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What Metal Is That?

Jewellery Makers Tools

So many different metals are used in jewellery manufacture that it's hard to be sure just what you are wearing! And with so many metal allergies and sensitivities, sometimes you have to be careful ... but what's the alternative when gold and platinum aren't always in budget? Here's the lowdown on what might be in your 'jeweller's alloy'. The most desirable metals for jewellery manufacture are gold, silver and platinum. Being easily worked and highly valued, gold and platinum also have the advantage of always remaining untarnished. Silver doesn't have that property so it's often plated with another metal - gold or rhodium - to protect it's lustre. All these metals in their purest form are suitable for everybody to wear as they naturally don't contain any allergens or irritants, but often they are mixed with other metals to add strength and durability - and to bring the price down a little!

The most common other metals used in jewellery manufacture are copper, nickel, pewter, tin, zinc, manganese and titanium, and more recently surgical steel. Nickel is an irritant to some but can still be worn if sufficiently plated, and lead is becoming less desirable as an alloy metal because of its known dangers to health. Of course we'd all wear rhodium, platinum and gold if we could but we're not all living the rich-list lifestyle, so for everyday 'costume' jewellery we look to a more cost effective alloy.

Costume jewellery, or fashion jewellery to give it its more modern term, is made to be affordable and so will generally use tin, zinc, pewter, steel and (less commonly nowadays) nickel in its mix. The premium bridal and formal products you will find at Alyssum Jewellery generally consist of copper (hypo-allergenic) plated in either 14carat yellow gold or rhodium to provide a lasting tarnish-free finish. Other products will be plated in sterling silver, which will need a polish with a soft cloth occasionally to keep it looking its best. Steel blends and tin blends are also commonly used for our everyday and fun products to keep them affordable. So what can you do if you are allergic to the alloys in your jewellery? Try to seek out jewellery listed as 'nickel free' or jewellery that is plated in 14carat gold, platinum or rhodium. It's not a foolproof method as some manufacturers don't always list the metals used, and some jewellery can be worn for quite a while before the plating wears off and you start to react. If this happens you don't have to throw your favourite jewellery away; products are available (try your local pharmacy) that form a clear coating on your jewellery to act as a barrier, or for a short-term solution a little clear nail polish should do the trick!


Next week: "How To Look After Your Genuine Pearls." A guide to how natural pearls are formed and the steps to keep them looking their best.

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