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View Full Version : Opinions on using brass for jewelry?!


thatgirl
10-21-2004, 10:10 PM
Hi folks,

I usually use sterling silver wire & findings to make my lampwork charm bracelets but I'm looking at trying something new, and was wondering if anyone here had any experience working with brass wire & findings. As I've never used brass in my jewelry before (other than the occasional silver-plated brass charm, etc), all opinions, both good & bad, are appreciated. Is brass likely to cause more of an allergic reaction than say, copper or sterling silver? Is it as durable? What's your opinion on 'mixing' metals (i.e. brass with silver, gold, copper etc)? And what about brass findings or other metals that would look good with brass, e.g. head / eye pins, clasps, jump rings etc -any good online suppliers (preferably ones that would ship to Australia would be great). As I say, any opinions at all are much appreciated. Thanks in advance! :D

Cheers,
Sue :cat:

Jamn!
10-22-2004, 12:21 AM
Hi folks,

I usually use sterling silver wire & findings to make my lampwork charm bracelets but I'm looking at trying something new, and was wondering if anyone here had any experience working with brass wire & findings. As I've never used brass in my jewelry before (other than the occasional silver-plated brass charm, etc), all opinions, both good & bad, are appreciated. Is brass likely to cause more of an allergic reaction than say, copper or sterling silver? Is it as durable? What's your opinion on 'mixing' metals (i.e. brass with silver, gold, copper etc)? And what about brass findings or other metals that would look good with brass, e.g. head / eye pins, clasps, jump rings etc -any good online suppliers (preferably ones that would ship to Australia would be great). As I say, any opinions at all are much appreciated. Thanks in advance! :D

Cheers,
Sue :cat:
I don't know. Do you have pictures. :)

thatgirl
10-22-2004, 03:00 AM
Hi Heidi!

I meant has anyone here ever used brass to create jewelry with and what their opinions about it were! I haven't made any with brass yet (so no pictures!!), that's why I was looking for other people's opinions on it!! Thanks anyway! :)

Cheers,
Sue :cat:

Retta Gates
10-22-2004, 03:09 AM
I have never tried it but I like the color of it. I'll bet you could make some great combinations of color using it with you beads. I dont know about allergies, I usually use sterling since the most people seem to be able to wear it but recently I have heard that the .275 that isn't silver is nickle which doesn't both people with minor allergies but some people with nickle allergies can't wear it. SO now I have some "hypo allergenic" clasps I can switch out if need be. Ah I just learned something new... :) I was searching and it appears that most of it is made up of Copper mixed with Zinc... I like copper alot if it gets wet there is a little greening ( not like with "cheap rings" this washes off easily and doesn't always happen ) but I have a bracelet I wear quite alot and a copper necklace that I wear without worries. Dunno much about Zinc though ;) But if it's the same stuff that's in cold remidies I can't imagine it hurting anyone...

glass_beads
10-22-2004, 05:49 AM
Most of the costume jewelry you'll find in stores like Nieman Marcus is brass -- oxidized brass. Take a line like Sorrelli...it's all brass. It doesn't tarnish like silver and it isn't costly like gold so it is an obvious option for companies that sell a lot of jewelry. Lisa Oswald, the owner of Sorrelli started out like us, an artist making jewelry while she was a stay at home mom. And now her jewelry is sold in fine dept stores all over the world. Of course, now she has a staff of jewelry makers to make the product but now I'm going off on a tangent. My original point is that in the mainstream marketplace, brass is more widely used in the jewelry you'll find in the dept stores than silver or gold is.

NYCindy
10-22-2004, 06:15 AM
I don't like to use brass in my jewelry. It turns brown after awhile - I don't know if it's the quality of the brass that is sold but it just doesn't retain that gold color. If I want a yellow metal, then I go for the gold fill and sometimes that doesn't keep it's color either. I find if people ask for gold, they aren't usually willing to pay the extra for it. So I don't really carry it. If I want to introduce a different color, I use the nobium or artistic wire - coated in different colors. They don't turn brown/black color.

Cindy

glass_beads
10-22-2004, 06:38 AM
Cindy makes a good point. Definately don't use yellow brass -- it's the brown you're looking for so either it needs to be oxidized, or like Cindy says, the yellow will turn brown over time, but you wouldn't want to wait for it to turn, you'd want to prepare it that way so it keeps it's lovely patina.

That hadn't occured to me. Anytime you see jewelry made with brass, it is normally oxidized/brown and never yellow. Great point, thank you Cindy

nilaya
10-22-2004, 07:03 AM
Hey Sue :)
Not sure about brass...not ever used it. I know Connie Fox uses copper from time to time in her work and it looks gorgeous. I remeber seeing one of her bangles with a large copper focal bead and loved it. From what ive seen copper oxidises to lovely warm shades unlike brass. I think she also has some copper (and perhaps even brass) beads for sale on her site.
www.conniefox.com

Lorretta :)

TwistNglass
10-22-2004, 07:50 AM
I was also going to suggest copper. I got some of those beads from Connie Fox and love them with silver. I am getting more compliments on a bracelet I just made. Copper and Raku rock! She also has the copper wire which I made the jump rings from. I thought it would be soft but it isn't.

Rose

Vaverska
10-22-2004, 07:55 AM
Brass will patina over time, as will copper. I've used both in TONS of jewelry though, as I like the shades of brown that are created. I make alot of jewelry in Earth tones, so it goes with the colors well. I like the look of mixing brass and copper in jewelry pieces, and have used various treatments to bring out the patinas. The Greens one can get in Copper are lovely IMO, but a real pain to create evenly, and an even bigger pain to seal well enough to keep. But, it can be done. You can find treated brass and copper, which keeps its bright color for some time though.
I've sold a fair amount of jewelry using both ( I actually made jewelry semi-professionally for years). As most people with metal sensitivities know what they can/can't wear pretty well, I've never had much problem with disappointments. Sealing the metals a bit with sealers/ polishes ( depending on the application) seems to help alot. As brass and copper are both fairly cheap, I'd advise getting some and playing around! Working with inexpensive components can be quite freeing to your creativity. I still use them to make "mock ups" of pieces that will be expensive to create, befrore I touch my higher end materials.

bolimasa
10-22-2004, 10:59 AM
Can you but brass "pre" oxidized? Or is there away to oxidize it yourself. Along the same lines, how do people feel about the colored artistic wire?

StefaniBeads
10-22-2004, 11:30 AM
Can you but brass "pre" oxidized? Or is there away to oxidize it yourself. Along the same lines, how do people feel about the colored artistic wire?

I've wondered about the colored niobium wire and findings too. While it's wonderful that it is supposed to be hypoallergenic, does anyone know how the pretty finishes hold up? Does it discolor or wear off in time?

Steph'sBeadCorner
10-22-2004, 11:49 AM
Can you but brass "pre" oxidized? Or is there away to oxidize it yourself. Along the same lines, how do people feel about the colored artistic wire?

http://www.ehow.com/how_13285_oxidize-brass.html

Just popped in, you might find this helpful!! there are other interesting articles so I'll post the website as well. Gina DeStevens uses a lot of brass accents - BEAUTIFUL!! I like brass, although it does tarnish..so does silver afterwhile. It does not flake or wear off.

1. Remove any protective varnish from the surface of the brass with acetone or varnish remover or, if the item is small, by boiling it for a few minutes in water.

2. Brush vinegar over the entire surface of the item. Brass will oxidize in a very short time using this method.

3. Alternatively, paint the surface of the brass with saltwater. This method will take a little more time than the vinegar, but the finished effect will be one of antiquity.


Steph

bjcohan
10-22-2004, 12:21 PM
I have a lot of brass beads and very rarely use them. I use them ONLY where I want a rich brown patina finish in a piece.

If you are thinking of using it in place of gold plate or gold fill for a bright golden finish, forget it. You will be disappointed. Of course it can be polished to maintain its bright finish, but that is a royal PITA and probably not worth the trouble.

I never use gold plate in my jewelry because it does wear off and looks like crap after a very short period of time. I have had no problem with gold fill going dull, even after years of wear. I agree that most customers are not willing to pay for 14K or even 10K gold, so I only use it in custom orders. (And, if you do use 14K or 10K gold round beads, don't buy the cheap thin-walled ones to save money because they can dent if they get dinged and look awful. You will need to buy the more expensive thicker-walled beads, so charge accordingly!)

When I want a bright gold color, I always use a good quality gold-filled bead. I learned, too, that I have to buy these from a reputable supplier. A few times that I bought gold-filled beads on eBay, they turned out to be plated and I didn't know it until I had used the beads in complex pieces. I have contacted as many buyers as I could, offering to restring their pieces with GF beads, but I haven't been able to contact everyone and I'm still just mortified over it. I have a pile of my own necklaces made with those beads that I can't wear until I remake them completely, because the plating has worn off. I feel sick every time I look at them, because they are very complex pieces that I dread restringing, and they look gross.

A word to the wise...

Barb:cat:

lissadivamama
10-22-2004, 08:18 PM
sneaking in out of the shadows for a bit...I've been using loads of bronze - first with my rosaries - lovely handcast pieces, and then with my jewelry - doesn't turn like brass - just gets more and more lovely! and quite inexpensive, too! :)

thatgirl
10-22-2004, 08:18 PM
Thanks so much everyone for your helpful comments & suggestions - you've given me a lot of food for thought. I was also considering copper as I love the color and with the wire being relatively cheap to purchase I might buy some and have a play with it. I also love some of the the copper findings I've seen on Rings & Things and eBay, such as the toggle clasps.

I wasn't really looking for a substitute for gold - I do have a small stash of gold-filled wire but I've found that most of my customers prefer silver and to be honest, since I'm not much of a "gold wearer" myself, I've never bothered making much with it as it doesn't really appeal to me.

Another thought was bronze, but I haven't been able as yet to find a supplier here in Australia of bronze wire (if it indeed exists in wire form?).. mind you, I haven't seriously started looking as yet, but my regular supplier doesn't seem to stock it. I have seen a high end range of jewelry that's sold out here on a home shopping channel, which they call "Extasia" which is made with red bronze and cameos & intalgios.

Anyway.. I might grab myself some copper & brass wire and have a play. Thanks again for all your help!

Cheers,
Sue :cat:

lauren1024kb
10-22-2004, 09:27 PM
Phosphor bronze will not tarnish as easily, but I have heard it can be hard to work with. I haven't bought any yet as it is a PITA to find (welding suppliers have it, but haven't been able to find one in my area). Might be great for bangles though.

lissadivamama
10-22-2004, 10:46 PM
Hagstoz has bronze wire in several gauges...it is pretty soft so you have to be used to working with soft wire, but I think it works up nicely and is well worth it.

lauren1024kb
10-22-2004, 10:52 PM
Thanks for the suggestion. I like working with thinner, harder wire so I think I will like it when I can actually get my hands on some. Doesn't hurt that I don't like to polish anything. I like to make something and not have to worry about maintaining it (polishing or bending back into shape). I am funny that way.

gmdcrafts
10-23-2004, 01:41 AM
http://www.ehow.com/how_13285_oxidize-brass.html

Just popped in, you might find this helpful!! there are other interesting articles so I'll post the website as well. Gina DeStevens uses a lot of brass accents - BEAUTIFUL!! I like brass, although it does tarnish..so does silver afterwhile. It does not flake or wear off.

1. Remove any protective varnish from the surface of the brass with acetone or varnish remover or, if the item is small, by boiling it for a few minutes in water.

2. Brush vinegar over the entire surface of the item. Brass will oxidize in a very short time using this method.

3. Alternatively, paint the surface of the brass with saltwater. This method will take a little more time than the vinegar, but the finished effect will be one of antiquity.


Steph

Thanks Steph! And thanks for the oxidizing info! Here's one of my bracelets that uses silver and brass together. The brass just seems to warm the tone of the piece a bit, without being a real yellowy sort of gold..... it will also oxidize some along with the silver, which makes them a good match. Mixing silver and gold doesn't "age" the same, so that's why I choose brass to mix a warm tone metal with silver.

Aleta
10-23-2004, 01:54 AM
I have seen a bracelet that was made with brass swivels purchased from a tackle shop. The woman has worn it for many years and there is no tarnish.

Steph'sBeadCorner
10-23-2004, 03:42 AM
Thanks Steph! And thanks for the oxidizing info! Here's one of my bracelets that uses silver and brass together. The brass just seems to warm the tone of the piece a bit, without being a real yellowy sort of gold..... it will also oxidize some along with the silver, which makes them a good match. Mixing silver and gold doesn't "age" the same, so that's why I choose brass to mix a warm tone metal with silver.

Thank you!! I'm so glad you provided some feedback. Gorgeous bracelet..I love looking at your designs and the florals are my favorite..they are just WONDERFUL!! I just bought a bunch of different brass pieces..so, I can put them to good use

Steph

NYCindy
10-23-2004, 07:25 AM
The coatings on the colored wires are pretty fussy - you can scratch them off with tools if you're not careful. I have pliers that are wrapped with tape and others dipped in a compound to prevent the scratching. Niobium is stiffer than the artistic colored wire. You can also buy colored aluminum wire - you have to be careful and wrap your pliers - once you've done that, they're not a problem. I have found the coatings to hold up well - no discoloration over time.

I've wondered about the colored niobium wire and findings too. While it's wonderful that it is supposed to be hypoallergenic, does anyone know how the pretty finishes hold up? Does it discolor or wear off in time?

bjcohan
10-23-2004, 08:12 AM
Hagstoz has bronze wire in several gauges...it is pretty soft so you have to be used to working with soft wire, but I think it works up nicely and is well worth it.

Ooooh, Melissa, thanks for the tip! Hagstoz is about a block away from my office! I'm going to have to walk over next week and see what they have!

Thanks!

Barb:cat:

lauren1024kb
10-25-2004, 12:00 AM
My bad, it is silicon bronze I was talking about and not phosphor, although I have heard that they are similar.

cghipp
10-25-2004, 08:21 AM
For inspiration on mixing metals, including brass, in your work, check out Thomas Mann's web site:

http://www.thomasmann.com

He does it with abandon, and the results are wonderful.

Courtney Hipp