How to Use (and Mix) Metals in Jewelry Designs

Two Is Better Than One

Some things are better done solo. Shopping for unmentionables comes to mind. Or flossing. Or, in our opinion, diving (we are still shocked that synchronized diving is an actual Olympic sport!). But writing beading books?

Well, we’ve both done the solo author thing (check out Melinda’s latest, Custom Cool Jewelry and Danielle’s Simply Modern Jewelry), but we sure had a lot more fun when we teamed up to write and make projects for the new book Mixed Metals: Creating Contemporary Jewelry with Silver, Gold, Copper, Brass & More. Perhaps it’s because we’re both very passionate fans of metal beads and findings. Collaborating on this collection of projects that celebrate and encourage the use of metallic elements in your stringing and wireworking designs was exciting for us, plus we learned a ton about the history, chemical properties, and lore of metals.

5 Tips on How to Use (and Mix) Metals in Your Jewelry Designs

Here we dish on our favorite discoveries about metal beads:

Silver

Melinda: “All you need to oxidize silver (and copper, too) is a hard-boiled egg. No toxic chemicals needed! Place a warm hard-boiled egg in a container with an air-tight lid and smash it a few times. Hang the metal to be oxidized above the egg by stringing the piece onto a thread and taping the ends of the thread to the container’s rim. Attach the lid and watch the color develop in 24 to 36 hours.”

  Gold

Danielle: “Gold doesn’t rust, tarnish, or corrode like other metals do. However, in time, it can look soiled. To restore gold’s shine, it is safe to clean using warm water and a mild detergent, being sure to dry the pieces thoroughly immediately after washing and follow up with a polishing cloth.”

Base Metals

Melinda: “In plain and simple terms, a base metal is any metal other than a precious metal. Common base metals include copper, bronze, brass, gunmetal, and pewter. Because base metals are often found plated with precious metals, they are a great choice if you are on a budget. For example, use gunmetal chain in place of oxidized silver chain or bright brass findings instead of gold.”

Faux (& Other) Metals

Danielle: “Precious metal beads and findings can be expensive, especially in bulk. To achieve a metallic look in your designs without using expensive metal beads, incorporate beads that resemble precious metal beads (like pyrite, or “fool’s gold”) and beads that aren’t metal at all, but have a metallic finish (like the shiny comet argent finish on Swarovski crystals or pressed-glass beads lined with a glittery paint).”

 
Mixing Metals

Melinda: “The best part of mixing different types of metals in a single design is that there are no rules—so let your creativity fly. Add warmth to a silver necklace with just a few gold beads and findings or pair brass and copper for an antique look—have fun, mix it up, anything goes!” 

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