Looking for metals used in costume jewelry? This jewelry metal list might help you. Costume jewelry is often regarded as low-quality jewelry, but as you research some of the best affordable jewelry options, you will find that the costume jewelry is not created the same, and the quality of the jewelry you buy depends on the metals that are used to make the jewelry.
And with a large variety of metals used to make the jewelry, your choices might be confusing, which is why this article shares insights into all the common metals that are used in costume jewelry.
This post shares insights into the most common metals used for costume jewelry, their advantages, as well as the disadvantages.
But first, do you know what costume jewelry is?
What is Costume Jewelry? And why Costume jewelry use the following metals?
Costume jewelry, also called fashion jewelry, refers to the wide range of largely decorative jewelry worn for personal adornment. Costume jewelry is quite affordable, and they are very popular in the fashion and jewelry scenes because the designs of costume jewelry mimic the features and the overall design of fine (more expensive) jewelry.
Often, costume jewelry is made of cheaper non-precious metals, also called the base metals. These metals are relatively benign and beautiful, although a metal like nickel would result in allergic reactions. Costume jewelry is a cheaper alternative to fine jewelry, and you will find that most of the costume jewelry on the market is made of fake gems and plated metals, as well as non-precious stones and plastics, among other metals. The other materials or metals that are commonly used to make costume jewelry include brass, silver, nickel, pewter.
These metals are often used in costume jewelry because they are cheaper and easily manipulated. A look at the history books shows that the use of these metals to make costume jewelry came about because the expensive base metals previously used to make the expensive/ fine jewelry were required in different military applications during WWII, necessitating the use of alternative metals.
As mentioned above, the metals used for costume jewelry are better known as the base metals. These non-precious base metals include aluminum and brass, copper, white metal or pot metal, and nickel silver. Nickel-silver refers to the silvery-white metal alloy that resembles silver – it’s made of zinc, iron, copper, nickel, manganese, and occasionally made of lead. The white metal and the pot metal, on the other hand, refer to the metal alloys, which contain an unspecified metal content of different metals like antimony, zinc, tin, copper, bismuth, and lead.
11 Common Metals Used in Costume Jewelry
These metals determine the price of the jewelry you will buy, and also whether the jewelry is safe on sensitive skin or not.
There has been a significant rise in the use of brass for jewelry, and most of the artisanal jewelry on the market is almost always made of brass.
The use of brass in costume jewelry has to do with the fact that brass comes in an attractive natural color, and it is a good affordable option for most of the precious metals around.
Brass is not a lone metal, though. It is the result of the combination of zinc and copper, and this also means that properties of the brass jewelry you end up with will vary depending on the percentage of copper and zinc in the metal.
The Copper Development Association (yes, this is a real association) notes that the proportions of zinc and copper in brass will affect how jewelers make use of the metal to create different kinds of jewelry.
Pros of Brass
- Brass is extremely affordable because it doesn’t have any precious metals in it.
- It is an ideal metal for casting (jewelry creation from different metal molds)
- It’s strong
- Brass jewelry is quite durable.
- Generally non-corrosive
- Brass jewelry made today is free of lead.
- Even though brass will not necessarily corrode even when it’s worn daily, the jewelry could turn green after a long time, depending on the proportion of copper in the brass.
- The unlacquered brass requires constant polishing to avoid color change.
- Vintage brass may contain lead, toxic metals.
- Brass may also contain nickel (and aluminum), which means a high risk of skin allergies
A number of artisan and costume jewelry pieces are made of aluminum, either on its own or in combi option with a few other metals. One of the top reasons for the use of aluminum is that this metal boasts a silver-colored finish with an attractive sheen.
Costume jewelry made of aluminum could be made brighter or with prettier shades thanks to the anodizing technology, which is one of the reasons why there is a number of costume jewelry made of aluminum.
It’s very malleable, as noted by the USGS or the US Geological Survey, which is why it is easy for artisans to form aluminum into different gorgeous forms.
The malleability of aluminum is the reason for the use of this metal in delicate earrings designs, elaborate bib necklaces, and cuff bracelets, etc.
But that is not all: in addition to all the unique properties, aluminum easily finds its way in jewelry because of a number of advantages listed below.
Pros of aluminum in costume jewelry
- Malleable, allowing for different delicate jewelry designs
- Aluminum is stable, and it will not tarnish or corrode, even when exposed to most daily activities.
- Aluminum is affordable; it’s the second-most-common metal on earth.
- The lightweight design makes it ideal for jewelry.
- Its extreme malleability means that the resultant jewelry is prone to warping.
- Fragile jewelry
- Some people are allergic to aluminum
Bronze is a metal alloy, just like brass. The most common metals that makeup bronze include tin, zinc, and copper.
Generally, bronze has a characteristic brownish-gold tone, which is warm, and a pretty metal that works well with a number of materials ad and stones.
It’s durable, and its uniqueness is one of the reasons why bronze has been used by humans for thousands of years.
- Bronze is the ideal metal for use with very detailed works, hence its use in making delicate and some of the gorgeous pieces of jewelry.
- It’s affordable and yields largely inexpensive jewelry.
- It’s a strong metal
- Bronze jewelry is durable.
- It tarnishes
- Risk of allergies from the nickel and aluminum that may be in the brass
- Old bronze pieces often carry dangerous levels of lead
Besides being one of the most popular metals of choice for the Native American jewelry, this warm-reddish glowing copper metal is one of the most popular metal choices for artisanal jewelry.
The metal is nothing short of gorgeous, and it boasts a good number of properties that make it one of the most practical options for jewelry.
Its use in costume jewelry comes about because it offers the following advantages:
- The Royal Society of Chemists states that Copper is one of the metals that is extremely easy to work with
- It has a rich history, and it was used by jewelers in most of the ancient civilizations.
- Copper is quite affordable and significantly cheaper than silver or gold.
- More expensive than brass or bronze
- Copper will oxidize over time, and its natural warm color will darken over time.
- It turns the skin red when worn for too long; this is disconcerting for some people
Zinc alloy is the most popular metal used to make costume jewelry, it’s affordable and very versatile.
It’s also called the Tibetan Silver, and it an alloy of many other metals, including lead and nickel, which unfortunately means that it’s not ideal for person with skin sensitivities or allergies, and lead is a toxic metal.
However, safer versions of zinc alloy are used for costume jewelry. Note that brass is a form of the zinc alloy.
- Low-cost metal
- Brass is corrosion-resistant
- Causes allergies
- Older versions with lead are toxic
- It tarnishes
Also called German Silver, Nickel silver is the base metal alloy made of zinc, copper, and nickel.
While the nickel is naturally silver in color, it doesn’t have any sterling silver and nickel-silver wire used in costume jewelry contains 65% nickel, 17% zinc, and 18% copper.
It is relatively affordable in comparison to sterling silver, and it is one of the most common components used in jewelry.
- Suitable for many jewelry components
- It tarnishes
- Causes allergies
This is one of the metals that is easily available.
It is durable, affordable, and versatile, hence its use in most of the costume jewelry on the market.
Stainless steel is an alloy of nickel, chromium, copper, titanium, and iron, among other metals.
- Durable metal
- Used in all kinds of costume jewelry
- Risk of allergies to stainless steel with nickel
Tungsten, better known as tungsten carbide is a beautiful black metal that boasts the highest melting point out of all the metals on earth, it’s almost as hard as diamond, rated at a 9 on the MOHs scale (diamond is rated 10), and it’s about 2 to 3 times harder than titanium.
These features make it one of the best metal options for wedding rings.
- Lifetime warranty offered by most jewellers to cover breakage (accidental)
- It’s affordable
- Easily removed in case of medical emergencies
- Different color options
- Cannot be resized because of the hardness
- You can’t really turn it into cash
Pewter is the 4th most popular metal used in costume jewelry making. It is an alloy of copper and tin, and it boasts a nice and soft silver color.
- Nice matte or a shiny finish to jewelry
- Versatile designs options and it might have an antique finish if chemicals are added to darken it.
- It’s affordable
- Pewter has a low melting point, and it’s easy to work with
- Easily damaged/ dented.
- Vintage pewter jewelry contains lead.
- It may cause allergies.
This 100% hypoallergenic metal is also used to make some classes of costume jewelry, specifically, the most expensive options on the market. It’s affordable and beautiful.
- Lightweight and ideal for jewelry-making
- Strong and durable
- Tarnish and corrosion-resistant
- It’s affordable
- As one of the hardest metals out there, it’s hard to work with, and you cannot resize titanium rings, for example.
The other metal on our list of the most common metals that are used in costume jewelry is niobium. Niobium is one of the elements on the periodic table, and it features a characteristic silver color.
It is not inert, though, meaning that it will undergo different chemical processes, for example, anodization.
But the anodization isn’t a bad thing at all, because it is the reason why niobium comes in the widest array of colors, for example, blue, pink, red, purple, yellow, etc.
The anodization process is also the reason why niobium is the most common metal used in colorful costume jewelry.
- Corrosion-resistant, hence the most practical choice for jewelry
- Not a precious metal, hence affordable
- Hypoallergenic, it’s a pure elemental metal free of metal impurities like nickel.
- It’s strong and durable (hence its use in oil rigs, jet engines, among other robust industrial applications)
- Only idea for use in smaller jewelry pieces like earrings and rings
These are some of the common metals used in costume jewelry.
As you can see, they all have pros and cons, and your choice of jewelry metal will depend on the qualities you are looking for in jewelry.