Those of you that know me well, know that I'm not a writer; I love working with my hands and my heart and love connecting in person with people, but computers... not my jam. That being said, I have lots of ideas and thoughts about what I do and why I do it. Some of these thoughts may help you along the way in deciding on jewellery, so I'm sharing.
One of the first questions that pops up when choosing a piece of jewellery is
"How do you choose the materials you use, and why?"
In my world that's metal and potentially stone/s. I'm going to start with my metal options.
Jewellery has been a form of special or sacred personal adornment for a ridiculously long time. Pieces are still kicking around from thousands of years back... because gold is magic like that! It's malleable enough to be formed or cast into art, but strong enough to be worn daily (often for multiple generations) and still looks great. We alloy gold (meaning mix it with other metals) to make it take on different characteristics depending on the design and how it will be worn. 24k gold is pure gold and is often too malleable for daily wear in jewellery, although "work hardening" (breaking up the molecule structure like when it's hammered) helps. *please don't try to hammer your own jewellery in an attempt to harden it though!
Some Alloys I Use
22k Yellow Gold
The closest to pure gold that I tend to use. Bright golden yellow and rich in colour. This is a dense and strong metal, but also very malleable. Can be used for ring bands, but not a good choice for super delicate designs like claw settings.
19k White Gold
This does have nickel, so if you have nickel sensitivities it's not for you. It's a dense, strong metal that is great for rings of all kinds even the delicate claw setting styles! It's a beautiful bright white colour that takes finishes well and doesn't require rhodium plating. Great choice... unless you are unsure of possible reactions to nickel.
18k Yellow Gold
Bright golden yellow. Dense, strong and lovely metal. Great for lots of uses unless you are thinking of a delicate claw setting for a stone... too malleable for that!
18k Rose Gold
Similar qualities to 18k yellow. the copper content brings in a rich redish tone.
14k Yellow Gold
I find this to be lot's of client's go-to metal these days. It's a nice, soft yellow colour. Strong and dense enough to hold up to daily wear and is a good choice for stone settings. It's price is notably less than 18k, which is always a bonus.
Great choice for most designs. It's a beautiful rose colour and like 14k yellow a nice price point.
14k Palladium White Gold
Tends to be my first choice for white metal depending on the design. It's a bit more grey, than white which lends itself beautifully to earthy designs and is denser than regular 14k white. It's a bit more malleable, so isn't always the right choice for all designs (like flimsy stone settings)... but works wonderfully for most of my designs so far. Its price point is comparable with 18k yellow or 19k white.
14k White Gold
Lots of nickel, so if you don't currently have a sensitivity to nickel you might develop one..Hopefully not, but worth considering for sure! It's a bit off white, and yellows more with age. It is strong enough to be worn daily and can be rhodium plated to look more white. The plating can also help create a barrier between your skin and the nickel, but needs to be redone every so often (6 months to 2years depending on how you wear it). This is a common metal in mall style jewellery stores, so I often use it when making a custom band to stack with a engagement ring you already have or when we are designing for a tighter budget.
A lovely metal for a lovelier price point. I tend to use sterling silver which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper which is a bit stronger than unalloyed silver. Silver is not nearly as strong or dense as gold, so that is something to consider if you are hoping your design will last a lifetime with daily wear... especially a ring. That being said, as long as you aren't looking for a very delicate design and you are open to changes or natural smoothing of textures in the finish a silver ring can last well if taken care of. Oxidation can happen in the surface, which can add appeal to the design or can be quickly polished off. It isn't a great choice for delicate designs or rings with claw settings holding precious stones. It is supposed to be a hypo allergenic metal. Keep in mind that although my silver (and most at least within Canada) will not be nickel alloyed, some people do alloy silver with nickel... worth checking if you are sensitive to nickel.
Why I choose not to work in 10k? It's 10 parts gold and 14 parts other stuff... it's more porous and wears down over time. If I'm going to individually hand make something, I want to make it with intentions of lasting generations. 10k is a great price point though and is well suited for production.
Can I work in non-precious industrial metals?
I get asked this a fair amount, but nope! They require different processes than what I do. I'm not interested in industrial production style work. There are lots of people who are, and are great at it. I like hand making individual pieces with intention and will keep doing it as long as I can.
Some other notes on metal
Precious metal is strong. You can wear it every day and you can trust it to hold onto some pricey stones that you wouldn't want to lose, BUT... it is still precious, and malleable and needs to be cared for. Like, best not to smash it, if you can help it. If your special piece of jewellery does endure a big blow or two it is a good idea to bring it in and have your stone settings checked. Also, gold is self burnishing, so when it comes into constant friction with other objects it can smooth out and change texture. I try to make my designs with material choices in mind... so although in 30 years a ring might look a bit different, it will evolve into a design that still looks and feels good.
If you have any questions about my opinions on metals feel free to let me know. This is just what I've learned so far, but I've only been at it for 10 years and have lots more to learn. With each new design, I'm learning more about the properties of the materials I use and I hope to have many more years in metal adventures ahead .