What Is Base Metal Jewelry?

Vintage Flair Crystal Teardrop Earrings
Vintage Flair Crystal Teardrop Earrings. Tammy Powley

Definition:

As a jewelry maker, you may often hear the term "base metal" being used. Metals are obviously important elements to making jewelry. We use metal findings and metal sheet and metal wire to create jewelry. Therefore, it is helpful to understand metal terminology. Basically, metals are generally organized into to different types: base metals and precious metals.

Base metals are considered the opposite of precious metals (gold, platinum, palladium, and silver).

They are much more economical to use than precious metals because the elements that make up these metals are more commonly found. Some examples of base metals include copper, zinc, nickel, and aluminum. Other than the price, another big difference between precious metals and base metals is that base metals will tarnish (or oxidize) a lot faster.

While it is fine to use any metal of your choice to make jewelry, especially when you are practicing or trying to make affordable jewelry, it is helpful to keep in mind that some people are more sensitive to base metals and cannot wear anything made with it. Nickel, for example, is a base metal that many people are allergic to.

If you are a purist and prefer to use precious metals in your jewelry designs, at the very least, base metals are helpful when it comes to designing. You can use them to make prototypes of your jewelry designs that you will later recreate with precious metal.

Base metals also work well as practice material when you are learning a new technique.