Wire and Sheet Metal

Overview

This page is incomplete.  I’ll be adding more content as time (and body) allows!

Fusing-metal-safety-precautions

Note:  If you know of any additional US or International Metal Suppliers please, let me know!

Related Videos

Related Webpages

***Please see my new spreadsheet on Annealing Temperatures of Common Jewelry Metals.  There’s information on what color your metal should be, when annealed.  Should you quench or not?  What is the melting point of my metal and other related information.  Know your metal!  There’s information on metals from Aluminum through Tin.

 Wire and Sheet Metal

Sheet Metal and Wire are divided into two basic classifications:  Ferrous and Non-ferrous.  Ferrous is a metal or alloy that contains iron and is magnetic. Non-ferrous doesn’t contain iron and is NOT magnetic.  Simple really.  A (complete?) list of non-ferrous metals/alloys are:  Copper, Brass, Bronze, Aluminum, Silver, Gold, Zinc, Nickel, Lead, Mercury, Titanium, Magnesium, Beryllium, Bismuth, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt,Molybdenum, Palladium, Platinum, Rhodium, Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten, Uranium, and Vanadium.  PHEW!

So, what metals do jewelers generally use?  (another list, geez!)  Copper, Brass, Bronze, Aluminum, Silver, Gold, Tin, Platinum, Rhodium, Nickel, Zinc and Lead.  Jewelers also use Ferrous metals like steel, iron and stainless steel.
In the United States, the B&S (Brown and Sharpe)  gauge is used. The British use the British Standard Wire Gauge, which is also known as, Imperial Wire Gauge or British Standard Gauge. Currently, the standard for measurement is BS (British Standard) 6722.  Please see my B&S Gauge conversion chart:  B&S Gauge in MM’s and Decimals.  It lists sizes of gauge in millimeters and decimal inches.  There is also a recommended, corresponding drill bit size listed.

wire-gauge2

How to use the B&S Gauge:  Slide the metal or wire into the slots around the edge.  The first slot that the wire or sheet metal DOES NOT fit into, is the gauge.  There are measurements on both sides.

Hallmarking

See JVC’s: The Essential Guide to the U.S. Trade in Gold and Silver – Gold and Silver Jewelry.  Page 4 talks about the decision to stamp your jewelry or not.

Also, Ring & Things’: Sterling Silver: Defining Quality.

See Measuring Metal
Back to Table of Contents

The Individual Metals

Aluminum

can

Aluminum is an element and its atomic symbol is Al. Its atomic number is 13.  “…it is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust.” (Wikipedia).  Aluminum is a non-ferrous metal and is highly resistant to corrosion. It is considered a “reactive metal”

  • To anneal Aluminum, coat with bar soap. Heat, with a torch, until the soap starts to turn black – or burns. Black crud just brass brushes off.  No pickling.
  • After annealing, allow to air cool.
  • Melting point: 1220°F/660°C
  • This information from the Alzheimer’s Association: “…During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and anti perspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.”

Aluminum can be colored by, among other methods, alcohol inks (use a heat gun to set the colors and then seal with a sealer) and by a process called anodization. Here’s a YouTube video from Caswell on the process (using their kit).  Anodization is a rather toxic chemical process wherein the aluminum is anodized, in a process similar to rust, the anodized film grows from the aluminum and this film is then dyed. Sulfuric acid is used in this process (FYI – battery acid is composed of 30 – 50% sulfuric acid).

anodized-metalAnodized Aluminum – Image from HSU Studios.com

Personally, I like the malleability of aluminum. For cuff bracelets its great because it doesn’t seem to work harden like silver and springs back into shape.  It’s easy to roller print and shape.  Easy to saw too.  Aluminum bracelet blanks make great supports for polymer clay bracelets.

Places to buy aluminum blanks:  

 One method to attach polymer clay to metal blanks:  Polymer Clay Etc.  Blanks can also be used to just fire the clay on and then removed.

Brass

    • Brass differs from bronze in that the copper is alloyed with zinc while bronze is alloyed with tin.  The amounts of each metal affects the properties of the brass.
    • Lead (up to 2%) can be added to increase malleability.  Therefore, the jeweler should be aware of what type of brass that they are using.  Lead does not absorb through the skin but, there is a danger that someone, especially a child, will put it into their mouth.  See this article on Lead from Public Health for Seattle and King Counties, Washington State: Lead and its Human Effects.
    • Brass has excellent acoustical properties, which is why it is used for instruments.
    • Brass is more malleable than Bronze or Zinc but less malleable than silver or gold.
    • 90% of all brass alloys are recycled. *1 (see resources below for source)
    • Brass is considered a “base” metal.
    • Brass is fairly resistant to tarnish.  As a result, Liver of Sulfur doesn’t work very well on it.
    • Brass is a non-ferrous metal and is not magnetic.
    • This link to The Engineer’s Handbook, shows the variety of Brasses (and other copper based alloys) available.  This leads to a lot of confusion for the jeweler.
    • The higher the copper (CU) content in Brass, the greater the malleability (softness).
    • Brass with a high zinc content will also be less malleable. Brass with more than 30% zinc (ZN) is rarely used in jewelry making because it is very brittle and hard and has a tendency to collapse if it is overheated.
    • Commercial Brass is a good choice for the jeweler with a 90% copper to 10% zinc ratio.
    • Nu-Gold is another form of brass that has a deep gold color.  Nu-Gold is sometimes 88% copper and 12% zinc. But, Contenti sells a Nu-Gold that is the same as Rio’s (see below) “Jeweler’s Brass” – 85% CU/15%  ZN.
    • Both Commercial Brass and Nu-Gold are good for chasing and repousse´ work as well as  for other constructions.
    • Rio Grande sells a product called: Jeweler’s Brass that is 85% copper and 15% zinc.
    • Copper and brass are playing a leading role in the fight against hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile. It has been shown that these pathogens, which can be spread by touch, will die in a few hours on copper/brass surfaces. This does not happen on stainless steel or plastic.” *2 (see resources below for source).
    • Zinc fumes are toxic.  Don’t melt brass or bronze unless you have approved fume ventilation.

Bronze

  • Bronze was the first metal that humans alloyed.  In 4,000 BC, Bronze was alloyed with arsenic but, eventually, that recipe was abandoned.
  • Bronze is, at its most basic, an alloy of copper and tin.  But, the alloy of just these two metals, produces a brittle material.  In the past, lead was added.  The lead increased the brittleness and hardness but, led to an easier product for casting. Architectural bronze (57% copper, 3% lead, 40% zinc) contains lead as  Historical bronzes often do.  The exact alloys are usually unknown but, they were often alloyed with lead.  So, know what you’re working with – for safety’s sake!
  • The addition of tin to bronze increases the metal’s resistance to corrosion as well as its hardness.
  • Alloys of copper and tin that contain 78% or more copper are considered bronze.

Commercial Bronze

This bronze is composed of 10% zinc and 90% copper.  This type of bronze is more accurately classified as a brass alloy because of the addition of zinc.

Commercial bronze is usually used for architectural applications.

Modern Bronze

Modern Bronze is usually from 3% – 25% tin, the rest is copper and other metals.

Bronze alloys expand before they set and then shrink, making them great for casting – the mold gets filled completely and then, when it shrinks, it facilitates easy removal.

Phosphor Bronze

  • Composition:  3.5% – 10% tin, with up to 1% phosphorus, copper.
  • The reason for the addition of phosphorus is to reduce the amount of oxidation generated by the copper.
  • Uses:  Marine use, some dental applications (bridges), springs, bolts, musical instruments (think: cymbals), bells, wind instruments, etc.
  • The Bronze that Rio Grande sells contains phosphorus, copper and tin. See the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

Silicon Bronze

Composed of 96% copper. The remaining 4% can be alloyed with silicon, tin, magnesium, iron, lead or zinc. Silicon Bronze pours well and is therefore useful for casting. Used in the aerospace industry because of the lubrication supplied by the silicon.

For Further Research

 

More to come.

Copper

Gold

Please see my webpage:  About Solder for information and links regarding gold solder.

Gold and silver both have a 2 1/2 hardness rating on the Mohs scale.  So both, in their pure forms, scratch, dent and mar, at the same level.

A good, but expensive book on gold (over $200.00 US): Gold: Science and Applications, edited by Christopher Corti and Richard Holliday is available at CRC Press and Amazon.  You can read excerpts of the book at Google Books.

Mokume´Gane

Niobium

Shakudo

Shibuichi

Silver – Covering Argentium, Britannia, Fine, German, Nickel, Sterling and Thai and Other Types

Silver and gold, both, are a 2 1/2 on the Mohs scale – in their pure, non-alloyed forms.

Silver is considered a precious metal. It is an element whose chemical symbol is Ag and its atomic number is 47, for those for need to know. BTW, the AG is taken from the latin word for silver:  Argentum. Silver has some pretty impressive credentials:  it has the highest electrical and heat conductivity of any element. It appears, humans have been using silver since somewhere around 3000 B.C. – a little before I was born.
All types of silver tarnish, as do other metals. Some, more so than others. Argentium Silver tarnishes the slowest, then fine silver and, lastly, sterling silver. Tarnish is a discoloring of the metal caused by the interaction of a variety of agents.  I found this great explanation of tarnishing at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The article is from the V&A Conservation Journal, January 1996, Issue 18. Titled: Tarnishing of Silver, A Short Review by Masamitsu Inaba.**** (see resources below for source)
In a nutshell, or in 1/2 a grapefruit, if you wish (silly sayings), this is what it says:  Tarnishing starts when a thin film of water covers the piece (tarnishing does not occur in a dry environment). In the second stage, oxygen comes in and starts consuming electrons through some sort of electrical process (PLEASE, please, don’t ask me to explain this!   I don’t understand it at all!).  Hydrogen sulfide and organic sulfides speed up the formation of tarnish.  The tarnish itself is a chemical called silver sulfide.  Other agents involved in messing up our silver are nitrogen and chlorine (ever taken a hot tub with silver jewelry on?), sodium chloride (salt from our sweat) and UV radiation (light).
Ways to protect your silver jewelry from tarnish are varied but, usually involve storing them either in anti-tarnish bags or placing an anti-tarnish material in the bag or box, with the jewelry, like Anti-Tarnish strips.  The world is a dangerous place for your silver! The Victoria and Albert Museum uses these products to protect their silver – although, how effective they are on jewelry is not discussed:
“Depending on the degree of corrosion, silver objects at the V&A are cleaned using a combination of:

  • Goddard’s Hotel Silver Dip TM, Johnson Wax (a proprietary mix of mineral, acids, surfactant, sanitizers and organic complexing agent);
  • Goddard’s Long Term Foaming Silver Polish TM, Johnson Wax (an aqueous dispersion of surfactants, jeweller’s rouge, diatomaceous earth, tarnish inhibitor, perfume and approved preservative);
  • Goddard’s Long Term Silver Cloth TM, Johnson Wax (impregnated with water, alcohol, silica, inhibitor, surfactants, thickener, dye, perfume and metal soap).” ****

Lacquers can be applied to silver to stop tarnish from forming but, they have a tendency to wear with use and then need to be reapplied.  See my page on Finishing Jewelry for information of polishing cloths and other methods for polishing.
See this video by Ronda Coryell on the removal of tarnish from Argentium: Tarnish Removal for Argentium Silver on the Jewelrystudiesinternational.com site.
More information can be found in this article from Hoover and Strong’s site. Why Jewelry Sometimes Blackens the Skin, by D.E. Gardam and Dr. Alexander A. Fisher.

I just read that spraying a little windex on a piece of yellowed Argentium, then wiping it off will clean it up quickly. See Nancy Howland’s thread at Ganoksin for her Argentium tarnish observations.

Argentium Silver

Germanium

Argentium Silver is a new alloy created and patented by  Peter Johnson 1996. This article from Middlesex University London – Art and Design Research division tells the story of Argentium.  Believe it or not, it is an interesting tale!   Argentium is composed of 92.5% to 96%Fine Silver plus trace amounts of the metals, Germanium and Copper.  The addition of Germanium (.5 to 3%) altered the Sterling Silver mix of 92.5% Silver and 7.5% copper and created a new alloy that is VERY resistant to tarnish and is Firescale (or Firestain) free.  The Germanium in Argentium (say that 10 times fast!0 produces an oxide resistant layer when heated – protecting the silver from firescale.
Germanium (Symbol: GE, atomic number 32 – you needed to know this, right?) is obtained by smelting Zinc ores combined with the byproducts of burning particular coals. It was discovered in 1886 by Clemens Winkler, a German chemist.  Germanium has the same crystal structure as Diamond and is very brittle. Today, Germanium is utilized primarily by the semiconductor industry but, it is also employed in the production of night vision products, in fiber optics and many other industries.

Per Jewelry Studies International: use Windex to remove tarnish from Argentium.  Scroll to end of the post to find the entry. Post dated:  January 30, 2012.

If you want more information on Argentium, please, visit the sites below:

Updated 2/10/17

Annealing and Soldering with Argentium 

  • “Argentium silver glows a paler colour than traditional sterling silver at red-hot temperatures – it is recommended to carry out heating applications in a shaded area to facilitate temperature/colour recognition and prevent overheating. ” * (see resources below for source)
  • Traditional sterling has a solidus melting temperature of 1475°F (802°C) and a liquidus flow point of 1650°F (899°C).
  • The solidus melting point of Argentium® Silver is 1410°F (766°C); the liquidus flow point is 1610°F (877°C).
  • Please Note: Solidus is the temperature at which a metal starts to melt; Liquidus is the temperature at which it is fully melted.)” ** (see resources below for source)
  • Use lower temperature solders, such as: medium, easy and extra-easy or purchase Argentium solders. Since Argentium doesn’t conduct heat in the same way that silver or sterling do, the use of different solder types is less important.
  • Recommended pickling solutions: Sodium Bisulphate, Weak Sparex, Phosphoric Acid, Sulphuric Acid. * (see resources below for source)
  • As the Argentium will hold heat longer, it is important to wait until all redness leaves the metal before quenching.
  • From the Argentium help desk: “The germanium content in Argentium changes the visual color of the alloy when it is red hot… i.e.  Argentium silver glows a paler red color than traditional sterling silver when it is at annealing and soldering temperatures.”
  • Oxides from soldering or annealing copper, brass or sterling, etc., can stain the Argentium.  Dedicate soldering blocks/charcoal to Argentium only.
  • Argentium is very fragile when it is red hot.  Flat sheet metal will sag unless supported.

Other Notes on Argentium

  • Argentium © silver is manufactured using only recycled silver from the refining process. (from Rhonda Coryell’s video: How Argentium is Manufactured).
  • Argentium is great for fusing.
  • Please read this thread at Ganoksin by Nancy M. Howland on a tarnish comparison for Argentium silver. Very interesting.
  • In this thread at Ganoksin, Cynthia Eid writes of her method for fusing Argentium.

There are a few other types of tarnish resistant silver.  Sterilite, Sterlium and TruSilver are new to the metals market.  Please see the individual listings for these metals.

Britannia Silver

Britannia silver is 95.84% silver with the rest, generally of copper. This type of silver became THE standard for silver objects in England.  It was decreed, by an act of Parliament, in 1697 to replace sterling silver as the standard.  Sterling silver was re-approved in 1720, for metalsmithing.  The hallmark is 958 as set by the January 1, 1999, hallmarking changes in England. 

Cookson Gold has an online Technical Information Booklet (pdf).  Pg. 7, top right corner talks about the difference between sterling and britannia.  Because of of the higher silver content, britannia is easier to work and less prone to firescale/stain. These factors make it a good choice for enameling, spinning and other techniques.

Cookson also has a Britannia Silver Alloy Database that covers a lot of information about this metal.

I’m looking for US suppliers of this alloy.

Another source of information on Britannia Silver here at Britannica.com.

Continuum

Continuum is a silver alloy developed by Stuller.  It is oxidation and tarnish resistant and its working properties are between 14k gold and sterling silver.  That means that it is stronger than sterling.  It is used for casting, used with dies and production. It can be spot soldered, like gold and because it is stronger than sterling is great for areas that need extra strength like bracelet clasps. It fuses well.

For further research

Updated: 2/10/17

Fine Silver

Silver Ore from Ontario, Canada.  Image borrowed from: RockHorseMinerals.com.

  • Fine silver is the pure state of silver.  There are no other elements combined with it.  It is very malleable and soft compared to sterling silver. It is great for chasing and repousse´ because of it malleable nature.
  • Fine silver’s hallmark is 999.
  • The melting point of silver is 1763.474°F/961.93°C.  If you want to watch silver boil, you need to bring its temperature up to 4013.6°F/2212°C – but, why would you?  Think about it!
  • The next time that you are bored, take an ounce of silver and see how far you can stretch it out.  If you end up with a wire 8000′ long, then you’ve reached the limit of its ductility and are officially crazy (and need something to do).
  • Silver is harder than Gold.  What does hardness mean?  To explain it, I asked Wikipedia to help (and they came through!): “The hardness of a material is directly related to its incompressibility, elasticity and resistance to change in shape.”  Basically, that’s what the scratching demonstrates.  So, in this case, fine silver (2 1/2 on the Moh’s scale) can scratch 24k gold (also 2 1/2 on the Moh’s test BUT, not on the Vickers Hardness Test.)  but 24k gold doesn’t scratch fine silver.  Sort of a competition about who’s the toughest – which would be Senora Diamond with a Moh’s Scale of Mineral Hardness rating of  >10, BTW!
  • Silver is not considered toxic but its salts are.
  • Silver is anti-bacterial. Small amounts of silver cause the cell walls of bacteria to break down.  Not a replacement for antibiotics!!!!! Oh, you knew that. Sorry.
  • There are 20 billion ounces of silver, above ground compared to 9.2 billion ounces of gold.

German Silver/Nickel Silver

  • German silver or Nickel Silver is a copper alloy (generally) of  60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc.  There is no silver in it.
  • Nickel silver is used as a base for plated silverware, for zippers, keys and costume jewelry, etc.
  • When working with Nickel silver, anneal often as it tends to get hard fast.
  • Its working properties are similar to brass.
  • Many people have allergic skin reactions to Nickel.  Pieces should be clearly marked as containing nickel.
  • Also known as: Alpaca, Alpacca
  • Real German Silver’s (not the one also known as Nickel Silver) Millesimal fineness is 835.

Susan Lenart Kazmer of ObjectsandElements.com talks about using nickel silver in her blog: Using Nickel Silver…a Frugal Alternative to Sterling.

Sterilite

Made by Allura Metals Inc.  This is a tarnish resistant silver. The patent was applied for in February 2004. Sterilite is a silver-colored, tarnish-resistant, corrosion-resistant alloy. The alloy is composed of 92.5-95% silver, combined with a master alloy of 24-34% zinc; 60-74% copper; 0.5-1.8% silicon; 0.0-8.0% tin, or 0.0-1.5% indium.

For further research:

Updated: 2/10/17

Sterling Silver

  • Sterling silver is an alloy of silver and, generally,  copper.  The standard percentage of silver is 92.5% with copper comprising the remaining 7.5%. Its hallmark stamp is: 925. Other acceptable marks are: sterling, .925, ster, sterling silver.
  • Copper adds a great deal of strength to silver.  Making it considerably stronger than silver alone.
  • Sterling tarnishes more quickly than fine silver.
  • Solidus or melting point is 1434°F/779° C – note:  since sterling is an alloy, the interactions between the metals can alter the temperatures at which they melt or flow.  So, there is not one specific temperature. See this response, at MadSci Network,  Why Melting Temp of Sterling Silver is Given as Range & Not Exact? by Joseph Weeks for a better explanation.
  • Liquidus or flow point is 1655°F/902°C (has a range of temps., see link at Solidus).

Sterlium

Made by United Precious Metal Refining, Inc. Sterlium is a relatively new silver alloy. It is tarnish resistant and, like Argentium, contains germanium. It is fire scale free (according to Stuller’s Data Sheet). According to Jewelry Studies Intl., Argentium and Sterlium are more resistant to oxidation than Continuum. They also noted that Sterlium does not fuse well – unlike Argentium and Continuum. The metal is yellower than Argentium but whiter than Continuum. (See images at Jewelry Studies International.)

For Further Research

Updated 2/10/17

Thai Silver/Bali Silver

Stainless Steel

Removing Dross from Stainless Steel After Laser Cutting, a video by Glen Jones.

Steel

Titanium

Resources used in research

Metal Suppliers – Sheet Metal and Wire

  • Rio Grande – ­ Silver, Sterling, Argentium, Gold, Platinum, Copper, Brass, Gold Filled (New Mexico, USA)
  •  Metalliferous –  ­ Silver, Copper, Brass, Bronze, Nickel Silver, Niobium, Titanium, Stainless Steel, Rich Low Brass, Iron and Steel (New York, USA)
  • Reactive Metals Studio – ­ Niobium, Titanium, Mokume gane, Shakudo, bi­metals, reticulated metal. (Arizona, USA)
  • Otto Frei ­- Silver, Copper, Nickel, Nu­gold, Brass, Bronze, Gold (California, USA)
  • Contenti ­- Brass, Nu­gold, Nickel, Pewter only (Rhode Island, USA)
  • Santa Fe Jeweler’s Supply – Sterling, 14K Gold, Red Brass, Nickel, Copper, Tin Alloy, Yellow Brass (New Mexico, USA)
  • Stuller –  Gold, Platinum, Silver  (Louisiana, USA)
  • Hoover and Strong ­- all karat golds, Sterling Silver, Fine Silver, Argentium Sterling Silver, 900 Plat/Iridium and 950 Plat/Ruthenium (wholesale only) (Virginia, USA) 
  • FDJ Tools ­- 14k Gold, Brass, Copper, Nickel Silver, Sterling (Florida, USA)
  • C.C. Silver & Gold Inc. – Gold, Silver and Platinum (Arizona, USA)
  • David H. Fell & Company – Gold, Silver, Platinum, Palladium, Iridium, alloys (California, USA)
  • Halstead – Copper, Silver, Brass, Gold Filled – Wholesale (Arizona, USA)
  • United Precious Metals Refining – Alloys, Casting Grains, Tubing Sheet Metal, Refining, Solder, Bullion.

Recyclers – Sonoma County

  • Bataeff SalvageMetal recyclers and sellers of “distressed merchandise” in Santa Rosa, CA.  Located at: 244 Mountain View Ave., Santa Rosa, CA.   Kina across from Friedman Brothers on Santa Rosa Avenue.  Phone:  707- 584-8401.  Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8:30 – 5:30.  Closed Sunday.
  • Sonoma County Waste Management Agency.  Central dump location and Recycle Town:  500 Mecham Road, Petaluma, CA.  Phone:  (707) 795-3660.  Hours:  Monday – Saturday, 7 – 2:30.

European/Australian/Non-USA Metal Suppliers

UK

Australia

Canada

Other

2 thoughts on “Wire and Sheet Metal

  1. Nancy: Love your videos. Have started using 16 gauge steel wire for making my jewelry but am having trouble finding it in local stores. Is there any online sites that you can recommened

    Thanks Meg

  2. Hi Nancy,
    I’ve just started working with red brass, copper and aluminum. Presently, using a disc cutter and dapping set to dome my components (no torching yet…I just bought a Blazer, but still need solder, etc. and all of the safety stuff so I won’t burn down the house!).

    I’m having trouble with the brass and copper almost immediately tarnishing. I polish everything in my tumbler with stainless steel shot, then apply 2-3 coats of Renaissance Wax. This just doesn’t seem to be doing the trick to prohibit tarnishing. I’ve also tried dipping the metal in Finish Seal Lacquer (#335-123) that I purchased from Rio Grande (I didn’t like the results of this either, because if the lacquer doesn’t stick to the entire surface, tarnish will appear in those spots. My question: do you have any suggestions as to what to use to protect the metal? I’m curious to hear…Thanks!!