... I love jewelry made of colorful metals, and I really, really
like copper and brass. ... I also think working in these other
metals is a very sensible way to work out the kinks before
attempting the same thing with precious metals.
I quite agree, on both counts. It may not be “fine” jewellery but I
do a fair amount of mixed metals work and it’s a win-win situation
for me because I like doing it and my customers --the heavy silver,
alternative, “gimme sumthin’ I ain’t gonna see at the mall” crowd–
like it too. They have no problem with base metals as long as they
don’t get piggy marks on their clothes or skin from it.
I find the trick is to use precious metal wherever there is contact
with skin. Use your imagination and I know from experience that you
can make jewellery that is both “safe” to wear and incorporates the
other metals. I’m talking brass and copper here, steels and titanium,
all metals that can age nicely over time.
As to care and feeding of the base metals I can’t say I really go
there. Personally I think it’s a dead-end to try and keep the metals
from doing what the metals will do. So instead of trying stuff like
varnish or wax or whatever I design so that the ageing and
oxidization of the base metals is part of the piece. I let them know
that they can polish it up with a cloth if they like but also that
they don’t need to if they don’t want to. I have examples of work
that is one, two, three, four years old, stuff I wear myself, so they
can see what to expect. In the vast majority of cases they like the
ageing and do as I do, leave it to time and wear to do it’s work.
For some things, belt buckles in particular, I do work that is all
base metals, no precious metal at all. You can really go to town here
because the cost of materials is cheapo city compared to even silver.
Brass, copper, bronze, stainless steel, steel, titanium, washers,
rivets, horsenails, even beat up bits of the world you pick up off
the street. It’s all fair game and in my experience there is no need
whatsoever to hesitate telling people exactly what they’re getting as
long as it’s designed properly (ie. won’t ruin their clothes or stain
Tell somebody “it’s a sold brass buckle with stainless steel
fittings” and if they buy it I can almost guarantee they’ll be
telling their friends what it is. You’ll get a call from some total
stranger asking for “those cool buckles”. People love all kinds of
metals as long as it’s not a hassle for them to take care of. Give
them something cool and easy to care for and they’ll often just go for
No, you won’t be able to charge $1200 for something like this, but
don’t be surprised if you get $120 for a piece of brass you’ve beaten
to death with a hammer, peppered with copper rivets and turned into a
nice, gnarly looking buckle. I started by giving the stuff away. Now
I’m getting commissions to do them.
I guess what I’m saying is don’t let yourself think that the words
"base metal" means “bad metal”. There are no “bad” metals if they’re
used properly in the jewellery designs.
Trevor F. in The City of Light