Costume Jewelry Metals
Most fashion costume jewelry is made from one or more base metals: any abundant metal which is not considered to be "precious." Some popular base metals include copper, iron, nickel, tin, and aluminum. These metals are often used as alloys in precious metal jewelry, such as gold or silver, but they also happen to make a great primary metal for budget-friendly fashion jewelry.
What are Base Metals?
Brass is one of the most desirable base metals to use in fashion jewelry. It is comprised of copper and zinc and has a natural yellow tone. You can also find brass in musical instruments, artwork, and home fixtures. Bronze is another popular and sturdy alternative metal, used in sculptures, medals, ship-making, instruments, and of course, jewelry. Bronze is a yellowish brown color and consists of copper and tin, with tin making up 5-15% of the alloy.
Fashion Jewelry Plating
In costume jewelry, the base metals are typically plated to imitate the look of precious metals. When you see a goldtone or silvertone piece, it may not actually contain any real gold or silver and is likely colored through a process called "electroplating." This process blankets the metal in a thin coating of color and gloss. When done well, electroplating can be successful in creating an attractive piece which emulates the appearance of fine jewelry.
Sometimes fashion jewelry metals are coated with real precious metals to give it a higher end look. Gold plate is the most popular and is usually yellow in color, but can also be white or rose. Silver plate is also a great choice to give base metal a shiny white luster. Some designers, especially those who work with crystal, like to plate base metals with rhodium or palladium to give it a bright, silvery sheen.