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.
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.
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.
Even though fashion jewelry is affordable, it's best to treat it with the same care as fine jewelry in order to preserve it. Base metals are usually quite delicate. To protect your jewelry and prevent the plating from wearing off, we recommend that you never let the metal come in contact with water or chemicals of any kind. Clean with a dry microfiber cloth or a soft brush and do not use soap or traditional jewelry cleaning solution. Store your jewelry separately and wrap it in tissue paper to keep it from tarnishing or scratching.