Discover Copper Online

Winter 1995

Copper "Fashionable" in Jewelry

Copper is supplied in many forms to the jewlery trade for alloying with precious metals or as "white bronze" or "jeweler's manganese bronze."

Copper has played a key role in jewelry since the Bronze Age. Today, copper is part of just about every piece of jewelry, down to a just a wisp of it in pewter for individually designed brooches. A major application for copper in jewelry is in watch cases, according to Bob Olsen of Belmont Metals, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, a leading supplier of copper-based alloying metals to the jewelry trade.

Cases for the fanciest of watches are mostly made of 18-karat gold, which contains from 2.23% copper (white gold) to 20% copper (red gold). Some lessexpensive watch cases are made of 14-karat gold, which contains up to 40% copper. Belmont supplies its alloying metals as polished shot and half-inch cubes, among other forms.

In addition to alloying metals, Belmont also produces "precious-metal-like" materials for what's known in the trade as fashion jewelry. These are its bright, lemon-yellow "jeweler's manganese bronze" and "white bronze," which Olsen calls a "cost-effective substitute for nickel silver." He wouldn't reveal the composition of these two proprietary alloys except to say that both contain more than 50% copper.

Belmont also produces two other substitutes for precious metals that are usually plated with gold. These are Art Caster's Brass and Everdur Silicon-Bronze. These proprietary alloys contain from 60% to 95% copper.

Pure Copper Jewelry

Copper and brass have been used in jewlery for millenia.

There's always been some jewelry made almost wholly of solid copper or brass. Most are stamped or tooled from sheet or formed from strip or extrusions. While most are lacquered or left with a natural finish, some copper jewelry is flame oxidized to produce striking patterns.

One leading manufacturer is Courtney Design, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. Courtney Miller, the firm's designer, sells her striking pieces throughout the USA, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and even Japan. Miller buys her metals from Indian Jewelry Supply, Gallup, New Mexico.

Belmont Metals: 718/3424900
Courtney Design: 800/752-0689
Indian Jewelry Supply: 800/545-6540

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