How to Use (and Mix) Metals in Jewelry Designs

May 4, 2009

Two Is Better Than One

Some things are better done solo. Shopping for unmentionables comes to mind. Or flossing. Or, in our opinion, diving (we are still shocked that synchronized diving is an actual Olympic sport!). But writing beading books?

Well, we’ve both done the solo author thing (check out Melinda’s latest, Custom Cool Jewelry and Danielle’s Simply Modern Jewelry), but we sure had a lot more fun when we teamed up to write and make projects for the new book Mixed Metals: Creating Contemporary Jewelry with Silver, Gold, Copper, Brass & More. Perhaps it’s because we’re both very passionate fans of metal beads and findings. Collaborating on this collection of projects that celebrate and encourage the use of metallic elements in your stringing and wireworking designs was exciting for us, plus we learned a ton about the history, chemical properties, and lore of metals.

5 Tips on How to Use (and Mix) Metals in Your Jewelry Designs

Here we dish on our favorite discoveries about metal beads:


Melinda: “All you need to oxidize silver (and copper, too) is a hard-boiled egg. No toxic chemicals needed! Place a warm hard-boiled egg in a container with an air-tight lid and smash it a few times. Hang the metal to be oxidized above the egg by stringing the piece onto a thread and taping the ends of the thread to the container’s rim. Attach the lid and watch the color develop in 24 to 36 hours.”


Danielle: “Gold doesn’t rust, tarnish, or corrode like other metals do. However, in time, it can look soiled. To restore gold’s shine, it is safe to clean using warm water and a mild detergent, being sure to dry the pieces thoroughly immediately after washing and follow up with a polishing cloth.”

Base Metals

Melinda: “In plain and simple terms, a base metal is any metal other than a precious metal. Common base metals include copper, bronze, brass, gunmetal, and pewter. Because base metals are often found plated with precious metals, they are a great choice if you are on a budget. For example, use gunmetal chain in place of oxidized silver chain or bright brass findings instead of gold.”

Faux (& Other) Metals

Danielle: “Precious metal beads and findings can be expensive, especially in bulk. To achieve a metallic look in your designs without using expensive metal beads, incorporate beads that resemble precious metal beads (like pyrite, or “fool’s gold”) and beads that aren’t metal at all, but have a metallic finish (like the shiny comet argent finish on Swarovski crystals or pressed-glass beads lined with a glittery paint).”

Mixing Metals

Melinda: “The best part of mixing different types of metals in a single design is that there are no rules—so let your creativity fly. Add warmth to a silver necklace with just a few gold beads and findings or pair brass and copper for an antique look—have fun, mix it up, anything goes!” 

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on May 4, 2009 12:06 PM
You guys are so cute! And I can't wait to see your new book. Collaborating is so much fun. Michele and I agree. XOX Steph
on May 4, 2009 12:20 PM
I love to mix metals for one reason , my daughter when she was a bit younger decided to play with my metal beads etc and don't know how to tell silver from base metal lol Any tips on telling apart would be great :)
Beth @219 wrote
on May 4, 2009 3:39 PM
Dear Melinda and Danielle I love the look of your book and the work in it. I am a very basic beginner mainly working with lampwork and couldn't try these designs of yours at present. Do either of you have a webpage or etsy site where I could purchase some of your work? Kind regards Beth (from Australia)
inschuessler wrote
on May 5, 2009 1:16 PM
I ordered your book, and downloaded the Silvered Buds bracelet, but can't find the puffed squares with opened centers. Where should I look? Thanks!
on May 5, 2009 1:19 PM
Hey Beth, We do not have an etsy page but thanks for your interest in our work! So you know, beginners will be able to make projects in this book. For example, some projects require only stringing and crimping; the most difficult technique would probably be a wrapped-loop bail. No metalsmithing techniques are required. Have fun! Melinda & Danielle
Sophie@22 wrote
on May 21, 2009 12:50 PM
Love your book and love your beautiful necklaces! When you mentioned Pyrite, I was reminded of the pyrite nuggets that Stones and Findings carries! -- I think they would mix so well with some oxidized silver! Like this cute fish bead --
on May 29, 2009 1:51 PM
Hi Danielle and Melinda! We met in Tucson! What a beautiful cover and a great book idea! I can't wait to see the finished product! -Brenda Schweder