When shopping for jewelry, you might have seen brass and gold options. Both look similar, but there are several differences between them. Jewelry shopping can be an overwhelming process for a newbie, but there are some simple ways to figure out which type of jewelry best fits your wants and needs. Brass vs gold, which will it be?
What is Brass?
Brass is a metal alloy composed mainly of copper and zinc. The proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to produce different mechanical and electrical properties. For example, high proportions of zinc increase the strength and ductility of brass.
Brass can be mixed with iron, aluminum, silicon, and manganese to produce different properties and color variations. Other metals like lead can improve mechanical qualities like machinability (i.e. easier to cut).
Discovered around 500 BC, brass was used by ancient Romans for vessels, dress armor, jewelry, and brooches. Back then, it was created accidentally when mining zinc.
To make brass, you need to melt zinc at 788°F (420°C) and boil it at 1742°F (950°C), so it was not easy to make in ancient times.
Brass only became more popular after the 18th century. Although it used to be first used for trading wool, the metal became more popular with the invention of the chronometer.
Nowadays, brass is commonly used in applications that need corrosion resistance and low friction. This includes locks, hinges, and even trumpets.
What is Gold?
Gold is a dense yellow precious metal with several qualities that have made it valuable throughout history.
Gold is part of the coinage metal group since it has been frequently used to produce money. This is because pure gold is a workable metal that does not tarnish or corrode. Gold is also durable and highly malleable.
The yellow-toned metal was one of the first metals to attract human attention. Many elaborate artifacts made of gold have survived centuries from ancient Egyptians, Minoans, Assyrians, and Etruscans. Not to mention, nowadays, gold has continued to be the favorite metal when it comes to jewelry, decorations, and even skincare and makeup.
When used as skincare, gold can reduce inflammation, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and protect skin from free radical damage. Gold particles are also believed to help other ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin, allowing your other skincare products to work even better.
We saw some gold makeup at the 2022 Met Gala when Emma Chamberlain used gold leaf on her eyes for a pop of color on her crease. Madelaine Petsch also used gold leaf as a decadent accent on her eye makeup.
Gold vs Brass: What’s the Difference?
Gold is usually made of just pure gold. However, to make it easier to manipulate, 24K (the purest gold form) is mixed with other metals when making jewelry. We often see rose gold, yellow gold, and white gold on the market. Here is a list of all of them and their compositions:
|Color of Gold||Composition|
|Yellow Gold (22K)||91.67% Gold5% Silver2% Copper1.33% Zinc|
|Rose Gold (18K)||75% Gold22.25% Copper2.75% Silver|
|White Gold (18K)||75% Gold25% Platinum or Palladium|
|Fine Gold (24K)||99.7% Gold|
💡 Related: See our comparisons of white gold and rose gold, and white vs yellow gold.
Brass is composed of a mixture of copper and zinc. More specifically, the metal comprises 66% copper and 34% zinc. The malleability of brass depends on the amount of zinc in it. Usually, brass that contains more than 45% zinc is not workable.
Gold looks much shinier and brighter than brass. Brass is of a slightly duller yellow color and does not seem to have the same vibrancy as gold does.
💡 Keep in Mind: Both metals can have different colors. Brass can have different colors depending on the ratio of copper and zinc. Gold, on the other hand, can be mixed with other metals to have a different color.
Gold jewelry can last you many years.
However, it is important to take a few precautions daily and deep clean your gold jewelry from time to time to keep it in top shape. Gold-plated jewelry will not last you as long. This is because the gold is just coated on the outside of the jewelry, so it will slowly wear off with time.
Brass jewelry is not likely to break easily. Also, since there is no iron in its composition, brass will not corrode or rust. However, it will tarnish.
💡 Did You Know? Tarnish is that greenish layer that you often see on jewelry containing copper. Since brass is composed of some copper, it will react with the oxygen in the air and tarnish.
Both gold and brass are used in jewelry. However, the two metals also have a variety of distinct uses.
For example, gold is used in currency, medals, electronics, medicine, and even makeup and skincare.
Brass, on the other hand, is often used in hinges, valves, locks, and other mechanical parts that require less friction.
Gold isn’t a high-maintenance metal, but it’s pricey so it’s worth taking extra care to keep it shiny.
To keep your gold jewelry looking good, you should clean it regularly, use soft materials, and avoid harsh chemicals. Put your jewelry on last while getting dressed because makeup, hairspray, and lotions can build up on your jewelry and cause damage. Also, avoid knocking your gold accessories on any hard surfaces since it can damage them.
Brass also does not require expensive cleaning solutions to keep it looking good. If you want your brass jewelry to stay new and shiny, clean it with mild soap and water and scrub with a soft cloth.
💡 Caution: Never shower with your brass jewelry, since it can speed up the oxidation process and cause tarnish.
Gold is more expensive than brass. Currently, brass costs $1.25 to $1.92 per pound, while gold is $1,913 per ounce.
This stark difference is because gold does not oxidize, which allows it to keep its shape and weight for longer. Plus, the metal is quite scarce globally and difficult to extract.
Brass can often contain traces of metals that can lead to allergic reactions. The most common metal allergies are nickel, arsenic, lead, phosphorous, aluminum, manganese, and silicon.
Brass allergy symptoms include:
- Skin blisters
- Chronic inflammation
- Cognitive impairment
- Joint pain
Pure gold should not lead to an allergic reaction. However, gold is often mixed with other metals for better malleability when making jewelry and to create other colors of the metal. For instance, gold can be alloyed with nickel. If you have a nickel allergy, the area in contact with the jewelry might become red and irritated.
Both gold and brass are paired with a variety of gemstones. Both metals are durable, allowing any gemstone to be safely attached to any jewelry made of it. Although your brass jewelry might need a little more attention due to oxidation, the metal can be paired with any gemstone.
Gold vs Brass: Side by Side
|Composition||Pure gold metal||An alloy of copper and zinc|
|Quality||High quality. Gold is extremely durable, malleable, and appealing to the eye.||Brass is resistant to tarnish, low-friction, malleable, and easily machined.|
|Common Uses||Currency, jewelry, medals, electronics, and medicine.||Jewelry, locks, hinges, valves, plumbing, electrical plugs and sockets, zippers, and gears.|
|Maintenance||Soak jewelry in fragrance-free soap and water for a couple of hours, rinse with clean water, and dry with a soft cloth.||Use a non-abrasive jewelry cleaner or mild soap and water. Dry completely. If tarnished, you can use a mixture of baking soda, lemon juice, and water.|
|Cost||$1,913 per ounce||$1.25 to $1.92 per pound|
|Allergenicity||If alloyed with nickel, it can lead to an allergic reaction. The areas in contact with the allergen will become itchy, red, and blistered.||Since it is an alloyed metal, brass can contain traces of metals that can cause allergic reactions. Symptoms can include chronic fatigue, skin blisters, hives, and joint pain.|
|Gemstone Compatibility||Gold is often paired with all kinds of gemstones. Its durability allows for the most beautiful and long-lasting pieces.||Despite its higher maintenance, brass is compatible with most gemstones.|
How to Identify Real Gold
Gold is one of the most valuable metals in the world. Because of its high value, cheaper gold imitations exist in abundance
Here are some ways you can test to see if your jewelry is made of real or fake gold.
One of the ways to test if your jewelry is made of real gold is by using white vinegar. This method is a great option because it will not ruin your jewelry if it’s made of pure gold. If you don’t want to risk jewelry damage, skip this test.
Using a dropper, pour some of the white vinegar directly onto the jewelry metal. If the jewelry changes its color, it is not made of pure gold.
Perhaps one of the simplest of all tests you can do, the float test only requires a glass of water.
Drop your piece of gold jewelry into the glass. Since gold has a high density, it is heavy, therefore it should sink to the bottom. However, if your jewelry floats, it is likely not made of real gold.
Another way to test your gold jewelry is by using a strong magnet. Jewelry that is not made of pure gold will be attracted to the magnet. On the other hand, real gold jewelry will not react when close to a magnet.
Which is Better: Gold vs Brass?
Gold has been the metal used for current, jewelry, and trading throughout history. No wonder it is one of the most coveted, and expensive, metals for jewelry.
When compared to brass, gold is much more resistant to corrosion and easier to maintain. Still, both metals have their place in the world. While gold is great for long-lasting jewelry, brass is used when low friction is required. Without brass, we would not have instruments like the trumpet.
Overall, brass jewelry may be more affordable. However, with affordability, comes lower quality, which will lead to the jewelry having a shorter lifespan. Although real gold jewelry can be expensive, it is a great investment if you want it to last you a lifetime.
On the other hand, if you are looking for some trendy jewelry, brass might be a great option for you. Since it will be just something that you want to wear for the next year and will not hold a lot of sentimental value.
Golden Tones, Different Metals
Although both brass and gold can have similar colors, they are not the same. The two metals are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to quality and durability.
Brass is great for its uses in crafting instruments and components that require low friction. Gold, on the other hand, is a great metal for jewelry that you plan on wearing daily.
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