Aluminum Jewelry

14 08 2010

Designer Jewelry in Anodized Aluminum
An inexpensive, lightweight and very malleable metal that is silver-white in color, Aluminum is extensively used to create jewelry, especially pendants. Aluminum jewelry is durable and fun to wear. It looks great with both casual and dressy attire.

Anodized Aluminum Cuff Bracelet
This lovely number was created by applying acrylics to anodized aluminum.

Aluminum is the most plentiful metallic element in the earth’s crust. It is the third most common element after oxygen and silicon. Although aluminum is present in most rocks and minerals, the only mineral that aluminum is commercially extracted from is bauxite. Major producers of bauxite are Australia, Guinea, Jamaica, and Brazil, with other countries around the world contributing lesser amounts, including the US.

Because aluminum doesn’t occur uncombined in nature like gold and copper, it was unknown as a metal until the 1820’s. Today, aluminum is valued for its versatility. It’s lightweight, one-third the weight of steel, and can be just as strong. The metal is also corrosion-resistant, a good electrical conductor, and easily worked by standard forming methods.

HSU Studio

The people at HSU Studio use an aircraft grade aluminum to make their jewelry. This is an alloy that contains less than three percent of alloying metals, giving it strength and working properties. They purchase only raw material, as high-temper sheet, rod, or wire. The embossing and shaping they do further work-hardens the metal. Anodizing gives it an even harder finish. The resulting work is lightweight, durable, and brilliantly colored.

Anodizing
Anodizing aluminum is an electro-chemical process that allows the surface of the metal to be dyed. Before anodizing, the mill finish aluminum, is cut into manageable sizes and embossed with fabric or textured in some manner.

The first step is to suspend the aluminum in a chemical solution and run an electric current through it. This process produces an oxide coating that is rather porous. That is what allows it to be dyed.

The aluminum is then immersed in dye baths of various colors to achieve the color desired. The dyes they use to produce the colors are similar to fabric dyes. The dye is trapped on the surface by sealing it in a hot bath, which changes the structure to a mostly non-porous one, sealing in the dye.

The result is a beautiful and durable finish. The oxide coating that is formed on the surface during the anodization process is harder than the aluminum by itself. Anodized aluminum cleans easily with a damp cloth. Mild soap can be used for stubborn stains.

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