Brass is the New Black: 5 Tips for Making Jewelry with Brass Plus a Sampler Kit

Isn't it funny how our tastes change? When I was younger, I preferred yellow gold, and since my early 20s, I have been a silver or white metal girl. Yellow gold's return to vogue in recent years caught my eye–but gosh, the price! Ouch.

Evidently that pain was widely felt, because there have never been more options for a yellow metal or gold alternative than all the brass jewelry-making supplies on the market now–brass metal sheet, brass wire, brass stampings and findings . . . They're all very enticing, but it can be a little overwhelming to start working with a new-to-you metal. Here are 5 tips to help you get started.

1. Like copper, brass takes patina like a dream. Brass gives up gorgeous colors in a torch flame (heat patina), and if you "overburn" it, you can get a beautiful bright red, just like on copper. You can also create beautiful patinas on brass with recipes that use common household supplies like vinegar, salt, and ammonia.

2. To solder brass, use brass paste solder. It comes in a syringe and is easy to apply. "It comes in one flow point, so it's perfect for soldering pieces that just have a single step," Kate Richbourg says, "It melts to a perfect match for brass. Clean and polish just as you would when you use silver solder." In my experience, both brass and copper paste solders flame up a bit during soldering–head's up!

Bronze Age Cuff by Linda Larsen
Bronze Age Cuff by Linda Larsen

3. If your brass comes out of pickle with a pinkish coppery coating, give it a soak in a mixture of half pickle and half hydrogen peroxide to remove the copper. Note that it will bubble some, so use a large enough container. This works to remove a copper film from silver, too. Another option, recommended by JMD member LeeAnne70 on the JMD forums, is to soak your piece about 20 to 30 minutes in a solution of two parts hydrogen peroxide to three parts white vinegar. You might have to scrub a little if your piece is heavily coated or if the metal is textured. Note: Don't store this mixture in a closed container.

4. You can avoid that coppery film altogether by using this tip from our friend and JMD member BogIron. After soldering brass, instead of pickling, "I just boil it in plain water, not pickle," he says. Here's why: "When you put brass in most pickles, you are doing a sort of depletion gilding; instead of bringing the silver to the surface, you are bringing the copper to fore by removing the zinc from the brass, and that is the pink color you are getting, so I just put mine in boiling water to dissolve the old flux." Remember after using any container like this, don't use it with food later.

Torus Cuff Bracelet by Bill Fretz
Torus Cuff Bracelet by Bill Fretz

5. Transparent enamels are gorgeous on brass, especially textured brass. (Yes, you can enamel on brass, if it's real brass.) I've been using transparent reds and greens in particular on some Nunn Design brass components, and I'm in love with the results. The transparent red on brass makes it look like rose gold, and I even see a touch of shimmer, like really pretty old-fashioned hard candy. Love.

If you're ready to give brass a try–or even if you already know how versatile and pretty it can be for jewelry making–take advantage of our special value Brass is the New Black sampler kit. In it you'll get a selection of different types or shades of brass wire and patterned brass sheet, JAX patina, a sampler of brass findings, Helen Driggs' Jewelry Maker's Field Guide book, an eBook with 10 projects in it, and six bonus brass jewelry e-projects–all at a very special price!

P.S. You can see more to love about brass here.

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