Many of us wear gemstones for their beauty and healing properties. But what about the setting the gemstone goes in, or the chain we wear with it? Often that’s the part closest to your body, and these parts are usually made of metal. And metals have their own individual characteristics and properties.
Elements and Alloys:
Metals may be either one pure element or an alloy, which is a mixture of metals. In jewelry, the latter is far more common. Elemental copper, silver and gold are quite beautiful, but they’re all soft on their own, which means they won’t hold their shape well as jewelry. So an alloying metal is added to make them more workable and stable. Even the types of metal we think of as “pure” may have something else in them; Sterling silver, for example, is actually 7.5% copper. And sometimes even Sterling may contain traces of other metals as well, including nickel.
By far the most common metal allergy is to nickel. While some people do suffer from all types of allergies, it’s likely that many allergic reactions to metal are due to the fact that so many alloys actually contain nickel. So if you have sensitivities to nickel or any other metal, you’ll want to avoid problems by knowing what jewelry is made of before you buy it. Hopefully the charts below will be a start, but there are some other things it’s important to know.
Lead is a toxic element that can especially cause problems in children. Since lead makes a very good alloying material, in the past it was often used to make pewter and other mixed metals. Antique pewter jewelry is very likely to contain lead. Nowadays pewter produced in the U.S. is lead-free. However laboratory tests have shown that many inexpensive items currently imported from China do in fact contain lead. This should be safe enough for adults to wear; still, many of us would rather avoid it. Over-the-counter lead testing kits don’t always work well to test jewely. They may give a false positive to non-lead metals used to make safe pewter alloys.
Metals are sometimes given confusing names. Metals called German Silver, Tibetan Silver, Inca Silver and other such things usually contain no silver at all. And items that look like they’re made of one metal may actually have only a coating of that metal. For example, often something that looks like copper will turn out to stick to a magnet. Copper isn’t attracted to magnets, so this shows the item is really steel with just a coating of copper. The same often holds true for “silver-look” and “gold-look” chains and other items. And some terms, like “white metal,” are simply a catch-all, and can mean just about anything.
Those of us who staff stores where jewelry is sold will do our best to let you know what kind of metal is in the items we sell. We can be pretty sure about items made of silver stamped 925, American-made pewter, brass and bronze. But in other cases, the truth is that we don’t always know, especially when it comes to lower-priced imported items. A lot of people enjoy wearing these things and have no problems whatsoever. But if you’re sensitive to certain metals (or have a baby that likes to suck on your chains) you’ll probably want to stick to metals whose content is known.
Another thing people ask is… “Will this metal turn my skin green?”
Various metals may do this, the most common being copper and nickel — even if they’re coated with something else. For example, a lot of silver-plated chains are really copper with a thin silver plating, and for some people this will turn the skin green every time. But it’s not the same for everyone, and a lot depends of body chemistry. If you find a lot of metal jewelry turns your skin green, your body chemistry may be more sensitive than other peoples’.
In that case, your best choices of metal may be things like stainless steel, titanium, an rhodium-coated silver. But there also are plenty of other handsome-looking options that don’t involve metal at all, such as cotton cord, leather, and ribbon. When you do wear metal, try taking off your jewelry when you exercise, or in other situations where the metal may get wet. Sweat causes even pure sterling silver to tarnish, and that tarnish may also stain your skin.
Part 2: The Magic of Metals
While healing and metaphysical properties of crystals come from a variety of sources, what we know about the subtle properties of metals comes mainly from one tradition: alchemy.
The first thing many people think of when we hear the word “alchemy” is experiments by ancient and medieval scientists trying to transform base metals into gold. But their research didn’t begin or end there, and along the way the human race learned a lot about both the natural world and subtle energies. And since astrology and alchemy developed side by side, it’s not surprising that properties of metals are strongly associated with the planets and their associated deities. Therefore, the seven metals of antiquity — lead, tin, iron, copper, mercury, silver and gold — line up with the seven traditional planets.
These traditional seven metals have been the base of everything from vedic jewelry to singing bowls.
Like crystals, metals come from the earth, but metals are a more purified form of the same substances that give crystals their color, physical properties, and energy. Many gemstones are actually ores of these metals. In jewelry, the metal a gem is set in can serve to conduct, enhance, or mitigate the energy of the gem. As with crystals, you may choose metals that balance your weaknesses or ones that amplify strengths. In many traditions, as with vedic jewelry, stones and metals are coordinated for optimum combinations.
As for singing bowls, although they’re often called “Seven metals singing bowls,” they’re seldom if ever made of the seven tradition metals. (You didn’t really want to handle a bowl made partially of toxic mercury anyway, did you?) This goes for antique as well as modern bowls, hand-hammered as well as machine-made. Good-quality bowls are made of bronze, ideally a special type known as “bell metal,” which is about 78% copper and 22% tin.
This alloy has been used in everything from church bells to percussion instruments for over a thousand years, because it simply produces the best sound and overtones. Some lower quality bowls and bells may be made of brass, possibly mixed with miscellaneous recycled metals, but you’ll immediately know the difference by the sound.
What are some other ways we can harness the power of metals? Here are a few ideas:
Using objects made of these metals for ritual and meditation, and adding them to your altar
Alchemy uses metals as a way of understanding personality. Each of these metals is associated with a personality archetype connected with its corresponding planet, and the deity for whom that planet was named. People are naturally drawn to one of these archetypes, or possibly a combination of two or three.
Astrological bangles (which you may have read about in Autobiography of a Yogi) contain copper, silver and gold in proportions fine-tuned to the individual’s astrological chart. Less expensive metal bangles are an easier to find, less expensive option. For example, many wear bracelets made with copper and/or magnetized iron to improve circulation and control arthritis.
Orgonite can be formulated with specific metals and metal ores. This is an especially helpful way to harness the properties toxic metals such as mercury and lead.
Taking metals internally via homeopathic medicines.
Use a mineral that is an ore for the metal you want to work with, or that contains some of that metal. This can include aura quartzes. Refer to our list of crystal associates of the seven metals for more information on this (and pin it on your Pinterest account for future reference!).
And finally, here are a few other metals, with their associations and a few other interesting facts:
Titanium: purity, power, being a catalyst for positive change, repelling negative energy. Titanium can be found in rutilated quartz, and also in various stones with asterisms (star ruby, star sapphire, etc.) It’s also the metal coating found on rainbow, flame & titan aura quartz.
Aluminum: self understanding, reflection.
Zinc: transformation of energy, calming of excess or nervous energy
Platinum: meditation, finding one’s true direction
Nickel: problem solving, attracting energy and/or intuitive information, banishing compulsive thoughts or actions. Some yellow/green aura quartzes are coated with nickel.
Antimony: magic, protection, healing, wild spirit. It’s often used in conjunction with other metals, and so is associated with cooperative and teacher/student relationships.
Want to learn more about the stones mentioned here and their healing properties? Sign up to get my FREE Healing Properties eBook!
Seven Metals & More (Article by Cathy Douglas)
Metals have their own individual characteristics and properties, as well as a touch of alchemy magic. Don't make the mistake of overlooking these precious seven metals.
Love & Light School of Crystal Therapy