Alternative Metals for Jewelry Making: 6 Reasons I’ve Become a Fan of Brass Jewelry

White metals have always been my thing. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, I did wear yellow gold jewelry–but mostly because that’s what my Dad, who was my primary jewelry-gifter at the time, bought me. Soon after that, possibly during my “hippie” college years, I became a fan of silver jewelry. (I’ve always been a HUGE fan of silver everything-else.)

brass jewelry components and stampings from Nunn Design
brass jewelry components from Nunn Design

As an official grown-up and many years since then, I stuck with white metals, adding the occasional white gold piece to my mostly silver jewelry wardrobe. When I started making my own jewelry, silver was naturally the way to go, for personal preference as well as affordability.

But then . . . well, I won’t remind you what has happened to the price of silver in the last decade or so. I’ll skip that part and just say that in the past few years, I’ve really started to appreciate alternative metals for jewelry making, particularly copper and brass jewelry. We’ve talked about copper many times before, but brass hasn’t gotten its share of the fame, so I wanted to give it some attention today. Here are six reasons why I like making brass jewelry.

 

brass patina: create colorful heat patina on brass jewelry
brass with heat patina

1. Flame painting (aka heat patina) on brass jewelry is fun and beautiful.

Just like copper, brass gives up gorgeous colors and patterns when you pass it through a torch flame.

2. Brass resembles gold. I haven’t worn yellow-gold jewelry in ages and wasn’t sure it was right with my skin tone, but recently I’ve been more drawn to the warm glow of yellow gold, especially textured 18k and 24k gold. Raw brass jewelry can provide nearly the same warm yellow glow (and heft) of gold at a fraction of the ever-rising cost.

 

brass jewelry components enamel beautifully
I’m making this stacked flower ring using three of the brass flowers from Nunn Design, a super-convenient sterling rivetable ring from Beaducation.com, and #2839 red enamel from Barbara Lewis’s Painting with Fire Studio.

3. Brass stands up to a flame.

While I’ve been enameling and playing with color on alternative metals like copper and brass, I’ve spent a small fortune buying metal components, charms and such at bead and craft stores, experimenting with what can take the heat and what can’t. My findings? 99.5% of the stuff I’ve bought can’t handle the heat of a torch, even ones that are silver plated, and they become splats on my soldering table (or shoot sparks all over my bench, yikes!). It seems more and more of the commercial metal jewelry components are plated aluminum or pewter, and they melt immediately. Brass, however, like the brass jewelry components and stampings in Nunn Design’s newest collection, hold up to the flame. They’re beautiful, too.

4. Transparent enamels on brass jewelry is gorgeous. I’ve been using transparent reds and greens in particular on some of those new Nunn Design brass stamped pieces, and I’m in love with the results. The transparent red on brass makes the whole thing look like rose gold or regular gold with just the prettiest hint of pink in it and I even see a touch of shimmer, like really pretty old-fashioned hard candy. Love.

soldering brass jewelry is just as easy as soldering silver
soldering brass

5. Soldering brass jewelry is not as hard as you might think, especially if you just have one step to solder. There’s only one kind of solder for brass (no hard, soft, etc. to figure out and keep separated, like for silver), so there’s no confusion there, and it comes in easy-to-use paste. You can learn more about soldering brass jewelry here and here.

 

create brass jewelry patina using household items
Kerry’s brass patinated with potato chips

6. You can create beautiful patinas on brass, too.

Kerry Bogert’s Rustic Wrappings has great “recipes” for creating patinas on alternative metals in copper and brass jewelry using household items like vinegar, salt, and ammonia–even salt-and-vinegar potato chips, as shown here. My favorite verdigris looks just as lovely on brass jewelry as on copper.

To learn more about using alternative metals like brass and copper in your jewelry creations, subscribe to Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry magazine. You’ll find stylish copper and brass jewelry projects that feature affordable alternative metals (both in sheet and wire) in every issue, all created by top jewelry designers that you know and love.

Check out Nunn Design’s Facebook page, website and blog for jewelry inspiration and more of their great products!

brass jewelry components from Nunn Design

What about you? Do you love brass? Have I missed any reasons to love it? Please share in the comments below!

The giveaway has ended. Our friends at Nunn Design love brass, too, and they’ve provided a yummy collection of brass and other alternative metal jewelry-making components from their 2012 Fall Collection to give to one of you! Just leave your comment (before midnight on Sunday, January 20, 2013) below and one of you will be chosen at random to win the goodies.

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