is a great way to create a high-shine finish on the surface of the metal without causing damage. It’s important to start with a coarse wool pad and work your way up to a finer pad to achieve a highly polished finish. Buffing can also be used to create a matte finish by using a softer cotton pad.

Designing Jewelry with Metals

When it comes to creating jewelry, there are a wide range of materials available to choose from. From precious metals like gold and silver, to common metals like brass and copper, each one has its own characteristics and can be used in different ways to achieve various shapes, styles and textures.

It is important to understand the unique qualities of each metal when designing jewelry. Factors such as hardness, malleability, and coloration will influence the outcomes that can be achieved, so the designer should always select the most suitable metal for their intended purpose.

Here’s a quick overview of the types of shapes and textures that can be achieved with metals:

  • Smoothing – metal can be sanded, filed and polished to create a smooth, reflective surface.
  • Texturing – metals can also be textured through hammering, etching or stamping to create 3D patterns, embossed designs, or matte finishes.
  • Soldering – metal pieces can be soldered together using a torch or heat gun to form complex structures.
  • Casting – molten metal can be poured into moulds to create intricate details, shapes and patterns.

With the right tools and techniques, it is possible to craft stunning works of art from metal. There are no limits to the creativity and imagination that can be unleashed using these materials!


When it comes to jewelry manufacturing, there are a range of different production techniques available. Depending on the type and size of the production run, these techniques will vary in cost and suitability.

For smaller production runs, manual processes such as soldering, wirework and hand-fabrication are common. This involves using various tools and techniques to craft individual pieces one by one. It’s often a labor-intensive process, but necessary for items with complex designs or intricate details.

Larger production runs require the use of more specialized equipment. Machines such as lasers, mills, and press brakes can produce multiple identical pieces at once. This is especially useful for creating pieces with uniform shapes and measurements. It’s also more cost efficient than manual processes.

Finally, 3D printing is becoming an increasingly popular option for large-scale jewelry production. This technology enables the creation of detailed pieces with complex geometries. It’s much faster and more accurate than traditional methods, and is ideal for creating intricate one-off pieces.


This guide to jewelry metals has introduced readers to the various types of metals used for jewelry making and the basic techniques used to work with these metals. We’ve discussed the characteristics, uses, and relative costs of precious, semi-precious, and alloys, as well as the steps required to form, finish, and set stones on metal jewelry. We have also discussed production techniques for larger manufacturing runs.

It’s important to note that the techniques used for working with metals will vary depending on the type of metal used, so it’s a good idea to read up on the specific properties of each metal before you begin working on your project. With the proper tools and techniques, you can create one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces of any size or shape with metals.

Questions About Jewelry Metals

  • Q: What are jewelry metals?
    A: Jewelry metals are materials that are used to create jewelry pieces, including precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum; more rare but still precious metals, such as rhodium and palladium; and semi-precious metals like aluminum and brass.
  • Q: What are some popular precious metals for creating jewelry?
    A: Popular precious metals for jewelry making include gold, silver, and platinum, all of which have different characteristics and cost relative to each other.
  • Q: Are there any less common precious metals used in jewelry?
    A: Precious metals such as rhodium and palladium are less commonly used in jewelry than the more traditional gold, silver, and platinum, but they still offer certain unique properties and can be pricier.
  • Q: What are semi-precious metals?
    A: Semi-precious metals are also used to create jewelry, including copper, brass and aluminum, which are more affordable and offer a variety of styling options.
  • Q: What is an alloy and how is it used in jewelry making?
    A: An alloy is a combination of two or more metals, and is often used in jewelry making to achieve different textures, colors, and properties. Popular alloys for jewelry making are sterling silver and 14k gold.
  • Q: What tools are used for metalsmithing?
    A: Metalsmithing is the process of forming metals into jewelry pieces, and usually involves tools such as hammers, pliers, saws, files and polishers.
  • Q: What techniques are used for setting stones on metals?
    A: Setting stones requires special techniques to ensure that the gemstones are secure and won’t fall out. Most techniques require expertise and precision, and depend on the type of metal being used.