When it comes to different metal types it can be overwhelming to understand the differences. There's gold and silver jewellery. Okay, but what do the extra words mean: nickel-free, lead-free, hypoallergenic, plated, electroplated,.... and what even is a carat? And why should you care? Read on and things will become clearer!
Metal jewellery and jewellery findings (hooks, rings, pins, chains, etc. ) will be made out of gold, silver, brass, surgical steel, tungsten, palladium, platinum, or titanium. At Auricle, we use gold, silver, brass, stainless steel, and surgical steel.
Gold is measured in carats and is a unit of mass. 1 carat is equal to 200mg. Carats are used to measure gold and gemstones and tells you how much of the pure material is used. For example, 14ct gold contains 58.5% gold. The type of metal the gold is mixed with, the alloy, determined the colour of the gold (white, rose, or yellow).
Silver is also commonly used in jewellery making. As with gold, silver is mixed with other metals. For example Sterling Silver 925 is made with 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, such as copper. This is the most common type of silver alloy, as it increases the hardness of the soft silver metal.
Brass is very commonly used in jewellery making. At Auricle we might use brass beads, but never in findings. Brass is a very soft metal, making it easy to handle and shape. It can also be plated with gold or silver, keeping the cost of the product low.
Stainless and Surgical Steel
As the name suggests, both are made from an iron alloy, making it a very durable metal. Stainless steel has an addition of 10% chromium, making it corrosion-resistant and a good option for very sensitive skin. Surgical steel is a type of stainless steel, but with no uniform definition and usually refers to any hard and corrosion-resistant steel.
Terms you should know
An alloy is simply a mix between two or more types of metals, affecting the hardness, corrosion-resistance, and colour.
Lead- and Nickel-free
Both lead and nickel are metals that can lead to allergic reactions are should be avoided in jewellery, especially earrings!
Plated and Electroplated
Some metals, such as brass, can be plated with gold or silver. There are different ways of doing this, but frequently involve an electric current being applied to a bath containing the material to be plated and the plating metal, such as gold or silver.
Hypoallergenic metals are those that are less reactive and therefore less likely to cause an allergic reaction. For the most part, gold plated and sterling silver alloys are suitable, however in extreme cases solid gold (not plated), surgical steel, palladium, niobium, and platinum are good examples of hypoallergenic metals used in jewellery making.