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METAL BEADS

METALS AND METAL BEADS

 Review all our ORIENTATION VIDEO TUTORIALS

 

 

14KT GOLD

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GOLD RESOURCE AID
: Resource site for everything to do with gold. Full of newsletters, articles, links and other resources - ALL FREE - in one easy to navigate site to save time and money. http://gold.resourceaid.com/ 

ALUMINUM

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These aluminum filigree beads create a sensation of lace.  These come either gold-plated or silver-plated.

Some people use the 12mm or 10mm round filigree bead as the head of an angel in making an angel pin or ornament.  See our other Angel Parts under our FINDINGS section.

BRASS

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CLOISONNE

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Cloisonne beads are enameled metal, and produce a picture or mosaic similar to a stained glass window.  These beads come in many colors and shapes.  Special "gold", "silver" and "imperial" beads are a little more intricately made, as are "twisted wire" cloisonne beads.  There are also cloisonne "wiggle" pendants, like fish, turtles which are found in our CHARMS section.

COPPER

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GOLD FILLED

 

 

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Read about...
"Gold Filled" vs. "Gold Plated"

METALIZED PLASTIC

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Metalized plastic beads have a milky white plastic core and a metallic finish.  This finish might be gold or silver plated; it might be antiqued; it might be a mix of metallic and other colors as finishes.  As with any similar finish or plating, unless it has been varnished or antiqued, the finish will wear off over time.  This is due to interaction with the salts in a person's sweat or with the pollutants in the air around us.  In fact, because the plating does not adhere at all to the plastic, the plating will probably chip off long before the color wears off.   

 

Metalized plastic beads which have been antiqued with a black varnish stain, will hold up better over time, than those which have not.    The varnish creates a hardened shell around the bead, which is resistant to chipping.  The antiquing process, however, dissolves the chemical in the plating which gives the color its brightness.   This makes the beads a duller gold or a duller silver.

 

Because metalized plastic beads are so inexpensive, there are many more designs, sizes, and finishes to choose from, than other metal beads.    If you're designing fashion jewelry which will only be worn a few times, then these might be great choices for you.

 

PEWTER and BASE METALS

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PRODUCT SAFETY OF PRODUCTS WITH LEAD IN THEM
TierraCast is a wholesale manufacturer of pewter products. They have an excellent discussion of lead and product safety on their website, beginning on this page:
http://www.tierracast.com/pages/news/productsafety.html

When a product is labeled "LEAD FREE", it means that it complies with current state, federal and/or international laws regarding how much lead is permissible to leach out from a product. The label does not mean that the product has no lead content. This applies to pewter. It applies to other metals. It applies to glass crystal.

SKULLS & SKELETONS

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STERLING SILVER

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Round seamless, Round Benchmade, Rondelles, Corrugated, Ovals, Other Plain Shapes and Fancy Designs, Narrow and Curved Tubes, Tubes with Loops, Liquid Silver, English, Greek and Hebrew Letter Beads (cubes, symbols, words), Stone-Set Beads, Twister Beads, Double Beads, Birthstone Beads, Quads.

BEADS WITH ETHNIC DESIGNS

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Many designs from Bali Indonesia, India, Greece, and China.

These beads are made from brass, nickel and copper.   Sometimes they are plated.   Sometimes they are inlaid with stones.   Most have larger holes, and will slip 1mm leather.

LETTER BEADS 

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Cubes (4.5mm, 5.5mm) in English letters, numbers, symbols, Greek letters, Hebrew Letters.


Also, gold tone pewter oval letter beads.  SEE LINK FOR PEWTER METAL BEADS.

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METAL SEED BEADS
Sizes 15/0, 11/0, 8/0 and 6/0
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CRIMP BEADS AND TUBES, COVERS, WIRE PROTECTORS

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Use Crimp Beads or Tubes to finish off Tigertail or Soft-Flex wire projects.  Flatten the crimp bead with chain-nose pliers or crimping pliers .   We most often use the 2mm round crimp or 2mm tube crimp.  Available in silver-plate, gold-plate, nickel-plate, black, gunmetal, copper, brass oxidized (dull), sterling silver and gold-filled.


Use Crimp Bead Covers to hide the crushed crimp beads. Simply squeeze the cover over the crimp, using a crimping or other pliers. These come in differnt sizes, different metals and finishes, and different textures.

Use Horse Shoes (wire protectors) to hide and protect the cable wire that loops into and around the clasp at the point you crush the cable wire. This also forces you to leave the correct size loop between the crushed crimp and the clasp or ring. Will work with cable wire that is .019" or thinner.

[Read about: 
Using the Crimper Pliers .]

 

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Raw and Plated Metal Beads

Raw metal beads get their color, their shine and their texture from the metal material itself.  Often, it takes a soft cotton cloth to polish up the metal and thus achieve its ultimate finish and look.   When using plated beads, it is important to know what the metal is that is underneath the plating.      Plating adheres well to brass, copper and pewter.    It adheres OK to nickel.   It does not adhere well to base metal, steel or aluminum.

Plating has two separate chemicals, one which gives the plating its color, and the other which gives the chemical its brightness.   The "brightness" chemical wears off much more quickly than the "color" itself.     A gold-plated brass bead will first lose its brightness, then the color will slowly fade.    Because brass is golden, when the plating wears off, the bead will still look golden.    A gold-plated aluminum bead will first lose its brightness, then the color will fade, but long before the color fades, the plating will probably have chipped off.   Since aluminum is silver, when the gold chips off or fades, the bead will look silver.

 

ARGENTIUM SILVER:   is 92.5% silver.   Alloy is different than for sterling silver.

BRASS:   Brass beads are an inexpensive substitute for gold.    Brass can be raw or plated.  Brass itself will vary in color from a dark copperish gold to a bright yellow gold, depending on its chemical makeup.  [Brass can even be white, but our beads labeled "raw brass" are not.]  Brass, like sterling silver, tarnishes  -- especially in great humidity or great air pollution.  Just use a soft cotton cloth to polish it to its original shine.   Plating adheres very well to brass, and will slowly dull and then fade away.   How fast this occurs depends on the wearer's body chemistry, and the quality and humidity of the air.    It can wear off in a few months or a year.

In ethnic jewelry or victorian, antique-looking jewelry, you may want to use brightly plated beads, but hesitate because these beads are so shiny.  No problem.  To dull any plated finish, just spray the beads with windex or any other glass cleaner with ammonia.  The ammonia dissolves the chemical that causes the "brightness".

 

COPPER: Copper gives an ethnic or antique look to jewelry.  Copper will tarnish.  Use a soft cloth to polish it to its original shine.   If you let copper oxidize with age, it will eventually develop a greenish patina.    Plating adheres very well to copper.

NICKEL:  This is an inexpensive substitute for silver, but it has a duller shine to it.  It turns black over time, and will polish up with a soft cloth.    Sometimes this material is called Nickel-Silver.    Nickel-Silver typically has no silver in it at all.   It is usually an alloy of something like 65% copper, 18% nickel and 17% zinc.   Nickel-Silver goes by many names including Alpaca and Raj Silver.   This is less expensive than sterling silver, and tarnishes faster than sterling silver does.   It can, however, be polished to a bright silver shine with a soft cloth.    Plating adheres OK to nickel, but where the plating does not bond, the nickel will continue to tarnish under the plating, making the plating look blotchy on the surface.

PEWTER:  This dullish silver metal alloy is very popular today.  It gives a medieval or antique appearance to things.  It's weight gives a piece a certain "substance".  Lead free pewter can give the appearance of sterling silver from a distance, though the touch and weight of each pewter piece is quite different were it compared to a similar sterling silver piece.  Leaded pewter will get darker with age, and is difficult to buff up to its original shine and color.

Pewter is a soft material, and thus very malleable into many shapes and designs.  It is very popular among the college age crowd as a less expensive substitute for sterling silver.   Pewter may be used in its raw form, or plated.   Sometimes the plating is given a further oxidized treatment to darken and antique the coloration.

There are different qualities of pewter, usually dependent on how much lead is used in its formula.  The more lead, the lower the quality.  The more lead, the more the pewter darkens and tarnishes with age.  It takes a lot of polishing to get that tarnish off.  It was my long-held understanding that, in the US since the mid 1980s, only lead-free pewter beads were supposedly allowed on the market. The pewter products we carry are, in fact, lead free. But in light of consumer product safety reports 2005-2009, it seems a lot of pewter products, manufactured overseas, may contain some lead.

STERLING SILVER is 92.5% silver, and is often stamped .925.   FINE SILVER is 99.9% silver, and is stamped .999.

VERMEIL:  This is gold-plating over sterling silver.    The plating adheres OK to silver, but not perfectly.   Where it has not bonded to the silver, the silver will continue to tarnish under the plating, making the plating blotchy.   Vermeil darkens with age, as the silver underneath it tarnishes.

 

These base metal and brass beads have a plated finish, such as gold-plate, silver-plate, palladium-plate, silver-matte, and the like.  These finishes will wear off over time, either when repeatedly worn, or when exposed to high levels of air pollution often found in city environments.

Another type of metal finish is a chemical oxidation effect.  Here the metal is dipped in a chemical that will react with the metal's chemical composition, and create a color change.  Often, this means darkening or blackening the piece.  Othertimes, different colored patinas can be created, from a green-verite to a gold to a purple to a rainbow effect.  These effects often wear off when exposed to detergents, such as soapy water and dishwashing detergent.

Yet another metal finish is the application of a varnish or lacquer stain.  This technique is used most often to give a piece an antique look. It darkens the piece, and adds a aged-shine or patina.  This technique usually leaves a durable finish which doesn't wear off or fade over time, but could be chipped off.  If the technique is not applied correctly, the finish might peel off over time.

Of Special Interest:

Conversion Tables

To darken bright gold finishes

To antique silver or gold chain

"Gold Filled" vs. "Gold Plated"

About cleaning sterling silver

What glue should I use

Cleaning gemstone beads and cabochons

- How Many Beads On A Strand?

 

- Easy answers to the most asked questions about Karat Gold

- About Liquid Silver Jewelry

 

 

  

 

 

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- Silver
- Gold

- Copper
- Aluminum
- Nickel

 

 

 
Gold-Filled vs. Gold-Plated vs. Vermeil
Gold-plate is created using an electro-chemical processes, as is vermeil.  Gold-filled, or gold-overlay, is created by heat-and-pressure-bonding a thin layer of gold to a brass core.

Gold-plate places a thin molecule of gold, or most often, something that really isn't  karat-gold and which leaves a gold color, on copper or brass or some base metal.  A second chemical is used as a finishing to give the color a "brightness". The gold color and brightness wears off  pretty quickly when interacting with the wearer's skin salts or the pollutants in the air. On an average person in an average environment, the brightness finish fades in about 3-6 months, and the color fades in 6 months to a year. If the environment is very humid or very polluted, this can happy much more quickly. Some people have either ammonias or sulphides in their sweat. These chemicals dissolve one or both of the chemicals in the plating and/or finishing. 

Gold-filled places a layer of real gold over copper or brass or other metal.  It wears off very slowly.  For example, on a gold-filled ring, the gold-fill might wear off the inside of the ring shank after 3 years of constant wear, but remain on the outside of the ring for many, many years after that.

Vermeil: When real karat Gold-Plating is over sterling silver, the finish is called vermeil or vermeille.  Because the gold does not adhere fully to the silver, the silver continues to tarnish under the gold.   Any vermeil piece wil darken with age. Since vermeil is electro-plated, not fused like gold-filled, the plating will eventually wear off. This usually happens in a year or two. It takes longer to wear off than costume gold-plate because the plating on vermeil is considerably thicker than that on costume jewelry.  

When a jewelry designer or a company is manufacturing gold-filled jewelry, it is their choice as to how thick a layer of gold to place over the base metal material.  Thus, you can have two gold-filled pieces, and you may have the gold layer wear off more quickly on one piece than the other.  It is difficult, unfortunately, to be able to tell whether the purchase price of any piece reflects its true value.  

Sometimes, you will see a notation next to the Gold-Filled label indicating the relationship between the weight of karat-gold and the weight of the brass core material.  For example, if you see the notion "14/20 Gold-Filled," this means that the piece is 1/20th 14 karat gold.  The 1/20 notation refers to the ratio of the 14 karat gold layer to the brass layer by weight, which is 5%.   What is important here to the jewelry designer is less the content of gold, but rather more the color of the gold-filled piece.  14/20 gf will be more golden, darker, mellow.   12/20 gf will be brighter, brassier, yellower.

In any case, gold-filled is a much more durable product than gold-plate or vermeil.  Gold-filled jewelry is economical, and enjoys the rich look of gold at a fraction of the cost.