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Monday, July 1, 2013

ABC's of Creativity - M is Metals

For most beaders metal appears in your design as the closure or finding. 

But metal beads, spacers, connectors can also be a design elements.

To help you work them into your design here is some helpful information.

Gold's purity is noted by its karat weigth. 24kt is 99.9% pure down to 10kt which is 41.7% pure. Its alloys are copper and zinc. In addition to karat weight gold you will also find the following: vermeil which is gold-plated sterling silver, gold-filled which is a base metal (copper or brass) mechanically bonded to sheets of gold, and gold-plated which is a base metal (steel or brass) electroplated with gold.

Silver like gold is alloyed with copper. This is noted as a percentage rather that karat weight. Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver. Silver-plated like gold-plated is a base metal electroplated with silver.

Lower costing metals include copper, brass (copper and zinc alloy), bronze (copper and tin alloy), pewter (tin alloyed with various other metals), nickel and surgical steel.

For more information check this article by Lisa Kan.

How to decide which to use can be a matter of budget, available and design.

For design you may be inspired by the shape and styling of the bead or finding. But have you ever created a design based on the color of the metal? This wonderful article from the Art Bead Scene Blog about The Color of Metal. From the oranges and brown of copper and bronze to neutral greys of silver and pewter.

It got me think about pieces I have made with metal as strong design element.

I received some wonderful copper findings as part of a bead soup. To the warm brown copper closure I added  more copper, blues and purples.
Bead Soup 7 Bracelet, beaded by J. Woolverton

For this piece it is the contrast of the bright copper against the green lampwork beads that works well.
Dragon's egg necklace, beaded by J. Woolverton

These beaded beads have gold colored seed beads triangle beads. The yellow of the gold gives a lovely spark to the palette of green beads in the base.
Bellisimo beads, beaded by J. Woolverton

For this necklace the copper veining in the turquoise lead to the addition of copper spaces, copper colored Swarovski pearl and crysal copper Swarovski cyrstals. It is a classic combination.
Turquoise Copper necklace, beaded by J. Woolverton

I have only scratch the surface of metals in beadwork. I hope that you will be inspired to look at your metal components as more that just a finding.

Happy Beading!


  1. I love your work! Beautiful examples of combining colour, especially with copper.
    There's also silver filled metal. The best I've found is 1/10th silver (925/10), but I've also seen 1/20th, and even 1/40th. The centre core is brass (copper & zinc) and the outer tube is the silver. You can even hammer the 925/10 silver filled.

    1. Thanks for the additional information Marilyn!