Alternative Metalsmithing: Steel

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photo source: The Why Files

Best known for its use in things like surgical tools, building supports, electrical appliances, and hot water heaters, steel is often used to create objects where strength and safety are of utmost importance. However, despite its industrial reputation, it can also be used to create delicate and intricate jewelry.

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There are several types of steel used in jewelry-making, the two most popular being stainless steel and mild steel. Stainless steel is an alloy of steel that contains at least 10% chromium, which combines with oxygen to create a thin, invisible layer of chrome-containing oxide. This protective layer is what makes it “stainless”, however despite its title, stainless steel is not actually “stainless” but just extremely resistant to corrosion. Mild steel, or “carbon steel” is an alloy of steel that has no more than 2% carbon and no other appreciable alloying element, it differs from stainless steel because it is not resistant to corrosion and is more easily weldable.

Steel can be a great alternative to non- ferrous metals in jewelry making, as it is relatively inexpensive and lightweight. It is extremely strong and resilient and though it takes a little more strength than other base metals to bend and form, steel will retain its shape and durability much longer. Stainless steel can be an excellent alternative to metals that can cause sensitivities and allergies such as copper and brass as it is considered hypoallergenic. Carbon steel exhibits ferromagnetism (meaning its magnetic), which can make for some interesting jewelry design solutions. Because of its low price tag and lightweight and durable qualities, steel is also a great medium for larger scale pieces.

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steel, plastic, and silver jewelry by artist Brice Garrett.

According to the Worth Global Style Network, this modest metal is gaining in popularity, through industrial and urban-inspired trends and is appearing more and more in both fashion and jewelry. Looking to jump on the steel jewelry bandwagon? We have an upcoming Steel Fabrication class that explores the many possibilities that this metal has to offer. Check it out and join us for a fun, informative six week course!CIMG9703

Brooch by instructor Brice Garrett

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