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ponder craft & design


Materials of the Trade

Jewellery can be made from gemstones and various precious metals, but can also be made from many different alternative materials. 

The metal most commonly used in the jewellery sold at CCBC is Sterling Silver. We also sell jewellery made from materials such as wood, leather, fibre, beads, enamel, natural clay and polymer clay.

Were these materials ethically sourced? Namely any gems and wood incorporated into the piece.


If purchasing as a gift, what metals, colours, textures will appeal to your loved one?


Always keep allergies in mind. Pieces may appear to be one metal but are filled or plated with a different material. Be mindful of what metal will be in contact with the skin; earring posts can be a different metal than the face.


Think about longevity – is it something you will be wearing every day? Will the piece develop Patina overtime? Or need constant cleaning or touch-ups?


Is this piece functional? Wearability is more important than ornamentation.

Does the piece function smoothly? The clasp and assemblage should be user friendly, ensuring the overall weight of the piece is still wearable.


Is the solder minimized and resin removed?

Pieces must not contain lead or cadmium bearing alloys, out of health and safety concerns as the jewellery will be in contact with skin.

...Ask the Artsit About

The Material



Gold, silver and copper can be found in their pure form in nature. Bronze and brass are alloys (made up of more than one metal and not found in a pure form in nature). Gold is more valuable than silver, which is more valuable than copper. This is due to their relative weights and rarity. 


Common Types:

Gold: In its purest form gold is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft and malleable metal. Gold has been a valuable and highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewellery and other arts since long before the beginning of recorded history. Because of the softness of pure (24k) gold, it is usually alloyed with base metals for use in jewellery, altering its hardness and ductility, melting point, colour and other properties. Alloys with lower karat rating, typically 22k, 18k, 14k or 10k, contain higher percentages of base metals such as copper, or other precious metals including silver or palladium, in the alloy. Copper is the most commonly used base metal, yielding a redder colour.


Silver:  Sterling silver is one of the three precious metals (the others being gold and platinum). It is the most lustrous, most plentiful and least expensive of the precious metals. The standard for sterling silver has remained unchanged since 1300 when Edward I of England established an early trade practice rule for silversmiths, decreeing that sterling must consist of 92.5% pure silver alloyed with 7.5% copper. The copper is added for hardness as fine silver is too soft for use in jewellery. The term "sterling" refers to the composition of the metal, never to the weight of a finished item. Silver is much more plentiful than gold, however, silver tends to tarnish, making it less popular in some forms of jewellery. 


Argentium Sterling Silver: Argentium Silver is relatively new and has many advantages over Sterling Silver, such as being brighter, very slow to tarnish and is easy to clean with dish detergent. It is purer than traditional sterling 93.5% versus 92.5% silver and is made of recycled silver, and has a much cleaner, environmentally friendlier process. 


Copper: Copper is a soft and malleable metal. The metal and its alloys have been used for thousands of years. Pure copper is orange-red and acquires a reddish tarnish when exposed to air.


Bronze: Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper (around 90%), commonly with about 10% tin. These additions produce a range of alloys that may be harder than copper alone or have other useful properties, such as stiffness, ductility or machinability.


Brass: Brass is a metal alloy made of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties. Brass is often used for decoration for its bright gold-like appearance. It has a relatively low melting point and its characteristics make it a relatively easy metal to cast. Today, almost 90% of all brass alloys are recycled. 


Gold Plating: Gold plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, most often copper or silver (to make silver-gilt), by chemical or electrochemical plating. 


Vermeil: Vermeil is a gold plating process developed in France in the mid-1700s. A typical example is Sterling Silver coated with 18K or 24K gold. To be considered vermeil, the gold must be at least 10 karats and be at least 2.5 micrometres thick. Vermeil pieces appear to be gold but are much cheaper and lighter than solid gold. 


Keum-boo: Keum-boo (also Kum-Boo or Kum-bu — Korean meaning "attached gold") is an ancient Korean gilding technique used to apply thin sheets of gold to silver, to make silver-gilt. Traditionally, this technique is accomplished by first depleting a surface of sterling silver to bring up a thin layer of fine silver. Then 24 karat gold foil is applied with heat and pressure.


Enamel: Vitreous enamel is a form of glass that can be applied to a variety of metal substrates including, copper, fine or sterling silver, gold, and steel.  The enamel manufacturer combines the glass with other elements such as silica, flint, soda potash, and borax to form the fusibility.  Metal oxides give the enamel its colour.  Enamel is available in different types including transparent, opaque, opalescent, painting and liquid and may be leaded or unleaded. Enamelling techniques include cloisonné; champlevé, plique-a-jour, Limoges (painting), basse taille, and can include silkscreening, sgraffito, stamping, and decals.  Enamel can be applied with different methods including sifting or screening dry enamel powder.  The enamel powder may be mixed with distilled water and packed into a cloisonné formed out of wire or a cell created by etching.  Liquid enamel can be sprayed, brushed or dipped and poured.  Painting enamel is applied by brush.  The enamels are fired in a kiln or with a torch to a high temperature ranging between 1400-1700 F.  The enamel melts, flows and then hardens to a smooth, durable, vitreous coating on the metal. Enamelling is an old technology and has been used for thousands of years, often in jewellery making. 


Precious Metal Clay: Metal clay is a crafting medium consisting of very small particles of metal such as silver, gold, bronze or copper mixed with an organic binder and water. Originating in Japan in 1990, metal clay can be shaped just like any soft clay. After drying, the clay is fired, like other typical clay. This burns the binder away, leave the pure metal. Shrinkage occurs during this process. Precious metal clay allows craft jewellery makers to make sophisticated looking jewellery without the years of study needed to make fine jewellery. 


Metal Finishes:

High Polish: High polish is the most common and gives the metal the reflective, shiny look.


Satin or Matte Finishes: Satin or matte finishes reduce the shine and reflection of the jewellery and are often used to accentuate gemstones such as diamonds. 


Brushed Finishes: Brushed finishes give the jewellery a textured look and are created by brushing a material (similar to sandpaper) against the metal, leaving "brush strokes".


Hammered Finishes: Hammered finishes are typically created by using a soft rounded hammer and hammering the jewellery to give it a wavy texture.


Oxidizing: The effect of oxidizing pieces creates a slightly tarnished or antique look.  This happens when the silver is purposely exposed to air that contains sulphur. This compound, silver sulphide, creates blackened patches giving the silver a dark black finish. This provides pieces with a more a vintage look, while also exposing more details of the metalwork.


Patina: Patina is a film on the surface of bronze or similar metals. Artists and metalworkers often deliberately add patinas as part of the design. A wide range of chemicals, both household and commercial, can give different patinas. 



For mountings, you can use rubbing alcohol to dissolve some of the sticker grime. However, don't use alcohol on any kind of pearl jewellery. Soap and water and a soft brush will take care of most of your cleaning needs, including gold, blackened silver and bronze. Make sure the brush is VERY soft when used on metal, especially gold, which can be scratched relatively easily. Use a soft cloth that won't leave fuzz or threads behind to dry and buff your jewellery once it's cleaned.

For cleaning silver, you can use a special silver cloth to help remove tarnishing with gentle rubbing. Direct sunlight can cause silver to tarnish, so you should take it off if you're sunbathing. Try to store your silver piece in a cool, dry place (preferably air-tight) to help avoid oxidization. ​




Stones must be securely set, hardness in relation to use. The classification of stone type must be identified on piece (tagging, etc.). Some gemstones, including pearl and amber, are classified as organic, meaning that they are produced by living organisms. Others are inorganic, meaning that they are generally composed and arise from minerals. The three precious gemstones are emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.


Common Types:

Amber: Composed of tree resin that has hardened over time and the stone/hardened resin must be at least 1 million years old to be classified as “Amber”.


Pearls: Formed naturally in pearl oysters or pearl mussels or they can be cultured on a pearl farm with human intervention although naturally occurring pearls are quite rare today. Pearls come in a range of different colours. Pearls can have blemishes which are little marks, bumps, scars or irregularities on a pearl's surface that give a pearl strand its personality. Although, heavy marking will lower its value. A pearl’s lustre also affects it price, which is the appearance/shininess of a pearl's surface judged by its ability to reflect light. One of the most important factors in judging and pricing pearls.


Quartz: The most abundant mineral found at the Earth’s surface and refers to a family of crystalline gemstones of various colours, the most well known are rose quartz, smoky quartz and amethyst.


Amethyst: Historically the most prized gemstone of the quartz family, its purple hue ranges in tone from light to dark.


Beryl: Pure beryl is colourless, but is often tinted by impurities. Its colours can include green, blue, yellow, red and white.


Emeralds: one of three main precious gemstones and is known for its fine green to bluish green colour


Jade: Most commonly a green colour, but does come in other colours as well. It is closely linked to Asian culture, history and tradition.


Jasper: Comes in a variety of colours and features unique and interesting patterns within the stone.


Moonstone: Been used in jewellery for centuries, dating to ancient civilizations. Its colour/pattern resemble a moon which gives it its name.


Opalite: The trade name for synthetic opalised glass.


Rubies: One of three main precious gemstones and is known for its intense red colour.


Sapphire: One of the three main precious gemstones, the most popular form is blue sapphire, known for its medium to deep blue colour and strong saturation.


Turquoise: It is an intense medium blue or greenish blue (turquoise in colour) and is closely associated with Southwest and Native American jewelry


Gemstones: Cleaning gemstones is easy. Simply soak the piece in a bowl of warm soapy water for several minutes and then use a soft non-metallic brush to remove any grime. 

Pearls: Pearls are very soft by jewellery standards and should only ever be soaked in mild soapy water and nothing else.



Etching: The process of using an acid to cut into the metal and create a permanent design.  


Fold Forming: A way of forming sheet metal by folding, working the metal and then unfolding. This allows the artist to create new shapes and textures without soldering. 


Forging and Hammering: Process of shaping metal using a tool (usually a hammer), often the piece is heated up in what is called a forge before the hammering begins. 


Hand Engraving: The design is first hand sketched onto the metal surface. Next, using an etching tool, the thick lines are carved out using multiple shorter strokes, while thinner lines are achieved by connecting single strokes.


Riveting: Riveting, also known as cold connection, is an ideal solution for fasting, connecting, and stacking layers of jewellery parts without soldering. In addition to metal, rivets can be used with leather, plastic, and more to create unique multi-dimensional components.


Soldering: The process of using solder to create a bond between two pieces of metal. This is a low melting point metal that is heated between the joint of the two metal pieces, acting as an adhesive.  


Wax Casting: The process of pouring metal into a wax-cast to create the desired design. Once the metal has set it is melted away leaving the new metal piece behind. 



Bolt Ring: The basic type of fastening for a necklace or bracelet consisting of a hollow loop with an internal spring-operated catch, which is retracted then released when attached to a link at the other end of the chain. 

Jump Ring: This is a fixed ring used to connect components in a finished article, or at the end of items such as necklaces and to which bolt rings may be attached. 

Pearl Fastener (Barrel): Pearls are traditionally fastened by means of a clasp, one side of which screws into the barrel of the other. 

Trigger: Also known as a karob or lobster claw clasp. Similar to a bolt ring, it has a trigger which lifts a bar allowing a jump ring or other loop to be inserted. It operates like a mountaineer's karabiner. This is a popular fastening for heavier chains. 

Magnetic: A recent innovation using powerful mini magnets to fasten. 

For Your Reference

Bezel Setting: A method of setting gemstones in which the stone is held in the mounting by a narrow band of metal surrounding the girdle (outside perimeter) of the stone.


Claw: A claw setting is one in which a series of metal prongs (claws) holds a stone securely in a setting (the claw grips the stone just above the girdle of the stone), with no metal directly under the stone (it is an open setting). This setting lets light in under the stone, so this type of setting is usually used for transparent faceted stones. The modern-day claw setting became popular in the 1800s.


Ductility: Refers to when a solid material stretches under tensile stress, ie. Stretching metal into wire.


Embossing: A stamping technique in which a pattern (for example a scroll pattern similar to an engraved effect) is pressed onto a plain area of metal to leave the pattern in relief, i.e. standing proud above the plain background rather than cut in as in the case of engraving. 


Faceted: A faceted stone has small, flat-cut surfaces that make a sparkling effect on transparent stones. Facets act as both windows and mirrors. Reflecting and channelling light into a stone where it then refracts and re-emerges. 


Gilding: A technique where a gold plate, leaf or print is applied to another type of metal (commonly silver). This allows for the appearance of gold, without the weight, cost or other less desirable qualities of a pure gold material.


Inclusion: A particle of foreign matter contained within a gemstone. It can take, for example, the form of an air bubble or a foreign object. Some inclusions decrease the value of a stone, but some, such as needles in rutilated quartz or 'spangles' in amber, are prized. 


Malleability: A material’s ability to deform under pressure (compressive stress), ie. Flattening a metal by hammering or rolling.


Pave: Stones set close together, showing no metal between them.


Precious Metals: The three precious metals include gold, silver, and platinum. They are rare, naturally occurring metals with high economic value, known for their high lustre and ductile properties. While sometimes used industrially, they are known for their use in art, jewelry, and coinage.

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