Raw Materials Terms for Jewelers

Expand your understanding of the raw materials commonly used in jewelry making with this glossary.

Last edited: 3/19/2020
An assortment of yellow gold and silver fabrication metals

Why are there so many silver alloys? And, besides color, what is the difference between rose gold, white gold and yellow gold? There are many types of fabrication metals that are available in a variety of forms for jewelry making, a discipline that has its own language that is full of specific language. Bookmark this fabrication metal glossary and you’ll be ready the next time you come across a term you’re unfamiliar with.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A


Alloy
A mixture of two or more metals.
Annealing
A process of heating metal to relieve internal stresses and decrease its hardness.
Argentium® Silver
An alloy with a minimum silver content of 93.5% (exceeding the traditional Sterling standard) with the remaining percentage being copper and germanium. The element germanium has been added to eliminate firestain, add tarnish resistance, and heat-hardening properties.

B


Base Metal
An assortment of base metal fabrication materials
A common metal not considered precious, such as copper, brass or bronze.
Bezel Wire
Fine Silver bezel wire Strip
A thin gauge rectangular wire used to make a frame around a stone or other decorative focal piece.
Brass
Jeweler's brass disc
An alloy composed of mostly copper with various percentages of zinc.
Brazing (Hard Soldering)
A metal-joining process where two or more metal items are bonded together by melting and flowing a filler metal into the joint, the filler metal has a lower melting point than the metal pieces being joined.
Bronze
Bronze sheet
An alloy composed mostly of copper with various percentages of tin.

C


Cadmium
A soft, malleable, ductile, bluish-white divalent metal. It is similar in many respects to zinc but forms complex compounds. Cadmium is highly toxic and can lead to kidney failure, bone loss and other complications in those who are chronically exposed over time. Rio Grande has not carried any cadmium bearing metals since 1968 due to its toxic nature.
Casting Grain
14K White Gold Casting Grain
Small rounded pieces of pure metals or alloys that are used in casting pieces of jewelry.
Crinkle Silver Bi-Metal
Pre-Reticulated Silver sheet
A composite metal sheet consisting of a fine silver core with a proprietary alloy fused to both sides. When heated with a torch to a specified temperature the surface of the metal will crinkle up forming a texture.

D


Dead-Soft
Dead-soft is the annealed state of metal, like full hard and half hard it is a variable characteristic that can be changed by annealing the metal or further work hardening the metal.
Double-Clad
Yellow Gold-Filled Double-Clad Sheet
A term describing a gold filled or silver filled sheet metal. It is made by heat and pressure bonding a thin layer of precious metal to both sides of a base metal core.

F


Ferrous Metals
Metals containing or consisting of iron.
Fine Silver
Pure .999 silver.
Full-Bead Wire
Sterling Silver Full-Bead Wire
A wire product that resembles small balls that are attached together end to end.
Full-Hard
Yellow Gold-Filled Round Wire
Full-hard is the work hardened state of metal, like half hard and dead soft it is a variable characteristic that can be changed by annealing the metal.

G


Gallery Wire
Silver Crown Gallery Wire
An ornate bezel wire, featuring pierced voids, used to set stones or for other decorative elements.
10K Yellow Gold (10KY)
10K Yellow Gold Sheet
An alloy composed of at least 41.67% gold with the remaining percentage being silver and copper in various amounts.
14K Rose (Pink) Gold (14KR)
14K Pink Gold Sheet
An alloy composed of at least 58.3% gold with the remaining percentage being silver and copper in various amounts.
14K Yellow Gold (14KY)
14K Yellow Gold Sheet
An alloy composed of at least 58.3% gold with the remaining percentage being silver and copper in various amounts.
14K White Gold (14KW)
14K White Gold Nickel-Based Sheet
An alloy composed of at least 58.3% gold with the remaining percentage being nickel or palladium and copper in various amounts.
18K Rose (Pink) Gold (18KR)
An alloy composed of at least 75% gold with the remaining percentage being silver and copper in various amounts.
18K Yellow Gold (18KY)
18K Yellow Gold Sheet
An alloy composed of at least 75% gold with the remaining percentage being silver and copper in various amounts.
18K White Gold (18KW)
18K Palladium White Gold Round Wire
An alloy composed of at least 75% gold with the remaining percentage being nickel or palladium and copper in various amounts.
22K Gold
22K Yellow Gold Sheet
An alloy composed of at least 92% gold with the remaining percentage being silver and copper.
24K Yellow Gold (24KY)
24K Yellow Gold Sheet
99.9% pure gold.
Gold-Filled
Yellow Gold-Filled  Sheet
A composite metal made by heat and pressure bonding a thin layer of 14- or 12-karat gold to a center core of brass. The layer/layers of gold can be fused to one (single-clad) or both sides (double-clad) of the substrate sheet metal. In wire It surrounds all sides of the substrate metal. In double-clad material, the total weight of the precious metal layer is evenly divided between the two sides.
12/20 Gold-Filled
12/20 Yellow Gold-Filled Sheet
The gold layer is 12-karat and is 1/20th of the entire weight of the material.
14/20 Gold-Filled
14/20 Yellow Gold-Filled Sheet
The gold layer is 14-karat and is 1/20th of the entire weight of the material.
Gold Foil
23.5K Yellow Gold Foil for Keum-Boo
Gold that has been beaten into thin sheet but is thicker than gold leaf.
Gold Leaf
23K Yellow Gold Metal Patent Leaf
Gold that has been beaten into a very thin sheet and often used in gilding. It cannot be handled by hand; special techniques are required.
Gold Solder
14K Plumb Yellow Gold Chip Solder
An alloy of gold that is mixed to have a lower melting point than the metals being soldered together.
Green Gold
Midas green gold pen-plating solution shown on the head of a United States quarter
A gold alloy containing a higher percentage of silver that shifts the color toward a light green/yellow color.

H


Half-Bead Wire
Sterling Silver Half-Bead Wire
A decorative wire that resembles small solid domes connected together side by side.
Half-Hard (1/2-Hard)
Half hard is the work hardened state of metal, like full hard and dead soft it is a variable characteristic that can be changed by annealing the metal or further work hardening the metal.
Heavy-Wall Tubing
Tubing with a wall thicker than standard tubing, designed to be used to make tube settings.
High-Dome Wire
A half round wire that has a higher profile than standard half round wire.

L


Liquidus Temperature
The temperature at which a metal is completely liquid.
Low-Dome Wire
A half round wire that has a lower profile than standard half round wire.

M


Master Casting Alloy
A mixture of alloying metals in shot form that is added to pure metal to form an alloy like sterling silver and 14-karat gold.
Memory Wire
Beadalon Stainless Steel Bracelet Memory Wire
Flexible steel wire with a hard temper to hold its shape. Made into coils and sized for rings, bracelets and necklaces. Used for stringing beads and does not require a clasp.
Metal Hardness
A changeable characteristic of a pure metal or alloy, mostly known as dead-soft, half-hard, full-hard and spring-hard.
Metal Leaf
Fine Silver Metal Patent Leaf
Very thin metal sheet used in conjunction with a type of glue called sizing to decorate the surface (gilding) of usually non-metal objects.
Mokume Gane
Mokume Gane Sheet
A Japanese term meaning “wood grain.” It is a composite alloy made by fusing together alternating sheets of different metal. When patterned by punching, grinding, sanding and other methods the metal will develop a wood grain pattern.

N


Nickel Alloy (Nickel Silver)
Nickel Alloy Square Wire
A white alloy composed of copper, nickel and zinc. This alloy is also known a German silver but has no silver content. Rio Grande offers this material as nickel alloy.
Niobium
Niobium Sheet
A gray-white, soft, malleable, ductile transition metal. Niobium is resistant to corrosion and considered to be hypoallergenic. It is often used in anodized jewelry where an entire range of colors can be produced on its surface.
Noble Metal
Metal that is resistant to corrosion, oxidation and moist air. These include pure (fine) silver, pure gold, and platinum.
Non-Ferrous Metal
Metals that do not contain iron. Examples: brass, bronze, copper, gold, platinum and silver.

P


Paste Solder
Various paste solders
A mixture of solder spheres and a specialized form of flux. The paste is a putty-like material used for quick solder joins such as jump rings or end caps on chains.
Pattern Wire
Sterling Silver Pattern Wire
Rectangular or low-dome wire with a pattern embossed or carved in the surface.
Platinum
Platinum Sheet
A precious silvery-white metal that is both dense and malleable. It is as resistant to corrosion as gold but can take more abuse before needing repair. Platinum is also hypoallergenic, and may not cause irritation to sensitive skin. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina, meaning "little silver."
Plumb Solder
Solder that is at karat value i.e. 14k, 18k. It is used in fabrication. Using this solder does not compromise the hallmarked karat value.

R


Rectangle Wire
Sterling Silver Rectangle Wire
Wire that has a rectangle shape and used primarily in making bracelets and rings.
Red Gold
See Rose Gold.
Repair Solder
Gold solder that is used strictly for repairs, many repair solders contain cadmium. Rio Grande has not carried any cadmium bearing metals since 1968 due to its highly toxic nature.
Reticulation Silver
Reticulation Silver
An alloy of 80% silver and 20% copper.
Rose Gold (Pink Gold)
A gold alloy with a higher percentage of copper than a yellow gold alloy giving the alloy a red hue.
Rod
Sterling Silver Round Rods
A term used for very large gauge wire.

S


Shibuichi
Handmade Shibuichi Sheet
A Japanese term meaning one-fourth. It is a copper alloy with a percentage of silver usually 20–25%.
Silver-Filled
Silver-Filled Round Wire
A composite metal that has a layer of sterling silver or fine silver fused to a base metal. Silver-filled is made in two qualities: 1/20 silver-filled and 1/10 silver-filled. Rio Grande carries 1/10 silver-filled fabrication metals, made with .925 sterling bonded to a red brass alloy.
Silver Solder
Silver Chip Solders
An alloy of silver that has a lower melting temperature than the metals that are being soldered.
Single-Clad
Silver-Filled Single-Clad Sheet
A term describing a gold filled or silver filled sheet metal. It is made by heat and pressure bonding a thin layer of precious metal to one side of a base metal.
Sizing Stock
Pink Gold Square/Rectangle Sizing Stock
A common term for domed wire, rectangle wire, or square wire used for resizing rings.
Slotted Wire
Wire with a box-like slot cut into the length of the wire. Used to finish edges of sheet metal such as belt buckles, cuff bracelets and earrings.
Solder
Various forms of silver solder
An alloy used to join metals together that has lower melting temperature than the metal being joined. There are two different categories of solder.
—Soft solders melt below 800°F and are usually applied with a soldering iron.
—Hard solders, also known as brazing compounds, flow at more than 1000°F and require a soldering torch. Hard solder is available in extra-easy, easy, medium and hard based on the melting temperature. Also see Brazing.
Solidus Temperature
The temperature at which metal begins to melt.
Solder-Filled Wire
Sterling Silver Solder-Filled Round Wire
Wire that has a core of easy solder, best for jump rings and chain making.
Spring-Hard
A state of work hardness in which the metal will return to its original shape after deflection. Spring-hard material is great when used for intricate pierced designs because of its rigidity.
Stepped Bezel
Bezel wire that has two thicknesses in cross section. Used to make bezels for faceted stones.
Sterling Silver
Sterling Silver Sheet
An alloy made up of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper hallmarked as .925, 92.5, or sterling.

T


Titanium
Titanium Sheet
A lustrous transition metal with a silver color, low density, and high strength. Titanium is resistant to corrosion and considered to be hypoallergenic. It is often used in anodized jewelry where an entire range of colors can be produced on its surface.
Triangle Wire
Silver Triangle Wire
Wire that has a triangle shape in cross section.
Tubing
Silver Seamless Tubing
A length of metal in tubular form. Tubing can be standard wall or thick walled and comes in 12” lengths. For a tube setting you would use thick (heavy) walled.
Twist Wire
Sterling Silver Patterned Twist Wire
A decorative wire that looks like two or more wires have been twisted together.

Y


Yellow Silver Solder
Solder that is formulated to have a yellow color to be a better color match for brass.