We have numerous materials all with various strengths, corrosion resistance, uses etc. This page should help you wade through all the data and compare the materials.
In general, we have selected alloys and tempers that are best suited for making chainmail while still being reasonably priced. The alloy and temper of a wire is extremely important, it can make the difference between chainmail that cannot hold its own weight and chainmail that will give years of service with only minor repairs.
Please note: All of our products on our site - rings, wire, jewelry findings are Lead Free. They are also mercury and cadmium free. For nickel info see the chart below.
Recycled Content: All of our metal can and does contain recycled content. This is just how the metal industries work now. People return metal for recycling and it will end up in our wire. All metal that doesn’t leave our facility as finished product is recycled. We recycle, brass, bronze, copper, stainless… all of it. For more info on our TRL Environmental Initiatives have a read here.
This chart is split into 2 for display clarity. More materials are below.
|Hypoallergenic||Will Tarnish or Change Color Over Time||Cleanliness||Most Appropriately Used As||Cost Per Ring||Pairing Suggestions||Bendability / Workability||Saw Cut-ability||TRL Alloy||TRL Temper and UTS||Weight Compared to Steel||Magnetic ?||AR for Armor Quality Strength||Cleaning||Shining||Special Notes|
|Bright Aluminum (AB)||Good||Stays same||Good||Jewelry, armor, costume||$||Great with anodized aluminum, rubber rings and enameled copper||Easy||Easy||5356 - H18||H18 = Strain hardened to a level of 8/9 ~60ksi||66% lighter||No||>=14g AR<5||Ultrasonic cleaner or hot soapy water like dishes.||Tumble to increase shine||Drawn to super smooth surface with little to no imperfections = little to no rub off. Reacts to strong acids/bases - changing appearance. As close to silver color as a non-plated base metal gets - white undertone.|
|Anodized Aluminum (AA)||Good||Stays same||Excellent||Costume jewelry, armor, costume||$$||Great with bright aluminum and enameled copper||Easy||-||5356 - H18||H18 = strain hardened to a level of 8/9 ~60 ksi||66% lighter||No||>=14g AR<5||Hot soapy water like dishes. Don't use strong acids/ bases on AA it will affect the coating.||Polishing will not add shine. May damage coating.||We make this using two techniques - one is shinier than the other. See pictures and notes in category for details. Reacts to strong acids and bases - changing appearance of the metal.|
|Stainless Steel (SS, SH)||Contains nickel||Stays same||Excellent||Any jewelry, armor, costume||$$||Great with almost anything - good with costume and high end materials.||Difficult (spring temper is very difficult)||Difficult||304||Regular stainless: 1/4 hard, ~125 ksi Spring temper stainless: 3/4 hard, ~250ksi||-||Varies from 'No' to 'Slightly'||SS>=16g AR=16g AR<6.1||Ultrasonic cleaner or hot soapy water like dishes.||You can tumble to increase shine but it takes lots of tumbling. To maximum shine research steel shot finishing techniques.||We don't carry Surgical Stainless. Nickel is usually what people react to as a piercing.|
|Niobium(NO, NA)||Excellent - perfect hypoallergenic choice||Stays same Anodized keeps brighter colors longer than TI.||Excellent||High end jewelry||$$$$||Beautiful with silver, gold fill, stainless and titanium.||Easy||Difficult||100% pure niobium||Hard ~60 ksi||~6% heavier||No||-||Ultrasonic cleaner or hot soapy water like dishes - even for anodized.||You can tumble to increase shine but it won't get super shiny like AB or SS. Tumble the anodized and you won't destroy the color layer - color may change.||Niobium is an element on the periodic table. Nb 41. It's called a reactive metal as you can change its color with heat and electricity.|
|Titanium (TI, TA)||Excellent - perfect hypoallergenic choice||Stays same Colors fade from skin oils - clean to renew.||Excellent||Any jewelry, armor, costume||$$$||Beautiful with anything. Best with niobium, silver, gold fill and stainless||Very difficult||Difficult||Grade 5 is Ti-6Al-4V 6% aluminum, 4% Vanadium||1/2 hard 130ksi||40% lighter||No||>=16g AR<6.1||Ultrasonic cleaner or hot soapy water like dishes - even for anodized.||Tumble TI to increase shine (cannot get mirror finish). Anodized layer not as durable as niobium. Test before tumbling. May affect color.||Titanium can be brittle - if you repeatedly open/close the same ring it can snap. It's called a reactive metal as you can change its color with heat and electricity.|
|Silver (ST, SFN)||Good||
Sterling tarnishes slowly. Fine silver tarnishes very slowly.
|Excellent||High end jewelry||$$$$$||Beautiful with niobium, gold fill and titanium||Easy||Easy||Sterling: 92.5% silver Fine: 99.9% silver||Sterling: 1/2 hard, 56ksi Fine: full hard, ~45ksi Strength of 1/2 hard sterling = full hard fine.||~33% heavier||No||-||Ultrasonic cleaner or hot soapy water; dry quick to prevent corrosion. Chemical cleaners available.||Tumble to increase shine||We use a special alloy of sterling silver made just for us that is anti-tarnish. Fine silver is a great competitor to the proprietary alloy Argentium. It tarnishes at a similar rate and can be fused.|
|Gold Fill (GF)||Yellow & Rose are excellent. White contains Nickel.||Stays same||Excellent||High end jewelry||$$$$$||Beautiful with niobium, silver and titanium||Easy||Easy||14k 5% by weight gold tube over 1/2 hard brass||Core is 1/2 hard jewelers brass ~70ksi||~8% heavier||No||-||Ultrasonic cleaner or hot soapy water like dishes||Tumble to increase shine||It is highly unlikely you will ever wear through the gold tube - this is a thick tube of gold not a plating. I have never had anyone wear through it.|
|Raw Aluminum (AL)||No||Stays same||Very dirty||Armor||$||Ok with copper alloys||Easy||Easy||5154-H18||H18 = strain hardened to a level of 8/9 ~60 ksi||66% lighter||No||>=14g AR<5||Chemical Etch - But it wears off and makes it white; can wash but it will get dirty again.||It will never be shiny||Reacts to strong acids and bases turning the metal white.|
|Carbon Steel + Galvanized Steel (MS, HC, GA)||No||Mild & High Carbon-rusts red while Galvanized steel rusts white||Mild & High Carbon powdery or oily rub off. Galvanized has oily rub off & and smell||Armor||$||Ok with copper alloys||Difficult||Not recommended||Mild Steel: 1018 High Carbon Steel: 1062 Galvanized: Mild steel with Zinc layer||Mild and Galvanized: 1/4 hard 90-100KSI High Carbon Steel: 200-250ksi 2-3x stronger||-||Yes||>=16g AR<5.6||Mild & High Carbon Steel: Tumble it with abrasive like sand; Galv:Cannot clean it without damaging coating.||Galv: Can be shiny when new but fades to matte gray as it ages. Cannot be made shiny without abrasive tumbling , which removes a layer of zinc coating.||Zinc fumes on galv are deadly poisonous - do not heat it.|
|Black Stainless (SB)||No||Can fade to very dark gray||Dry oil sealant film can rub off dirty||Armor||$$||Great with all copper alloys including nickel silver and stainless steel||Difficult||-||304||1/4 hard 125ksi||-||Varies from 'No' to 'Slightly'||>=16g AR<5.6||If you clean with water the black will go to dark grey. The oiled coating is making it darker. Test first - magnetite rusts so dry fast.||Can be polished to a nice hematite with a DRY tumble. DO NOT wet tumble as this is washing. DO NOT tumble aggressively with steel shot as this is burnishing not tumbling.||The black layer is Magnetite = Fe3O4 - its black rust.|
|Copper Alloys Brass, Bronze, Copper (BJR, BZ, CU)||No||Darken with age||Certain skin chemistries react turning metal or skin green. No other rub off.||Jewelry, armor, costume||$$||Great with all copper alloys including nickel silver and stainless steel||Copper: Easy Brass / Bronze: Medium||Medium||Copper: C110 (solid copper) Brass: C226 (Cu-Zinc alloy) Bronze:C510 (Cu-Tin Alloy)||Copper: full hard, 50ksi Brass: 1/2 hard, 70 ksi Bronze: 1/2 hard, 75-90ksi||Brass:~8% heavier Bronze ~12% heavier Copper ~14% heavier||No||>=16g AR<5.6||Ultrasonic cleaner or chemical like Brasso; dry quick to prevent corrosion||Tumble to increase shine||All 3 are varying amounts of red starting with jewelers brass then bronze then the most red in copper. You can patina to make them various colors.|
|Nickel Silver (NS)||Contains nickel||Darken with age||Good||Jewelry, armor, costume||$$||Great with all copper alloys including nickel silver and stainless steel||Medium||Medium||C745 (CU-Nickel-Zinc alloy)||1/2 hard ~90 ksi||~11% heavier||No||>=16g AR<5.6||Ultrasonic cleaner or chemical like Brasso||Tumble to increase shine||Also known as German Silver. Do not confuse with real silver.|
|Rubber Rings (EPDM)||Good - latex free||UV resistant but may fade in full sun||Excellent||Costume jewelry||$$$||Best with anodized and bright aluminum or stainless steel||-||-||100% EPDM or silicone latex free||70 durometer for most (good wear resistance rating) 3ksi||83% lighter||No||-||Hot soapy water like dishes; any white powder is a mold release agent used in casting the rings - this can be washed off.||Polishing will not add shine.||Can be used to add stretch to maille - like a bra or clasp-less bracelet.|
|Enameled Copper (EC, ES)||Good||Stays same||Excellent||Costume jewelry||$$||Great with bright aluminum and copper||Very easy||Easy||Soft copper coated in a layer of colored plastic||Extremely soft 30 ksi||~14% heavier||No||-||Ultrasonic cleaner or hot soapy water like dishes||Polishing can only hurt coating.||Enameled copper is mis-named - it has a colored plastic coating.|
Definition of Comparison Terms
By our definition this means that if you wore it as an earwire you shouldn't react - i.e. swell up. It is unlikely that you will react to a metal in the form of a necklace or bracelet - even if you would react to it as a piercing. Most people who are 'allergic' to metal react to nickel. We also don't recommend anything that can be dirty as hypoallergenic.
This property both describes if a material corrodes (rusts) and if a surface finish will change.
This property describes how clean a material is while handling - this covers both while wearing and while weaving the rings. It is important to note that ALL materials when worn for a period of time like necklace will gather dirt on the skin under them. This is not rub off. It is also important to note that some products from us are not washed before packaging and may have cutting lube on them. All of our saw cut rings are ultrasonically cleaned and they are as clean as they can get. For scales, machine cut rings and wire this means cutting lube can be left on the product and that can make your hands dirty while handling. All materials we sell can be washed in hot soapy water like doing dishes. You may choose to do this before using the product or after you have made the final piece. This property is mainly used to discuss the result - after any cutting lube is off of a product - how clean can it get?
This is a simple comparative of the cost of each of the materials.
If you want to make a sterling silver and niobium hauberk I will not stand in your way! It will be amazing and I want to see pics! If you want to make a galvanized steel wedding dress however we need to chat… For the most part certain materials are best used for certain applications. This recommendation is really a guideline based on all of the qualities of the metals. For example enameled copper is soft and the color tones very even - this means it is best for jewelry but it would be very difficult to make it look like high end jewelry.
Similar to wine - some materials go well together. This is similar to the "Most Appropriately used as?" property - it is also a subjective opinion based on all the properties of the metals. You may disagree and create a masterpiece, but for the most part this guide suggests what materials look and play well together. For example: If you want a bracelet in silver and color - pairing niobium with sterling make a beautiful piece of art. If you choose enameled copper and sterling you may find the colors are not quite suited for the high end silver look.
This property describes how hard the material is to bend and how much it springs back. Ratings are relative, the real workability of a ring will depend on the ring size used. For example in the same material, a large ring make from thin wire will be much easier to bend than a small ring made from thick wire. To word this another way a large AR ring is easier to bend than a low AR ring in the same material. You can also compare across materials too - a large AR hard to bend material may take the same effort as a low AR softer material. Stainless 16g 1/2" is as easy/hard to close as bright aluminum 16g 3/16". Please see the picture below to illustrate the relative bendability of materials if the rings are all the same size.
PLEASE NOTE: Image will not show on small screens due to mobile compatibility - click to see image.
This property basically comments on how easy it is to saw cut this material. Harder materials require special low speeds, some materials gum up a blade. This is not a complete discussion of this subject - just a general loose guide.
This is the alloy used for the most part by TheRingLord. We may from time to time get a special deal on a similar alloy. In most cases this would be noted in the product description. We choose our alloys carefully as a balance of appropriate characteristics for maille and cost. What is an alloy? Definition - A homogeneous mixture or solid solution of two or more metals. Eg Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Basically the alloy defines what is in the metal. The alloy controls the resistance to corrosion and the color. Together with the temper the alloy also affects the strength and workability of the material. The alloy defines the price of the material - using non-standard alloys is very expensive. Specific alloys have standard names. For example alloy C510 defines a specific bronze material. There are many types of bronze and each has slightly different properties.
This shows the temper used. What is Temper? No its not how mad we get making the rings :) Definition - To harden or strengthen by heating and cooling. The temper is extremely important. Have you heard "copper is too soft to make chain mail"? This is because most copper wire is used for electrical wiring and is a dead soft temper. You can take the same copper and temper it into wire that is excellent for chain mail. You can have copper chainmail that is as strong as titanium chainmail if the copper is a hard temper and the titanium is dead soft temper. In the wire industry the temper is defined by certain heat treating numbers. For the chainmailer it is enough to use the following terms (from softest to hardest): dead soft, 1/4 hard, 1/2 hard, full hard, spring temper. The harder the temper the stronger, springier and more brittle the wire. Soft tempers are weaker but will bend instead of breaking. Hard tempers are stronger but more difficult to work with and are subject to breaking. It is important to select tempers that maintain a balance between workability and strength. This temper is different for each metal. A 1/2 hard silver is much easier to bend than a 1/2 hard stainless would be.
Each metal has a different density and is therefore heavier or lighter for a given size ring. We chose to discuss this by comparing everything to the weight of steel.
Only iron alloys are magnetic - but some are not magnetic or only slightly magnetic. You can use this info to help you sort or identify rings if you accidentally mix them.
As we've stated how hard a ring is to bend (strength) depends on the material, the wire size and the inside diameter. See details under "Bendability/Workability". What we term "Armor Strength" is a subjective rating based on how well the rings when woven in to European 4-1 would hold up to being hit by a blunt weapon - think SCA heavy fighting. If you need another type of armor this is not what we're discussing here. For example stab proof armor might involve welding the rings and making it from thinner wire. We gave each material a thinnest gauge at which we we call it worthy of the being called "armor" and a largest aspect ratio at which the ring is strong enough to be called armor. For example ">=14g AR<5" means 14g and fatter wire in an aspect ratio no larger than 5.
The comments under cleaning are intended to assist you in making the finished product as clean as possible. Some materials will tarnish and can be freshened up. Others may just have cutting lube on them as discussed under 'cleanliness'; You can tumble with clean dry walnut and it will clean the rings - this is like taking a cloth and wiping them.
The comments under shining are intended to assist you in making the finished product as shiny as possible. Some materials can only get as shiny as the material starts. So if stainless steel rings are the color of a kitchen sink - getting them to a mirror finish is a super amount of work. The scope of this isn't covered here. General notes on getting them shinier are only listed. The most common method of shining a material is to tumble it with appropriate tumbling media. A popular choice is crushed walnut shell - this is sold as bird bedding at pet stores. Please note that some batches of rings in some materials can appear shinier than others - a tighter ring might look less shiny that a looser ring. If you need to make them the same, tumbling them is about your only option.