Brass jewelry may be less valuable than pure silver or gold but is just as trendy as the duo. The ubiquitous metal is a fashion staple in almost every woman’s jewelry collection. Even men have not been left behind. On a casual day, you’ll find them rocking a brass ring or bar cuff.
Over the years, this millennia-old metal has been used to make decorative pieces, musical instruments, kitchenware, lamps, doorknobs, electric components, etc. Today, it is increasingly popular in the realm of fashion for handmade and customized jewelry.
What is brass jewelry? Brass jewelry is any ornamental piece crafted from brass, an alloy constituting two metals – copper and zinc. It has a warm, attractive golden tone that bears a close resemblance to gold. Brass is affordable too making it the material of choice among many artisans and jewelry lovers.
If you’re considering buying brass jewelry or even making some, you probably already acknowledge its aesthetic appeal. Well, brass jewelry has many other advantages, and a few drawbacks, that you need to be aware of as the jewelry crafter or wearer.
This post uncovers brass jewelry pros and cons so you know exactly what to expect. We also address some of the most common concerns surrounding brass jewelry safety and durability. Let’s begin with a quick side by side comparison chart for the pros and cons.
Is Brass A Good Metal For Jewelry?
Brass is a good metal for jewelry. It is very ductile, which is a desirable quality for metal jewelers. It can be manipulated with relative ease into just about any design, be it intricate twists and cuts, or chunky shapes for statement pieces.
When new, brass has a beautiful golden shine and makes stunning jewelry. While aging brass loses a lot of its luster, some people actually do admire that rustic vintage look. They’ll even paint metal jewelry to look like aged brass.
But if you are not one of them, you can simply polish the brass to restore it to its original gleam.
Also, brass is priced way below what you would pay for pure gold. It is, therefore, an ideal alternative metal for affordable jewelry. You get the brilliant gold dazzle look but for a less hefty price.
Most importantly, brass is corrosion and rust-resistant. Jewelry made out of brass can hold up well to regular wear without deteriorating.
Is Brass Jewelry Durable?
Brass is a fairly hard metal. It’s far from stiff yet it’s tough. It won’t break or crack under pressure but somewhat stretches. Maintained under ideal conditions, brass will last for centuries. As a result, brass jewelry is durable and could outlive you if you care for it well.
Some conditions that undermine the longevity of brass include ammonia, moisture, acidic, and salty environments. Chemicals from deodorants, perfumes, and skin moisturizers are bad for brass too. Storing brass jewelry in a dry, preferably airtight container, pouch, or box when not in use will preserve it.
It is worth noting that brass-plated jewelry can easily pass as solid brass. Brass-plated jewelry is not durable. It will fade over time, exposing the actual metal underneath, usually not as beautiful as brass. You’ll then have to either give it up or put up with the headache (read costs) of occasional replating.
To be absolutely sure you got solid brass jewelry, introduce the piece to a magnet. Solid brass is non-magnetic. Another way to do it is to scratch a hidden part of the jewelry and note the color underneath. Anything other than a beautiful yellow-gold tone is brass-plated.
Can I Shower With Brass Jewelry?
The fear of forgetting to put back on your jewelry and ending up misplacing it will often lead you to shower in it. But not your favorite brass pieces.
As with most metals, brass and moisture aren’t exactly allies. When exposed to water and soap, it tarnishes, but the speed depends on the chemistry of the water. Higher PH, chlorides, sulfides, basically any salinity, or acidity accelerates oxidation.
Also, brass jewelry may dezincify in water, a process where the zinc molecules slowly dissolve when it sits in water for too long. With time, the brass becomes very weak and loses form.
Therefore, we would advise against showering or bathing with brass jewelry. And the same goes for swimming and cleaning.
Brass Jewelry: Pros And Cons
Below are the top pros and cons of brass jewelry so you can decide what makes the most sense for your unique needs and jewelry creations.
- Beautiful tone: Brass jewelry possesses this subtle yet attractive yellow shine like gold. This pleasant appearance carries some sophistication, elegance, and class with it.
- Affordable price: Next to its gold-tone, the pocket-friendly price of brass is another thing that makes it quite attractive. You get the coveted classic high-end gleam of gold but for a much lower price tag.
- Durable: Do not let the pliability of brass fool you into dismissing its jewelry as weak. Brass jewelry has incredible tensile strength and will not break just easily. When well-maintained, it can endure a lifetime of use.
- Corrosion and rust-resistant: Brass jewelry will not corrode or rust. It contains zinc and copper, both of which are non-corrosive metals. Sometimes aluminum is added to reinforce its corrosion-resistance.
- Low maintenance: You do not need expensive cleaning solutions to clean brass jewelry. Simple everyday ingredients probably already in your kitchen like dishwashing soap, tomato sauce, vinegar or lemon juice, and a cloth or cotton balls are all you need to wipe it shiny.
- Tarnishes: Unfinished brass jewelry will tarnish with time. As it ages, it loses its shine and begins forming a greenish layer. This layer is called patina and results from oxidation of the copper in the brass. The good news is, it will take a while before that happens, and you can restore its shine by cleaning and buffing the pieces.
- Non-hypoallergenic: Brass is a non-hypoallergenic metal. Therefore, people with skin sensitivity may experience itchiness, a rash, flaking, or some form of reaction from wearing brass jewelry. Again, this is a problem with unfinished brass.
- Sometimes, it is other additives such as nickel that cause allergic reactions and not the brass. Nickel may be added to brass to boost its corrosion resistance properties and strength. So, before you pronounce yourself allergic to brass jewelry, be sure you tried on a pure brass piece and not a nickel alloy.
Is It Safe To Wear Brass Jewelry?
Some metals are notorious for toxicity -cadmium, lead, nickel, mercury, to mention but a few. Therefore, it is essential to know your metals to avoid possible metal-jewelry poisoning.
Thankfully, pure brass is one of the most jewelry-safe metals. It only contains zinc and copper, both of which are needed by the body in the right dose to stay healthy.
In fact, folklore swears by brass jewelry in improving one’s health. Wearing brass is alleged to spike energy levels and improve metabolism by providing the body with copper chalets absorbed through the skin.
Arthritis, headaches, and other conditions are also said to improve with regular wear of brass. Though there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove this, it will still look nice if you try it.
Does Brass Jewelry Turn Your Skin Green?
Indeed, brass jewelry does turn the skin green after wearing it for a long time. There’s no need to get into panic mode when it happens. The Hulk tint is superficial and not permanent. It can easily be removed by washing with soap and water.
Why does brass turn the skin green anyway? Well, it is the copper component that actually makes brass leave a greenish residue on the skin. When copper meets oxygen and fuses with humidity from sweat through the skin pores, it oxidizes forming a greenish layer.
This natural oxidation patina is non-toxic and completely harmless. Some people even consider it ornamental. There’s a simple hack to avoid the green discoloration on your skin from wearing brass jewelry; applying lacquer or clear nail polish to the parts that touch the skin.
Does Brass Jewelry Contain Lead?
Jewelry-grade brass is mostly zinc and copper in composition and should not contain lead. Still, some metalsmiths will add lead to their brass, and you can’t be too sure whether this kind of brass metal ends up as jewelry.
Lead is often added to brass industrially to further strengthen its resistance to corrosion and also improve its workability. The leaded brass is then used in the manufacture of machinery, fixtures, faucets, and other products.
It is common practice for brass jewelry with lead to be labeled as so. Any amount of lead in brass jewelry is potentially toxic, but less than 5% lead is usually accepted as safe. Lead does not permeate the skin, but should not be worn through piercing holes.
If you are unsure whether your brass jewelry contains, you can always perform a test at home with lead testing paper strips.
Brass Jewelry – Conclusion
Looking at the brass jewelry pros and cons, there’s no doubt that the highlights outweigh the lowlights. Brass is a beautiful, versatile, and durable material for jewelry at a reasonable price range.
It may tarnish with time and cause an allergic reaction to those sensitive to the metal, but that is easy to deal with. Sealing the jewelry with a clear finish always solves the two problems.
Jewelry made out of pure brass is non-toxic and thus safe, but it is not surprising to find lead and nickel as brass additives. Doing your due diligence is critical when choosing brass jewelry, brass wire, or metal sheets for jewelry making.
When cleaned and stored appropriately, solid brass jewelry can outlast your lifetime and that of several other generations to come.
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