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Brass

Is It Safe to Wear Brass Jewelry?

Brass Jewelry Pieces

So you went out to buy new jewelry but because you are on a tight budget, you decided to pick items with cheap base metals. You remember reading about brass jewelries online and how inexpensive they are, so you asked the jeweler if they have those in store. But before you even finish your sentence, they immediately tried to talk you out of it. Their reason?

  1. They believe jewelry pieces are intimate items that not only complement outfits, but also symbolize social status. Therefore, they must have a substantial monetary value.
  2. They also believe that brass jewelry can turn your skin green. Copper, which makes up about 60 percent of brass, turns green over time as it oxidizes. So, it’s only logical to assume that brass turns green over time, too. However, it’s highly unlikely for this color change to spread onto your skin.
  3. Most brass jewelries contain nickel and lead, two of the most notorious causes of skin allergy out there. Jewelers believe that, unlike other more expensive base metals, brass is not hypoallergenic.

While these reasons are worth factoring in your final decision, it wouldn’t be fair to not look into the pros of brass jewelry as well. After all, it’s not as bad as most people say. Many jewelry stores still offer brass jewelry, so generally, it’s an option that you can consider. Let’s take a look at some of the major benefits of brass jewelry.

  1. One of the enticing characteristics of brass jewelry is its gold-like appearance. Depending on copper-zinc ratio, the color of brass may range from dark brown to silvery white. To achieve a gold-like shade, you must combine around 67% copper and 33% zinc. Thanks to this unique property, brass is often used as alternative to gold for a variety of design applications.
  2. With copper as its base constituent, brass is among the most durable metals around. It can last for thousands of years if properly stored and maintained. As previously mentioned, brass develops a layer of greenish material on its surface. This layer, called patina, acts as a shield that protects the brass inside from corroding.
  3. Brass is significantly cheaper than premium-grade base metals such as sterling silver and gold vermeil. Part of the reason is its main components—copper and zinc—are still currently in great abundance. Unlike gold and silver, they are not precious metals. Another reason is that brass is used for familiar applications like construction and electronics.

Is it safe to wear brass jewelry?

Brass is made up of copper and zinc. To improve its quality, a minute amount of other metals, such as nickel and lead, is added to the mixture. The resulting brass can be tougher, shinier, or more resistant to corrosion. Some industrial brasses, including brass extrusions, bars, and tubes, even have more extra metals in them.

Unfortunately, these improvements in the quality of brass have some side effects. As mentioned earlier, nickel and lead can cause serious allergic reactions, which range from itching to rash.

Simply put, it’s not really brass that causes allergy but the new elements added to its original composition. By and large, nickel and lead should only account for no more than 1% of the entire brass alloy, but even this miniscule amount could lead to severe allergic reactions.

The thing is not all brass jewelry contains nickel or lead. Some are made purely of copper and zinc. If you are really interested in wearing brass jewelry, it is best to ask the jeweler what other metals it contains apart from copper and zinc. It’s also possible that you are allergic to copper or zinc, in which case you should avoid wearing brass jewelry altogether.

How to Polish Brass Jewelry

One of the disadvantages of brass jewelry is that it tarnishes rather quickly. The good news is there are easy ways to polish it and restore its shiny, gold-like appearance. One method involves the use of products that you most likely have in your own home. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Prepare vinegar, salt, flour, warm water, and a small bowl.
  2. Put 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ cup of vinegar into the bowl. Mix properly until the salt completely dissolves into the vinegar.
  3. Add the flour into the mixture and mix well until you produce a paste-like substance.
  4. Rub you brass jewelry with this paste and make sure to cover all surfaces.
  5. Leave the item for 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
  6. Make sure to dry the brass jewelry with clean cloth as quickly as possible to prevent moisture from triggering tarnishing.

You may choose to buff up the brass jewelry with clean cloth but be careful not to apply too much force. Don’t forget that it’s a jewelry item you are polishing, not a piece of furniture. If you think polishing your jewelry this way is too risky, make do with warm water rinsing.

Apart from jewelry, brass is used for a wide range of industrial and creative applications, including construction, filtration systems, musical instruments, and machine design. This metal is so versatile you can even incorporate it in your own projects. Should you need brass supplies, make sure to purchase them from reputable brass suppliers like Rotax Metals.

Understanding Corrosion and the Metal Polishing Process

metal sugar bowls and jugs

Corrosion refers to the natural or forced destruction of metal. Different metals corrode in different ways. Iron, for instance, corrode by transforming into iron oxide or rust when exposed to oxygen, while zinc forms a layer of zinc oxide on its surface, which later hardens and turns into zinc carbonate when exposed to atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The chemical agent that prompts corrosion affects each metal differently, too, as elucidated through the above-mentioned examples. Oxygen remains the most influential of all corrosion-causing elements due to its abundance, but various compounds, particularly acids, are many times more potent.

Corrosion impacts not just a metal’s appearance, but also its longevity. Especially if the metal has an assigned structural function, identifying and eliminating factors that could trigger corrosion is necessary to prevent accidents.

Stages of Corrosion

There’s a vast range of factors that affect the rate and manner by which a metal corrodes. These include metal type, chemical agent, metal composition, temperature, pressure, and a plethora of environmental factors. It is therefore safe to say that each metal type undergoes unique stages of corrosion when exposed to the same chemical.

To make it easier for us to understand how metals corrode, let us categorize them based on their iron content, since iron is a key player in the corrosion of many of today’s extensively utilized metals. Let’s call those that contain iron “ferrous metals” and those that do not “non-ferrous metals”. Assuming the chemical agent is oxygen, here’s how these two types of metals react.

  • Ferrous Metals

    – Oxygen is present in the atmosphere, so unless placed in a vacuum, ferrous metals are bound to corrode. When a ferrous metal corrodes, oxygen molecules latch onto iron molecules, forming iron oxide. This continues until all of the iron within the metal leaches out.

  • Non-Ferrous Metals

    – Metals like copper, bronze, and brass corrode almost the same way as iron and steel, except the damage stays on the surface. When oxygen molecules combine with the molecules of non-ferrous metals like these, a layer of oxide forms. Over time, this oxide combines with carbon dioxide to form a carbonate, which later becomes the metal’s protective layer.

The Noble Metals

There’s a group of metals that neither tarnish nor rust when exposed to oxygen. They are called noble metals. Platinum, gold, silver, and palladium belong to this group. Even prominent non-ferrous metals like copper and titanium don’t make the cut, because they, too, corrode. Want to know if your gold jewelry is authentic? Try not polishing it for days. If it stays shiny, it means it’s authentic.

Metal Polishing Process

Thankfully, corrosion can be fixed, depending on the metal type and the severity of damage. This isn’t the case with ferrous metals in which corrosion has already cut deep. Like a rotten tooth, there’s a limit to how much of a piece of ferrous metal has been consumed by rust so it can be considered non-salvageable.

It’s a different story when you are dealing with non-ferrous metals. As explained, the damage left by corrosion on these metals are only skin-deep, because the patina acts as a shield against further damage. Such shield can preserve the metal inside for a long time. To give you an idea how long, the oldest metallic artifact discovered was a copper awl, which dates back to 5,100 B.C. It’s surface is heavily corroded but the inside is intact.

Of course, it’s difficult to remove patina and restore a metal’s luster, which is why you should polish a metal when it’s just starting to tarnish. Tarnishing is the first stage of corrosion and it’s just a thin layer that can easily be polished by scrubbing with a homemade or commercial metal polish. Besides, scraping away the patina might damage the metal underneath, especially if it’s the soft type, so don’t wait for the metal to patinate before you polish it.

Then again, if you really need to polish a severely corroded metal item but you don’t have the right tools and polishing agent, opt for professional metal polishing services. They use cutting edge-technology, including powerful substances to eradicate even thick layers of corrosion.

Whether it’s a jewelry item or a raw metal piece you bought from one of the bronze or brass suppliers in your area, if it’s made of a non-ferrous metal like copper, brass, or bronze, it can be polished back to its shimmering self. Here are some simple tips you can follow.

  1. Wash the metal piece with soap and water very carefully to remove dust and grease. Excess dust may contain tiny pieces of stones that can scratch the surface of your metal piece when you start scrubbing.
  2. Dry the metal piece properly until it’s totally stripped of moisture. Water may not go well with the metal polish. Buffing while the surface is still slightly wet may not yield the result you desire.
  3. Choose between a homemade polish and a commercial one. It would be easy to just buy over-the-counter metal polish, but if you’re the exploratory type, you can make your own metal polish by mixing boiled water, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Rub the surface of the metal item with the metal polish mixture and let it sit for a few minutes. Then buff it with a clean cloth until the shiny surface emerges. Do this repeatedly until all surfaces have been fully buffed.

If ever you are interested in making metal furniture yourself, consider using any of the 100 different copper alloys. They’re not just rust resistant, but they are also visually appealing. Some brasses even have a gold-like shade, which makes them so elegant-looking. Just remember to buy your supplies from one of the top bronze and brass suppliers in North America, such as Rotax Metals. They offer some of the highest quality copper alloy supplies in the country.

Difference Between Brass and Bronze

bronze statue

Most people have heard of “bronze” at least once—in a museum, in a church, or in an Olympic ceremony. It’s a metal used to make a variety of things, including sculptures, bells, and medals. Brass?—Not a lot. Only those in the manufacturing and construction industry are well aware of it.

Truth is even though brass is as useful, if not more, as bronze, it isn’t as popular. One apparent reason for this is because its history is not as remarkable as bronze’s. Unlike brass, bronze was discovered at a time when there are no other metals that could rival it yet.

It didn’t take long, though, before brass could make a name for itself. And at one point in history its existence begged the question “Are brass and bronze the same?”or “Can brass substitute bronze?”

While brass and bronze are both alloys of copper, their properties are not the same. Neither metal can substitute the other at least in highly specialized applications.They must be treated as different metals with different values.

Composition

To better understand the difference between brass and bronze, let’s take a close look at their composition. After all, an alloy’s properties can change dramatically when at least one of its contents is altered. In fact, adding even just a miniscule amount of a different element to the composition could produce an entirely different kind of alloy.

As previously mentioned, brass and bronze are both alloys of copper. This means that copper is their base metal content and they differ in their secondary metal content. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, while bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.

Unlike bronze, which was discovered when copper and tin-rich rocks were combined to build campfire rings, the discovery of brass was almost totally unintentional. For some time it wasn’t regarded as a copper alloy because zinc vapor hadn’t been recognized as a metal yet. It wasn’t even called brass until zinc qualified as a metal.

Properties

Due to their difference in composition, brass and bronze also possess different properties. Anyone working with these metals must take note of this fact because they are generally not interchangeable.Here’s to help you more easily distinguish between brass and bronze.

  • Color

    – Bronze has a reddish-brown or reddish-gold color, which turns into dark brown or green as it oxidizes. Brass, on the other hand, has a bright gold, copper, or even silver color, depending on the type and amount of other metals added to the mixture.

  • Workability

    – Brass is more malleable than bronze. Meaning, it’s less likely to break when hammered or rolled into thin plates than bronze. In fact, bronze is almost as brittle as cast iron and melts longer than brass. Depending on their composition and the output quality desired, however, both bronze and brass may need to be worked hot.Whether you are extruding brass or bronze bars or drawing them into wires, they need to be heated for easier metalworking.

  • Conductivity

    – When it comes to heat and electrical conductivity, there’s not much difference between the two alloys. They are both effective conductors, and that’s why they’re suitable for machines that run on electricity.

  • Corrosion Resistance

    – Both brass and bronze are resistant to corrosion because they are mostly made of copper. However, they react differently to oxidation. Bronze develops a protective layer called patina when exposed to the air, while brass simply tarnishes and loses its luster. Some types of brass are especially resistant to galvanic seawater corrosion, making them ideal for sea vessel covering and pipes for desalination systems.

  • Acoustic Property

    – The sound created by bronze is much duller and deeper than that created by brass, which explains why it isn’t compatible for high-pitched musical instruments. It’s just right for cymbals and bells, though, because its resonance does not disappear fast. Brass, on the other hand, is capable of creating the smooth, wide-ranging tone expected from musical instruments like trumpet and horn.

Where to Purchase Brass and Bronze

Despite being widely used in the construction, communication, and transportation industries, copper alloys are not as easy to come by as more abundant metals like iron and aluminum. There are only very few bronze and brass suppliers in North America that can provide authentic, high-quality products.

It’s easy to tell if a supplier can deliver the right grade of metal for your project. First, find out how long they’ve been in the business. The older the company, the wider its network of sources is, so it’s also highly that they produce superior products. Rotax Metals, which was established many decades ago, is the perfect example. Having their own foundry is also a meritas it means they have full control of the manufacturing and quality assurance process.

Sources:

https://www.diffen.com/difference/Brass_vs_Bronze

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