When you want to make jewelry, sometimes the toughest part is deciding which metal you would like to use. I doesn’t necessarily come down to just the look of the material that you want to utilize but what you can do with it. There are very specific terms to give a jewelry maker a complete understanding of what they can and can not do with the chosen material, A jewelry maker must be familiar with the basic properties, characteristics, and inherent qualities of the various metals they use, which consists of malleability, ductility, tensile strength, fusibility, brittleness and elasticity.
Malleability is the quality that allows the metal to be worked easily by hammering or pressure without crumbling. Gold is considered to be the most malleable metal; silver second and copper third.
Ductility is the quality of a metal such as is inherent in gold, where one ounce of pure gold can be drawn into a fine wire that can be as long as fifty miles. Ductility and malleability are similar qualities, but malleable metals like lead, cannot not be drawn into wire.
Tensile strength is the degree of tenacity that enables a metal when worked to withstand longitudinal (up and down) stress without breaking. The tensile strength is measured by the minimum amount of the longitudinal stress required to snap the metal.
Fusibility refers to the capability of a metal to be combined with other metals to produce alloys, such as brass. All elements and alloys become liquids when heated at different temperatures and return to a solid state when cooled. Mercury is the one exception to this and remains liquid at room temperature. Mercury only becomes a solid when it reaches a temperature of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brittleness is the opposite of ductility. This term indicates sudden breaking without warning. For the most part, very hard metals are usually brittle. The reason being is that they don’t “give” or are not “malleable”, hence giving no warning of when they are going to snap.
Elasticity is the ability of a metal to return to its original form when the force being applied to bend it is removed.
By understanding the characteristics of different metals, you will be able to better decide which materials to utilize when you start to make jewelry pieces. This will also lead you to have the ability to tackle more complicated jewelry designs. By doing so you can take your craft to the next level.