Many Men Thank Mary Bill on Mother’s Day

Mary Bill, along with her husband Ken Bill, is known for crafting heavy Sterling bracelets with and without gold.

Customarily, she uses at least 10 gauge sheet silver (and often 8 gauge) making her bracelets thick, durable and with great appeal to men.

Often she finishes the ends with a widened fishtail for comfort.

Sometimes she uses a lighter gauge silver and then use a combination of stamping, oxidation, and lightly brushing to give a satin finish.

She also makes substantial link bracelets

She has used and uses a number of hallmarks usually with STERLING and often with NAVAJO

Here are some of them:
Mary and Ken Bill
Mary (often along with KENNETH BILL)
Mary Bill

Thank you Mary Bill and Happy Mother’s Day !


“Jeweler’s Gold” – What is it?

As you know from reading this blog, German Silver has no silver in it. (If you missed that post, read more about it in Not All Silver is Created Equal.)

Navajo Sterling Silver Repousse Wide Cuff Bracelet

Navajo Sterling Silver Repousse Wide Cuff Bracelet

Similarly, depending on who is using the term,  “Jeweler’s Gold” might have a lot of gold in it or no gold at all !!

According to professional metallurgists and Webster’s Dictionary:

“Jeweler’s Gold” is a gold alloy made of 3 parts Gold + 1 part Copper.

I recently saw a large “Jeweler’s Gold Native American Concho Belt” for sale on the internet for less than $180. What??!! Impossible !!! At $1325.00 per ounce for gold, there would be no way there was that much gold in this big heavy belt !!!

Australian Gold Nugget

Australian Gold Nugget

So when someone borrows the term “Jeweler’s Gold” to loosely describe a gold colored alloy that has NO gold in it at all, as far as I am concerned that’s a big NO NO. It just misleads and confuses buyers. Some people say “in jeweler’s circles” it is OK. But it is not OK when a buyer thinks they are getting gold and in reality, they are getting an alloy that contains NO gold.

Such an alloy, wrongly called Jeweler’s Gold, would be more correctly called Red Brass or Jeweler’s Brass or by one of the commercial names such as NuGold.

Nu Gold (Red Brass)

Nu Gold (Red Brass)

NUGOLD sells for less than $30 for a 12″ x 12″ sheet or 200 feet of wire. The same material in gold would cost upwards of $2000.

It is not uncommon for a merchant to advertise an item of jewelry as

“Jewelers Gold (Red Brass)”

as if they were the same. They ARE NOT.

That would be akin to advertising a pair of boots like this

“Leather (vinyl)”

or a GoldTone chain and pendant as Gold.

See what I mean?

Venezuelan Gold Nugget

Venezuelan Gold Nugget

Jeweler’s Gold and Red Brass are not the same, they are not synonymous…….using the two terms together is confusing at the least and misleading or downright dishonest. Red Brass is NOT Jewelers Gold – far from it.

Now I’m not saying that Red Brass or NuGold don’t have a place in jewelry making, Native American or otherwise. But one should call a spade a spade.

Is it Jeweler’s Gold Or Red Brass?

As previously state, Jeweler’s Gold is 3 parts gold to one part copper.

The recipes for Red Brass or NuGold vary but here are three.

NuGold is 85% copper and 15% zinc.

Nu Gold (Red Brass)

Nu Gold (Red Brass)

Red Brass = 3 parts Copper + one part Zinc + one part Block Tin.

IT IS SAID………that if these metals are pure and melted per the prescribed method, the best jeweler could not tell the difference between it and pure gold without doing an analysis.

Red Brass

Red Brass

Another recipe for Red Brass is similar but contains some lead as well.

85% Copper + 5% Tin + 5% Lead + 5% Zinc.

Now some of you might want to stay away from alloys that contain lead, zinc or tin…..if so you would like to know if what you are buying is really Jewelers Gold or if it is the gold colored alloy Red Brass, wouldn’t you?

Since Jeweler’s Gold costs many time that of Red Brass, from a value standpoint, you would want to know if you are indeed buying a gold alloy or a golden colored alloy.

The moral of the story? If you want to know what you are buying and you are not sure, ask.

So I did just that.

I wrote a number of eBay sellers who were advertising their Native American items items as made of Jewelers Gold. (It was obvious from the photos and pricing that they were all made from Red Brass.)

One listed it as “Jewelers Gold”.

Another listed it as “Jewelers Gold (Red Brass).”

Yet another listed it as “Jewelers Gold – 3 parts gold, 1 part copper.”


I also wrote several webstores that advertise their Native American items as made of Jewelers Gold.

One said

“…..all hand made from Jeweler’s Gold, it is also known as Red Brass.”

The others just list the items as made of Jeweler’s Gold.

I got a variety of replies to my standard query:

“Is this item Jeweler’s Gold or Red Brass? As far as I know, Jeweler’s Gold is 3 parts gold to 1 part copper. Would you let me know what metals this contains?”

Here are some of the replies:

“Jeweler’s Gold and Red Brass are the same.” (no change in the listing)

“In jeweler’s circles, Jeweler’s Gold is used for Red Brass.” (no change in the listing)

“Oh my god, I’ll have to check and make changes !” (a change was made in the listing from “Jeweler’s Gold – 3 parts gold and 1 part copper” to “Jeweler’s Gold (aka Red Brass) )”

“There is a thin layer of gold on it.” (no change in listing)

As far as I am concerned, none of the sellers stepped up to the plate and told it like it is.

Be aware. Ask.


Native American Materials – Gold

Gold is the most malleable of precious metals and is prized for jewelry because it does not corrode, tarnish or rust. It can be found nearly everywhere, in rivers, mountains and oceans, but it is very difficult and expensive to mine and refine.

The karat is a unit of measurement for the proportion of gold an item contains.

14K Gold and Sterling Silver Bracelet by Navajo Bruce Morgan
14K Gold and Sterling Silver Bracelet by Navajo Bruce Morgan
  • 24 karat (24K) gold is pure gold. Pure gold is very soft and it is usually alloyed (combined) with other metals for increased hardness and durability. Metals typically used in gold alloys are copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium, and/or manganese. The metal used will affect the color of the gold: yellow, rose, green or white. (People with nickel allergies should be aware that white gold contains nickel.)
  • 18 karat (18K) gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metal, making it 75% gold.
  • 14 karat (14K) gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metal, making it 58.3% gold.
  • 12 karat (12K) gold contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts other metal, making it 50% gold.
  • 10 karat (10K) gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metal, making it 41.7% gold. 10k gold is the minimum karat designation that can still be called gold in the USA.
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14K Gold and Sterling Silver Bracelet by Apache Marc Antia

14K Gold and Sterling Silver Bracelet by Apache Marc Antia

(Carat spelled with a “c” refers to the weight of a gemstone and equals 200mg.)

Gold and Sterling Silver Navajo Money Clips and Key Rings
Gold and Sterling Silver Navajo Money Clips and Key Rings

To be called gold-filled, the FTC (U.S. Federal Trade Commission) requires that gold makes up at least 1/20th (5%) by weight of the total product. Legal markings are 14K, 12K, or 10K Gold-filled and the karat measurement of gold content MUST be part of the marking or designation.

Jewelry labeled 14/20GF denotes 1/20 14K gold-filled; 12/10 denotes 1/10 12K gold-filled.

12K Gold Filled Storyteller Link Bracelet by Navajo Alonzo Mariano
12K Gold Filled Storyteller Link Bracelet by Navajo Alonzo Mariano

Rolled Gold Plate (RGP) is made the same way as gold-filled material, but with a lower gold content. The minimum standard states that 1/40th the total weight of the item must be gold of the karat the item is marked. Thus a product marked 14K RGP is 1/40th (2.5%) 14K gold by weight.

Gold Electroplate is a process in which a very thin layer of gold is deposited onto a conductive metal item. Utilizing an electrical current, positively charged metal “ions” travel through a liquid solution known as an “electrolyte”, and are deposited onto the negatively charged metal object. Metals most commonly electroplated are silver, copper, bronze, and aluminum.

14K Gold and Sterling Silver Eternal Life Ring by Navajo Scott Skeets

14K Gold and Sterling Silver Eternal Life Ring by Navajo Scott Skeets