Brass vs Stainless Steel Jewelry: Which is Better?

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Today we live in a wonderland of jewelry.

We have a plethora of choices with all sorts of gems, metals and designs.

If you are looking for durable pieces of jewelry, you’ll come across brass and stainless steel.

Both show their own unique look and feel. Yet, they have downsides too.

So, which is the better choice for you? Here is a comparison of brass and stainless steel jewelry pros and cons to help you make your best decision.

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What is brass?

Brass is a metal composed of copper and zinc.

The proportions of these two metals can be changed to reach variations with different properties, but typically, brass contains between 60-90% copper.

Brass is harder and more durable than copper alone. This makes it ideal for areas where strength and durability are important.

It is also more resistant to corrosion than many other metals.

The density of brass is about 8.7 g/cm3. This does vary according to the metal percentages in the composition.

In addition to its practical properties, brass has a long history of use in decorative items and jewelry.

It has a warm feel that is not common among metals.

Moreover, it can be polished to a higher shine, making it an attractive material for many jewelry lovers.

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What is stainless steel?

Stainless steel is an umbrella term for iron alloys that have at least 11 percent chromium in their composition.

This important addition, with the presence of oxygen, helps protect the metal from outside effects by forming a thin film on the surface cutting contact from the core.

Steel is not an element like iron: it is a mix of metals.

Depending on its recipe, it gains attractive properties like extreme endurance to stress, high resistance to heat and corrosion.

Stainless steel is an indispensable material for our lives in the 21st century. It brings versatility and endurance in the same package.

It does not rust or corrode. It plays a vital role in a variety of industries and applications.

Machinery and aerospace industries use stainless steel parts where they require high strength and durability. Construction companies use stainless steel columns and bars in the construction of buildings and bridges.

Stainless steel is also used in the food and beverage industry for food processing equipment. In biomedical sciences, high quality steel is used for surgery equipment and implants.

In our case, for jewelry, we will focus on surgical grade 316L type stainless steel.

This version of steel is hypoallergenic and considered safe for people with sensitive skin.

This alloy type has about 8 g/cm3 density.

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Pros and cons of brass vs stainless steel jewelry

1. Color

Brass jewelry has a gold-like color that is even more attractive with its low price tag.

The color of brass can range from a light yellow to a deep reddish brown, depending on the alloy composition and the finish.

Polished brass looks like gold’s long-lost twin sister. It carries a strong luster, and it is very reflective.

Brushed brass has a matte look than polished brass. It shows less shine but nevertheless looks like gold too.

Satin finish also uses brushes for smoothing the surface. In this process, thinner brushes are used for a more smooth feeling.

Unfortunately, brass can tarnish, like sterling silver. Some do prefer this vintage look which shows the marks of time.

Stainless steel is probably what comes to everyone’s mind when metallic color is mentioned.

It has a cool white color that often gets close to a shade of gray. Steel jewelry can also have black color pieces.

[pinterest infographic – metal color]

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2. Durability

We want our jewelry to shine and serve us long term. Who would want a piece that easily gathers scratches and looses its shape?

This is why hardness and durability are important when choosing metals for jewelry.

Hardness is measured on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. The ratings on this measure give a good idea of the scratch resistance and endurance against daily wear and tear of the gem or metal.

On this scale, diamond defines the top with 10 grade. Talc gets 1, making the bottom.

Brass gets a rating of around 3 depending on its composition.

316L stainless steel is much sturdier than expected. It has a 6 rating, meaning it has a greater resistance to scratches and abrasion.

It is ready to serve you a long time with strong resistance to rust and corrosion.

Check our post on tungsten vs titanium vs stainless steel rings for more durable options for jewelry.

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3. Hypoallergenic property

People with sensitive skin may experience unease from certain materials.

Jewelry metals are potentially in this category.

Metals can trigger skin allergy with symptoms including itching, redness, and swelling.

This does not happen immediately but after a while, when a sufficient level of absorption has been reached.

The top two allergen metals are nickel and lead. The best choice is to simply avoid these and prefer hypoallergenic metals.

These are metals that are considered safe for people with sensitive skin. Despite no one can guarantee zero risk, these metals are known to be highly unlikely to react with human tissue.

The safe list includes metals like gold, silver, palladium, platinum and more. Check this post for more on this subject.

Brass is a copper alloy with zinc. If you have skin allergy to either one, you may have unease.

316L type stainless steel is surgical grade material. It is hypoallergenic.

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4. Price

Both brass and stainless steel are affordable pieces of jewelry.

They are not precious metals like gold, silver, platinum or palladium.

Their components copper, zinc and iron are abundant metals.

The end price of the jewelry piece depends on many factors like design details, gemstones, designer, collection, brand etc. But, to give a rough idea, relatively speaking brass and steel pieces will have close prices than many alternatives.

Yet, if you are looking for an affordable alternative to combine with an orange or red dress, a polished brass piece is probably a better option.

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Conclusion: Brass vs stainless steel jewelry: which one is better?

As we have seen, both brass and stainless steel have their pros and cons.

The winner really depends on your personal preference and the circumstances under which you plan to wear it.

If you are looking for an alternative to a gold set, brass jewelry can easily save the day and your budget. It looks like gold, and you’ll have no problem finding a design that you fancy.

On the other hand, if you want a piece with a cooler look that can complement your dress at work, stainless steel is a good choice.

It is ready to endure what any day can bring. Just make sure you pick 316L type steel as it is a high quality surgical grade material to assure peace of mind.