Frequently Asked Questions - Bronze
Feel free to contact us if you still have questions after reading the information below.
- What is Bronze?
- Are your bronze styles all the same color?
- How does your bronze compare in price to your sterling silver items?
- Do you offer plated bronze?
- Can bronze cause allergic reactions?
- How do you care for bronze?
Bronze is a beautiful metal that has been around for thousands of years. Many people may be familiar with bronze in the form of large three-dimensional sculptures, such as Rodin’s “The Thinker”. For jewelry, bronze is an affordable metal with a warm, rich color.
Bronze is an alloy that consists of a mixture of copper and tin, approximately 90% copper and 10% tin. Producing bronze is a less toxic process than producing brass. Brass is a combination of copper and zinc, and the manufacturing process often produces zinc oxide which is toxic.
Our natural bronze styles are solid bronze. Our silver plated bronze and gold plated bronze both have a solid core of bronze that is then plated in fine silver or in gold.
Our styles that are cast in Thailand are made from a high quality Italian bronze alloy, mixed with precision instruments that ensure a consistent, top-end product.
Our handmade Bali styles use a bronze with a slightly higher ratio of copper to tin than our Thai styles. The Bali bronze formula results in a softer bronze that can be hand worked into the beautiful handmade products Balinese metal smiths are famed for. As a result, our Bali handmade bronze styles are slightly more yellow than our Thai cast bronze styles.
The alloy we use for our Thai bronze includes an anti-tarnish compound. Nevertheless, bronze will naturally tarnish and become darker over time, adding character to the metal. Our Bali bronze has more copper which makes the color less stable. We dip the Bali bronze pieces in an anti-tarnish solution that should provide protection for one year. Bronze usually changes color evenly but exposure to chemicals and certain body products may have unpredictable results.
Our bronze cast styles made in Bali use the same alloy as the Thai cast items, giving them the same coloring which makes a great match for your jewelry designs. These bronze styles also have an anti-tarnish finish. In this case, it is a clear layer of a ceramic coating.
Bronze is less expensive and has less cost volatility than precious metals like silver and gold. This allows us to price our natural bronze at a fraction of the cost of sterling silver.
All of our products are priced based on a combination of metal and labor costs. On heavier items, metal is a higher percentage of the total cost than it is for lighter items. This means on heavier items there is a bigger price difference between a bronze item and the same item in sterling silver than there is for lighter items, where metal is a smaller percentage of the total cost.
Likewise, for handmade items labor is a higher percentage of the total cost than for cast items because there is more labor involved in their production. As a result, for most of our Bali styles which are handmade there is a smaller price difference between a bronze item and the same item in sterling silver than there is for our cast items, where labor is a smaller percentage of the total cost.
Additionally, because bronze is a harder metal than silver, it can require more labor to achieve a high quality, shiny finish on a bronze item than a silver item. As a result, some of our smallest bronze styles are actually more expensive than the silver version!
We offer our Thai cast bronze styles in three finishes: natural bronze, silver plated bronze and gold plated bronze. At this time, the handmade Bali styles are only available in natural bronze.
The Natural Bronze is a lovely warm color, a bit more earthy than our gold plate finish. Bronze will naturally tarnish and become darker over time, adding character to the metal. There are many products available on the market to add various colored patinas to bronze. Feel free to experiment!
Silver Plated Bronze
Our Silver Plated Bronze offers an affordable way to purchase our best-selling charms and pendants. The bronze is plated with 40 micro-inches of fine silver, with a thin layer of nickel in between the bronze and silver plate. The nickel layer increases the longevity and durability of the silver plate by preventing the bronze from migrating up through the silver to the surface.
Our silver plate is the same thickness (40 micro-inches or 1 micron) that we’ve successfully used for years on our gold plated silver. It is durable and reliable. However, as with any plated item, please keep in mind that bending it may cause the silver plate layer to crack.
Our silver plated bronze has an additional Anti Tarnish Finish added to the surface to keep the silver from tarnishing. Most of our silver plated bronze is not oxidized, so it has a bright shiny look. This is most obvious on styles that have recessed areas. You will notice the silver plated bronze styles are bright silver in the recessed areas, unlike the sterling silver versions that are oxidized and then polished, which makes the recessed areas darker than the raised surface areas.
Exceptions are the silver plated bronze VSA4 letter charms, word tags, and some etched styles. These styles are oxidized before the Anti Tarnish Finish is added to make the recessed design dark against the shiny silver.
Gold Plated Bronze
Our Gold Plated Bronze has the same gold plate as we use on our Gold Plated Sterling Silver. It is a satin finish with a 24 karat gold color. The plating process uses 98.5% pure gold and is 40 micro inches thick over bronze with a fine layer of nickel in between. The nickel layer increases the longevity and durability of the silver plate by preventing the bronze from migrating up through the gold to the surface.
Please keep in mind that bronze is a harder metal than silver, and it is therefore more difficult to achieve a pristine, smooth surface. On some of our larger, flat items, small imperfections in the surface may be visible through the satin finish gold plate.
The plate is very reliable and popular with our customers. However, as with any plated item, please keep in mind that bending it may cause the gold plate layer to crack.
The quick answer is it depends on the bronze you’re wearing. Our bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. It is a high quality alloy we sourced from Italy. It is mixed with precision instruments and with the highest standards, so we can offer a product we are proud of. But a lot of antique “bronze” jewelry (and perhaps even current production from other sources) also contains nickel and zinc. Our bronze does not contain nickel or zinc.
Our silver plated bronze is plated with 40 micro-inches of fine silver, with a thin layer of nickel in between the bronze and silver plate. The nickel layer increases the longevity and durability of the silver plate by preventing the bronze from migrating up through the silver to the surface. It is industry standard to use nickel as a barrier layer when plating.
Another thing to note is that “white bronze” contains nickel, which is what gives it the white color. To be clear, we do not use white bronze, but some of our competitors do. It is our understanding that it is the presence of the nickel or zinc that can cause allergic reactions. Please also keep in mind that everyone’s skin and body chemistry is different and will react differently to various metals.
One of the benefits of using bronze over other base metals is that much like sterling silver, tarnish can be easily removed with a polishing cloth. Mixed metal jewelry is still quite fashionable and the inclusion of natural bronze with precious metals allows the designer to create economical pieces that will maintain their original finish with proper maintenance.
We do not recommend using a polishing cloth for any of our plated bronze products as the cloth uses micro abrasions that may eventually remove some of the plated surface.