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Bead Knowledge Center - Metal and Wire

Table of Contents:

Definitions and Properties

How To Clean -

Definitions and Properties

  • Dead Soft:

  • "Dead-Soft" wire or metal is very pliable and can be easily bent into any number of shapes. It will not hold its shape in instances where it would be subject to tension, such as on a clasp. The more you work with dead-soft metal, the harder it becomes. Bonita Bead sells multiple types of Dead Soft wire.

  • Fine Silver vs. Sterling Silver:

  • Fine silver is .999 pure silver, the finest you can buy. This is soft, thus it is not usually used for jewelry making, but becuase it is pure, is an excellent metal for enameling and necessary for granulation. To make the silver stronger for jewelry, copper is added - this is Sterling Silver: 92.5% fine silver, 7.5% copper. The mark for Sterling is either "Sterling" or "925". There is no standard mark for fine silver, but it could be marked as "999". Bonita Bead sells both Fine and Sterling Silver wire.

  • German Metal:

  • German Metal is cast tin, plated with either 22Kt gold, antigued copper, fine silver or oxidized fine silver, then matted and lacquered to keep the finish. This comes in beads, findings and spacers.

  • Gold Filled:

  • Gold-filled wire or metal is actually gold overlay. A layer of karat gold is heat and pressure bonded to a brass core. The layer of karat gold makes the metal tarnish-resistant, and it should be cared for just like the expensive version. Gold-filled metal should be buffed with a soft, clean cloth (such as flannel) and should be stored in a dry place. Placing tissue paper around your gold-filled metal will minimize exposure to humidity and prevent scratching while it is being stored. Bonita Bead sells multiple types of Gold Filled beads and findings.

  • Half Hard:

  • "Half-Hard" wire or metal is pliable, but unlike "Dead-Soft", it will maintain an intricate shape under tension.

  • Plated Metal:

  • Gold or silver plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold or silver onto the surface of another metal by chemical or electrochemical means. Gold plating of silver (Vermeil - see below) is used in the manufacture of jewelry. When plating is done on copper or silver, the base metal atoms diffuse into the plated layer, causing slow gradual fading of its color and eventually causing tarnishing of the surface. Body chemistry also plays and important part in the deterioration of plated items.

  • Precious Metal Clay and Metal Clay

  • Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and Metal Clay are brand names for very similar products, but manufactured by different companies. In general, for the silver form, they are fine silver slivers embedded into a binder that works like clay, but once it is sintered (fired in a kiln), the binder burns out and what remains is the fine silver. These clays come in other metals, too. Although more expensive per ounce than fine silver, one need not know a lot of metalsmithing techniques to make beautiful jewelry with metal clay. Bonita Bead sells and gives classes in PMC and related tools.

  • Vermeil:

  • Vermeil is gold plated sterling silver or fine silver. It has a richer look than when plating is done on a base metal. Bonita Bead sells Vermeil beads and findings.

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Cleaning Metal Jewelry

Frequent cleaning is recommended to maintain true beauty. Salt water, chlorine in swimming pools, soap and perspiration take their toll on metal jewelry. The best maintenance is to remove your jewelry when swimming in salt water or swimming pools, also remove your jewelry prior to bathing. To keep your metal jewelry clean and free of these elements which oxidze it, wipe carefully with a soft cloth.

The best way to clean in places that a polishing cloth will not reach is very simple and you probably already have what you need in your kitchen....

  • Take a small bowl that will hold about a half quart of water and line it with aluminum foil.
  • To a half quart of hot water, add one of the following recipes. The ingredients in either recipe causes a reaction with the aluminum foil and the tarnish will leave the sterling silver and attach itself to the aluminum. Be sure to stir either recipe to dissolved ingredients completely.
    • 1 Tablespoon of Tide or Arm And Hammer washing powder (not liquid or bleach) and stir OR
    • 1/2 Tablespoon of Salt and 1/2 Tablespoon of Baking Soda and stir. NOTE: 1/2 Tbsp = 1 1/2 tsp
  • Place your metal jewelry in the solution for about 1 minute and rinse with clean water and air dry.

If you have a build-up of dirt in hard to reach places, just...

  • Put a little dish washing liquid in a bowl of water and soak overnight. This will usually loosen the dirt enough that it will release itself from the jewelry, if this does not work, use a soft tooth brush to loosen the dirt and soak it again. If you still cannot remove the dirt, take your piece to a commercial jeweler and have them use an ultra-sonic cleaner.

To keep your metal jewelry from tarnishing when not being worn, store it wrapped in a soft cloth and placed in a zip lock plastic bag. What causes sterling silver and gold filled wire to tarnish is air, and when it is not in use, the more you can keep it sealed the less it will tarnish. This works for any jewelry and works especially well for sterling silver.

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