Bronze vs Gold
I get inquiries about making a piece in gold sometimes and I wanted to write about why I don't usually work with gold and instead prefer to use bronze. Bronze jewelry is a sustainable alternative to gold and looks just as beautiful! Below are 5 ethical reasons followed by 5 practical reasons to choose bronze vs gold!
1. Gold is Very EXPENSIVE
The cost of gold changes minute by minute, like the stock market. As of writing this, the cost of gold is $1925 per ounce. Meaning that this delicate gemstone ring I make would cost closer to $600 just in material alone not including the cost of the stone. 'Sustainable fashion' isn't sustainable if it's only accessible to the wealthiest among us. When considering cost between bronze and gold, bronze is so much more affordable.
2. Gold is not Environmentally Sustainable
Gold mining is recognized as one of the 'world's dirtiest industries.' The process contaminates drinking water with mercury and cyanide, destroys entire ecosystems, and displaces populations. There is a mine in Utah that is so big it can be seen from space.
3. Historical Impact of Gold + Colonization
Gold is a finite resource. Along with most of US history, the Gold Rush period has been largely whitewashed. The reality is that gold claims brought a massive influx of thousands of people into Native American territory, leading to widespread starvation, slave labor, disease, and ultimately genocide and the theft of their land. To this day, populations that are displaced are disproportionately indigenous.
4. Gold's value is 'Based on Fear'
According to Forbes, people buy gold when economies/currencies look unstable. Brokers prey on uncertainty: the thought that and that things are bad could get worse. So situations like COVID and political unrest are making rich gold investors a lot richer. Just something to think about.
5. The Human Cost of Gold Mining
Despite gold being so pricey right now, the workers who mine it aren't seeing any of that extra $, and many live in poverty. The mining labor in other countries is largely unregulated. Numerous human rights violations, unsafe mining conditions and ongoing exposure to toxic metals mark the lives of the people do this work.
6. Gold and Bronze Look the Same
Generally, the difference in gold vs bronze color is not noticeable. Most people can't tell the difference between gold and bronze from looking if a piece is polished and cared for. The bronze we use mimics the color of 14k gold instead of a yellower finish, and it's beautiful. Bronze for jewelry is an excellent way to get the color of gold without the price tag.
7. Every Metal Oxidizes
A question I get a lot is 'does bronze jewelry tarnish?' The answer of course, is yes, because every metal oxidizes, even gold and fine silver. When metal is exposed to air and water, it forms a slight patina over time. All of my pieces are sealed with Renaissance jewelers wax, an invisible, museum-quality protection to seal and prevent metal from oxidizing. This keeps the finish looking brand new for a long time.
8. Easy to Clean
When oxidization does happen, it's not a big deal! I include little polishing cloths in all orders of bronze jewelry. Any tarnish that has formed comes off in just a couple of swipes and looks brand new! You don't have to us any special cleaner or polish, just rub it gently with the cloth and you soon wont be able to tell if it's bronze or gold. Also, cleaning it is super satisfying if you're into that sort of thing.
9. Bronze is Harder than gold
No jewelry is made of pure, 24 karat gold, because it is so soft that it can easily be bent out of shape. Most jewelry is made of an alloy of gold (14k, 18k) and other metals, but are still comparably soft and will wear down over time. Bronze is hard - it will take a lot more to break a piece made in bronze, or for a stone to fall out. Bronze jewelry is likely to last a lot longer without needing repair and is less likely to get scratched or bent out of shape.
10. Jewelry Made with Recycled Metals
Iron Oxide works with Portland casters and metal refiners who buy back scrap from people to recycle these materials. When I get my bronze castings, any ones that don't end up selling I am able to return to my caster to be melted down to make new designs!
and one last one that I get asked the most:
11. But Will Bronze Turn My Finger Green???
Actually yes, but only slightly! Bronze is an alloy (mix of metals) that has a very low amount of copper that gives it it's warmer color, and also causes the green. I've noticed that bronze we work with hardly leaves a mark though, because the level of copper is so low. I've worn my ring through the summer (hand sanitizer, water, sunscreen, lotion - NOT RECOMMENDED btw, all of these things cause oxidization in metals)
Metal reacting with the skin varies widely person to person. Based on the pH level of your body and how much you sweat will determine if metal turns green when you wear it. If you live in a humid climate that can affect the oxidization level as well.
So..bronze or gold?
Bronze as jewelry is a great alternative to gold for a lot of reasons including cost, durability, sustainability and the color of bronze and gold is nearly indistinguishable.
If I've made some points that have got you thinking about choosing bronze for jewelry instead of gold check out some favorite bronze jewelry designs from Iron Oxide!