Niobium is a jeweler’s dream metal for many reasons.
- highly resistant to chemical attack
- very pure kind of metal – has no nickel, no alloy
- super hypoallergenic – so much so that many people who are allergic to gold can wear niobium with no allergy reaction
- malleable, very ductile
- corrosion resistant
- comes in a wide range of rich anodized colours
- light weight (lighter than sterling silver)
So what is Niobium?
Some say this is a precious metal or a semi-precious metal. It does indeed have many characteristics of precious metals. Like other precious metals (like gold and silver), jewelers are able to work this metal with hand tools. Its natural colour is white-silver-grey (like steel) and when polished, it resembles platinum in appearance.
It is a very pure metal and is used extensively for pierced ears, body piercing, and even in surgery procedures.
Its Amazing Colours
Niobium articles can come in an amazing array of luxuriously rich colours. However no dyes, paints, or colouring is used. Rather the metal is anodized and the range of colours is due to refracted light. The anodizing process lays a protective layer of oxide over the metal and it is the possible various thicknesses of the oxide layers that yield the amazing range of rich colours.
This oxide coating is essentially transparent but chemically stable so that the colours do not change over time. And unlike other finishes, this finish preserves the natural lustre, texture, and beauty of the underlying metal.
Working with Niobium
Thousands of pounds of niobium are used in the jewelry each year. However this is but a small fraction of the industry’s overall use of metals. And yet, this metal is highly suitable for the making of jewelry related items. We think that one of the reasons why it is not as widely employed as it logically should be is that this metal is sadly not as well known.
The following are some of the characteristics that are relevant to jewelry-making:
- metal is very ductile
- very slow to work harden
- easy to cut with a jeweler’s saw
- can be hand formed, dapped, chased, and forged with ease.
- at room temperature, a thin adherent, transparent, and self-healing oxide film forms on the surface which protects the metal from corrosion.
- it should not be soldered nor heated to melting point.
- makes very attractive earwires and jump rings and contracts very well with silver (as in chain maille)
Caring for Niobium
It is very easy to clean – just use soap and warm water. Harsh chemical is not recommended.