The Benefits of Stainless Steel for Jewelry Design

The Benefits of Stainless Steel for Jewelry Design

by Sam Niemeyer, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Stainless Steel Jewelry

Stainless steel is best known as the material used to make surgical instruments, building and bridge supports, hot water heaters, microwave oven liners and other objects where strength and safety are a must. Yet, this industrial material can also complement a delicate jewelry design.

As well as being strong and resilient, stainless steel has an attractive muted grey color that is finished in shiny or matte. According to WGSN (Worth Global Style Network), this modest silver/grey metal is gaining popularity through "industrial beauty" and "post-nature" designs. In jewelry, stainless steel is appearing in trending paracord survival bracelets, jewelry with rivets and buckles and as a popular color in urban-themed fashions.

Physical Properties of Stainless Steel:


Stainless steel contains at least 10% chromium and, depending on the grade of the stainless steel, it may include smaller percentages of nickel, molybdenum, titanium, niobium and other metals. The percentage of chromium is significant because chromium combines with oxygen to form a thin, invisible layer of chrome-containing oxide. This protective layer is what makes stainless steel "stainless." Unlike the title, stainless steel is not actually stainless, just extremely resistant to corrosion.

There are two different grades of stainless steel that Fire Mountain Gems and Beads offers: Type 304, the most common type, is also known as chromium nickel, and type 316L, which contains 2-3% molybdenum for even more corrosion resistance. All of this may seem overly technical, but don't worry, what it all means is that by using stainless steel findings, you are providing non corrosive long wear and industrial-grade strength to your designs.

Benefits of Stainless Steel for Jewelry-Making:


Stainless steel findings and wire have excellent integrity but are still bendable. It may take a little more "oomph" to bend it into the desired shape than other metals, but the advantage is that the finished stainless steel jewelry design will retain its shape more dutifully.

With its resistance to rust, oxidation and discoloration, this corrosion-resistant alloy is ideal for long-lasting jewelry designs. It's also unplated and will not fade or chip over time. This metal is the best suggestion for those living in high-humidity locations, as the metal will keep from rusting much longer than other metals.

Jewelry made with these findings will endure heavy wear longer than those made with carbon steel and softer base metals. Jumprings and loops made in headpins and wire are less likely to come open under the weight of pendants or multi-layer designs. Choose this metal for lanyards, key chains, men's jewelry or other pieces that will receive a lot of use.

Because many stainless steel jewelry-making supplies are unplated, they are an excellent alternative for wearers with allergies and sensitivity to base metals such as copper or brass. For designs where the findings will be in close contact with the wearer's skin (especially in the summer-time when heat often exaggerates the reaction to skin) unplated stainless steel is one of the best options available. Stainless steel may contain some nickel, but it's generally considered hypoallergenic for most people. This is the reason that type 316L stainless steel is often used as starter earrings for newly pierced ears.

Pair stainless steel findings and materials with designs that need some extra fortification, or simply use it to add a modern metallic resonance to any design for long-lasting stainless steel jewelry.

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