Jewellery Materials: Meaning & Types


Plant and animal life were the first materials used to make items for personal ornamentation. Vegetable fibres served as its support, while the material derived from the animal kingdom, whether in its natural or processed form, served as the actual ornamentation. A wide variety of shells and shell fragments were used, and are still used, in some island and coastal cultures to make necklaces, bracelets, pendants, and headdresses during the prehistoric era. The first materials utilised for personal ornamentation in the interior regions were mammoth tusks, reindeer and other animal horns, and later, amber and lignite. All materials used to create jewellery over the years have undergone some degree of mechanical, physical, or chemical processing in order to change their natural forms into forms that not only fulfil functional requirements but also certain aesthetic principles.

Common Materials for Jewellery

Some of the common materials that used in making jewellery are:

Silver

A precious metal is silver. It is regarded as one of the “Metals of Antiquity,” which are metals that humans first discovered and utilised in the distant past. In addition to being used for coinage throughout history, silver was primarily used to make jewellery and other everyday products. This still holds true today. Necklaces, bracelets, cuff links, belt buckles, and body jewellery look best when made of silver. For beautiful jewellery, accessories, and silverware, it is ideal.

Gold

Bright reddish-yellow pure gold is measured in karats (k). Similar to silver, it was used to make coins and jewellery and was even minted as a form of circulating currency. It is one of the metals of antiquity. 50% of the new gold consumed globally is used in jewellery. Due to its stability and durability, gold is a preferred material for wedding bands, rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Platinum

Platinum is a precious metal that is silver-white, extremely dense, and malleable. One of the rarest minerals in the world, platinum has come to symbolise luxury and longevity, which may explain why musicians are rewarded with platinum discs or credit cards. Platinum is the perfect material for fine jewellery because of its durability.

Titanium

Silver-colored titanium is a glossy, highly durable metal. After the Titans of Greek mythology, titanium was given its name after its discovery in Cornwall in 1791. An alloy made of titanium and gold is marketed and sold as 24-karat gold. Watch cases and parts are made of titanium, particularly diving watches, due to their resistance to corrosion. Due to its hypoallergenic qualities, titanium is perfect for body piercing jewelry, prosthetics, dental work, and surgical implants.

Pearls

Molluscs, such as oysters and mussels, produce pearls. Although shades of yellow, black, and grey are very frequent, pearls are often the same colour as the inside of an oyster shell, which is white and cream. The lustre, colour, size, absence of surface flaws, and symmetry are a combination of factors that determine a pearl’s value in jewellery. Pearls are frequently formed into a string of pearls and are mainly used for necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings.

Shell

One of the earliest types of jewellery is made from shell beads, and over time, its popularity has fluctuated with fads like the 18th-century craze for cameo rings, earrings, and brooches. The entire shell or certain portions of it can be used to make jewellery and other accessories. You can cut, file, and polish broken bits that you find on the beach to fit your needs.

Stainless steels

Stainless steels are iron alloys also referred to as “inox steel.” It is resilient, rust-resistant, non-corrosive, and does not oxidise or discolor. Because of this, it is perfect for use in the jewellery industry to create items like watch faces, earring findings, and bead caps. Steel is used to make a variety of jewelry-making tools, including files, drill bits, saw blades, mandrels, and hammers, to name a few.

Base metal

Metals that oxidise easily and are frequently used for costume jewellery are referred to as “base metals” in the jewellery business. These materials are substantially less expensive than the metals described above since they don’t contain one of the noble or precious metals. Jewelry making also uses zinc, bronze, and copper in addition to copper and brass.

Wood

Beads, bangles, and pendants made of wood have been worn as jewellery for a very long time. The need to create eco-friendly products has made the usage of salvaged, repurposed, or storm-felled wood in jewellery design more prevalent. Hard woodsare preferred for jewellery making, although any sort of wood can be used; the choice depends on the wood’s texture, colour, and polish.

Stone

Semi-precious, precious, and non-precious stones. Brick, concrete, beach pebbles, slate, and rock There is an infinite variety of rocks, stones, and gemstones that can be utilised to create jewelry. The most sought-after gemstones used to make jewellery include diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire.

Animal bones

Jewelry worn in mourning was standard during the Victorian era. What could be more environmentally friendly than utilising the bones and hair from killed animals—possibly your own beloved pets, as with Irish jewellery artisan Daniela Cardillo—while others may find it a little weird or macabre?

Seeds

Many cultures around the world have utilised seeds, nuts, and plant roots as body decorations for thousands of years. Tagua (Ivory Palm Nut), Betel, Bodhi, Rudraksha, Acai, and Buri are common choices of seeds and nuts for making beads or for use in jewellery making.

Glass

One of the earliest pieces of glass jewellery to gain popularity historically was glass beads, especially Venetian glass beads. Different types of glass are employed in jewellery design today, including sea glass, lampwork, Murano (Ventian and Millefiori), and fused glass (dichroic and art glass).

Clay

Ceramic beads can be created by hand to give them a more organic feel or in a mould to repeatedly create the same shape. Making jewellery from shattered crockery is really fashionable right now.

Plastic, resin, and acrylic

Because they are so inexpensive, acrylic beads are a perfect place for a beginning jeweller to start experimenting with beading. To create shapes, resin is poured into a mould.

Conclusions

Jewelry is a type of personal decoration valued for the craftsmanship that went into making it as well as for the value of the materials used. From shells, bones, pebbles, tusks, claws, and wood to so-called precious metals, valuable and semiprecious stones, pearls, corals, enamels, vitreous pastes, and ceramics, materials considered rare and beautiful have varied over the millennia and from culture to culture. Artist-craftsmen have occasionally given less weight to the intrinsic value of materials than to their aesthetic role as parts that contribute to the overall effect. As a result, rather than using gold or platinum to create a brooch, they might use steel or plastic. In addition to serving as decoration, jewellery has been worn for much of its history as a marker of social standing (forbidden by sumptuary laws to all but the ruling classes) and as a talisman to ward off evil and bring good fortune.

Updated on: 06-Dec-2022

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