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. Metal findings and metal sheet and metal wire are all used to create jewelry. Therefore, it is helpful to understand metal terminology. Metals are generally organized into two 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. Another major difference between precious metals and base metals is that base metals will tarnish (or oxidize) a lot faster. Some costume jewelry are made with base metals thinly plated with precious metals. 

Keep in mind that some people are more sensitive to base metals and cannot wear anything made with it.  For example, Nickel is a base metal that many people are allergic to. Base metals provide an affordable choice and a economical way to practice jewelry design or new techniques. 

Base metals can be extremely helpful when it comes to designing jewelry. 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.

Do note, that base metals are quick to tarnish from exposure to air, which will likely impact the design and overall look of the jewelry you have created.