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Metals In Jewelry Making
It is difficult to avoid metals when you are making hand crafted jewelry. They are used for most of the components like beading wire and jewelry wire, jumprings, eye- and head pins, as spacers, links, beads, clasps, pendants, charms and chains and other findings. Without metals jewelry would probably still have been made from organic materials and stone. But we found these amazing materials, and from there on the use of them have steadily increased, as new ones were discovered, new alloys mixed and new ways to use them, developed.
Although I have made jewelry for some years, I really never thought much about beads or other things of metal I used when I made jewelry, other than that they looked good in my designs. What they were made of and where they were made didn't matter so much as long as I liked their shape and looks. What they were sold as never made me ask any questions. Silver, I thought, was silver. Antiqued were old things and so on.
How very wrong I was. It turns out that beads or jewelry with the label silver actually may not contain any silver at all. When I found that out, my curiosity was aroused, and I decided that it was time to do some research around metals used in jewelry making.
What is real and what is not?
Needless to say metal beads and jewelry are made of metal, but how can you be sure that you are getting the real thing and not some cheap stuff instead? And what does things mean, like the numbers on silver and gold beads and jewelry, silver plated and gold filled and alloy? As with most things, you can get the expensive high quality stuff, but equally easily you can be cheated with cheaper stuff of poorer quality. Sometimes it is hard to tell what is real and what is not, unless you know what to look for in order to separate the faux from the real.
There is not much you can do about it, except to search for a trustworthy dealer and ask for certificates for each piece you buy. Online, check out their return policy and thoroughly read the descriptions on the jewelry, beads or findings you want to buy. Try to get as much information about the different kinds of metal, bead and jewelry you are interested in, so that you know what indicates that it may be a cheaper copy.
Use your common sense if you buy jewelry on the street. If they sold real gold or silver, they would not sell it on the street, but in a store. There is nothing wrong with buying the fake stuff, as long as it is labeled as such and you know what you are paying for. But if you want to buy expensive jewelry of pure gold or silver, be aware that you may be conned if the dealer is not trustworthy.
To help you a little further, I have made some pages on the most used types for jewelry making. I hope they can be of use to you, so that you know more about what is real and what is not.
But first, let's take a look at how we came to use silver and gold. If you don't want to read about the history, scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will find links to the pages about metals used for jewelry making. You will find all the information you need, to know what to use in your future projects, and what to avoid.
A brief history:
The earliest signs of metallurgy occurred over 10 000 years ago, when humans first began to use copper, meteoric iron and tin to create tools and perhaps also simple jewelry. These period is called the age of copper, and can be looked upon as the step from stone age to metal age which was a huge developmental step for man kind.
The first alloy to make bronze from copper and tin developed around 3500 BC and started the age of bronze. And from there on the iron age, the steel age and so on, came rolling. The oldest gold jewelry found came from the tomb of queen Zer and queen Pu-Abi of Uhr in Sumeria dating 3000 years BC.
I often wonder what made man start mining for copper, silver and gold. How did they know what to look for, where to look for it, and what made them start appreciate metals as something valuable? Someone must have found that very first lump of gold, silver or iron and decided to make something out of it.
The history of how we have used them is long, and as for gemstones, the mining business has been a brutal one. For thousands of years and around the world prisoners and slaves were sent to work in the mines. And even today the extraction is a hard, scrupulous business.
These amazing minerals have not been used solemnly for jewelry, but has been a huge benefit when it came to warfare. Protective clothes like armor and chain mail, shields and weapons have been made from iron, steel, bronze and copper for thousands of years and still are today. Alloys like pewter have been used to make kitchen ware, like cups, knives, plates. Especially gold and silver took over pretty quickly as the international accepted payment in trading, spreading the use of silver and gold coins throughout the world.
All over the planet jewelry made from gold, silver, pewter, copper, tin and bronze have been found in graves and tombs, dating thousands of years back. Alloys of nearly every metal known has been encountered in jewelry. Jewelry has always been highly valued along with coins.
Treasure hunters and archeologists have searched for lost treasures for centuries. And sometimes they have stumbled upon findings of enormous value. Imagine what the archeologists that found the treasure of Troy or the tomb of Tutankhamen must have thought, seeing all that gold and the precious and semi precious gemstones in gorgeous jewelry and other gilded and decorated artifacts.
Today we are surrounded by these precious materials, and does not really pay much attention to them, except when it comes to jewelry. Jewelry is still a very important part of our culture. Most of us enjoy the beauty of jewelry and treasure their value. There is a reason why the largest source of demand for gold is the jewelry business.
And luckily for us, that is, don't you agree? :)
Gold, the metal that has bedazzled us for thousands of years.
Silver The Most Radiant Of All Metals
Pewter, Not Just A Cheap Substitute For Silver
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