You're probably familiar with most types of metals, but what are their definitions? How do they behave? And how can you utilize them in your work?
A metal is a general term for metallic elements and shares these characteristics: it conducts electricity, has a so-called metallic luster, is good at conducting heat, and is formable. Finally, all metals have the ability to melt - meaning that at a certain temperature, they become liquid and solidify again into a solid form upon cooling.
When dealing with jewellery, you often encounter the term "precious metal." But what does a "precious" and "base" metal actually mean?
A precious metal is called "precious" due to its special properties: it is not attacked by substances such as water, steam, and oxygen and has a durability and luster that are rare. The most well-known and used precious metals are gold, silver, platinum, and palladium.
Precious metals are found freely in nature and do not tend to form chemical compounds with other substances. On the other hand, base metals tend to form chemical compounds with other elements, and when found in nature, they commonly occur as "ores," as seen, for example, with iron ore.
Base metals are affected by atmospheric oxygen: you see, for instance, that copper tarnishes, iron rusts, and aluminum weathers—meaning it crumbles, and the surface gradually dissolves. Especially in the presence of moisture, some metals can be completely broken down.
Below, you find an overview of the most significant precious and base metals and how they are used in the jewellery industry.
Metals are commonly alloyed with other metals in the jewelry industry. The primary purpose of alloying metals is to modify their properties, including color, hardness, and conductivity.