Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass

Design Idea F50E Bracelet
by Dan Day, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

You've heard the expression: "what's old is new again." Brass jewelry is old; it has been in use for thousands of years, first as natural alloy and then deliberately produced as far back as the Roman Republic, hundreds of years BC. And now it's new: brass is the metal of the moment according to fashion mavens. Before telling you more about the moment, let's get reacquainted with brass.

What is Brass?

Brass is produced as an alloy of the base metals copper and zinc. Brass is used for its long wear and bright, gold-like appearance much like bronze (which, by the way, is an alloy of copper and tin and predates brass). Brass is also used for gold-filled items (brass covered with a gold alloy). A range of brasses with varying properties is created by varying the proportions of copper and zinc.

Pros and Cons of Brass

Pros:
  • Looks like gold, yet is less costly
  • Good resistance to corrosion
  • Great metal for plating--the look of precious metals without the cost
  • Very malleable--ideal for casting
  • Very strong
  • Abundant
Cons:
  • Can cause allergic reaction (nickel and aluminum)
  • Color can change depending on copper content
  • Brass by itself is not valuable for resale
How to Care for Brass

Brass is easy to care for on a routine basis, just wipe It with a damp cloth and pat dry. It cleans easily, simple cleaning with water and soap can remove ordinary dirt. For plated brass, consult the article ''How to Care for Plated Jewelry.''

Sassy Brassy

Necklaces, rings, earrings and accessories are just some of the fashion pieces made of brass being seen on the runways of top designers. The style is bold, brash, even sassy--just what you'd expect from something called ''brass.'' The designs are lively, bold and full of spirit.

Catch This Brass Ring

We'll start with a brass ring. It is simple yet striking with components that include a round sun brass focal, an antiqued brass Celtic cross and a brass washer.

Brass Beads and Components
Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass

Let Brass be Brass

Many brass items that are finished or plated with gold or silver. And those are great for many designs, but here we want to display brass is all its unadorned glory. To give you a chance to compare, here is a steampunk design idea that uses gold- and silver-plated brass as well.

Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass

Antiqued Brass Finished and Brass Plated Components

We can expand the number of components to be used in brass-focused designs by using those with antiqued brass finishes and brass plating over metals such as pewter (tin-based alloy), as seen in these earring designs.

Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass

Visual Impact

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads has hundreds of brass jewelry-making components, but many are on the small side such as a crimp end or bead cap. While they are small, in multiples they can add to the overall effect. To have visual impact, we need larger components. Here is an array of flat brass focals in a variety of shapes that are all used in the same design idea. Although the focals have been embellished, the brass effect is still very evident.

For those of you who are slightly less adventurous and don't wish to be quite so bold, here is a design that features antique brass-plated brass gears.

Yes, gears again, in a different presentation.

Upping the visual brass quotient just a bit is this jewelry set using antiqued brass-finished ''pewter'' (zinc-based alloy) watch body charms.

Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass

Bold Brass Statement

For an example of a more bold brass statement, here is a necklace and earring project featuring a rectangular brass sheet with holes punched in it to accommodate cord. Big, bold brass: you've got to walk the talk and make a statement with a base metal that's come in and out of favor more times than David Bowie's hairstyles.

The great news is there are so many ways--so many products to explore--to brass out your jewelry line with designs that are lively, bold and full of spirit.

Style Snapshot: Metal of the Moment--Brass

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