Brass jewelry is certainly not as common as gold or even silver jewelry, but it is increasingly being used as a unique alternative in the fashion and accessory worlds. Some jewelry may look like solid brass, but it can be hard to tell from looks alone what the piece is actually made from. A few key tips can make it possible to tell the difference between real solid brass, brass plating, and another metal that is merely painted to resemble brass.
All about Brass
Brass is a metallic alloy made up of copper and zinc. It has been used since the third millennium B.C. in places like West Asia and the Mediterranean, and it was referenced in the Bible, in Shakespeare, and in countless texts since. It was used to make sculptures, clocks, and jewelry for thousands of years. It is often chosen because it looks similar to gold but costs just a fraction of the price. Today, brass is used extensively in musical instruments thanks to its acoustic functions, but it is also used in all kinds of jewelry like earrings, cuff bracelets, and necklaces.
Identifying Brass Jewelry
Even experts can have a hard time identifying real brass jewelry at first glance. Thankfully, there are several methods that can be used to tell the difference between jewelry that is made from solid brass and jewelry that has merely been plated with a thin coating of brass.
Color Ranges for Brass Jewelry
When shopping online for new or used brass jewelry, the main way to identify whether an item is made from solid brass is simply to look at its coloring. Brass is yellow, and it usually falls in the spectrum between a bright yellow and a dull yellow that looks like vintage gold. If the coloring looks closer to bronze or copper, then the piece of jewelry in question is very likely not made of brass at all. Since sight is the only sense that can be used when shopping online for brass jewelry, it is important to look only at pictures that are well-lit and free from filters. Dark photos and trendy filters might make the jewelry look nice, but it makes it much harder to tell what material the item is actually made from.
Checking Vintage Brass for Tarnish and Wear
Another key way to determine whether a jewelry piece is made from solid brass is to look for signs of tarnish or wear. This is especially true when it comes to vintage brass jewelry or antique brass jewelry. These older items will naturally have some wear, which can create discoloration. If the item is made from real solid brass, then there will be tarnish around the spots that were touched most often such as any clasps or other fixings. If there is tarnish on a piece of brass jewelry, it can be easily removed with an acidic paste made from ordinary ingredients like ketchup or white vinegar .However, jewelry that is only brass plated will likely rust rather than tarnish. If rust is visible, that is a clear sign that the item in question is not made from solid brass.
Using Magnets to Check Brass Jewelry
Perhaps the simplest way to check if jewelry is made from real solid brass is to use a magnet. Holding a magnet to solid brass should not do anything, and the brass jewelry will not be attracted to the magnet. If the jewelry item does stick to the magnet, then it is actually made from an iron-based metal and only painted with a thin layer of brass as a top coating.
Scratch Tests for Brass Jewelry
A final way to quickly determine whether a piece of jewelry is made from brass is through a scratch test. By using a shark knife or even a fingernail to scratch the surface of a brass item, it is possible to see what color is underneath. If the item is made from solid brass, the scratch will reveal the same color in the layer below. If it is not made from real brass, the scratch will showcase a different color entirely. Scratches should be made in a place that won’t be visible when the jewelry is worn.