Materials used in flute production
Nickel Silver – Nickel Silver actually does not contain any Silver. Also known as German-Silver and white Brass, this alloy of Copper, Zinc and Brass is used throughout most student model instruments. It is also the choice for key work on mid-level instruments in order to keep costs down without sacrificing sonic qualities. While being a versatile metal, as compared to the precious metals tonally, it is thought to be dull and lifeless.
Silver – Used in flute making for over a century, it is still known as the first choice for the modern flute sound. Silver comes in different purities and is alloyed with other metals according to different manufacturers’ needs and musicians’ requirements. We hear Silver as responsive, bright, and lively.
Coin Silver – is typically 90% Silver (sometimes 80%), and is alloyed with Copper. Since Coin Silver is more likely to tarnish than Sterling, it is often plated over.
92.5% pure Silver is also known as Sterling. This metal serves as the standard of fine flute makers worldwide. Sterling was adopted as the standard alloy in England in the 12th century, when King Henry II imported refiners from an area of Germany known as the Easterling.
Britannia Silver – 95.8% pure Silver. To our knowledge, this fine Silver is available only on certain Altus model flutes. The name derives from the fact that this metal served for coinage in England from 1697 to 1719.
Aurumite – consists of 14K Rose-Gold tube fused to a Sterling Silver tube. This is a Powell trademark name and they use a patented technology to produce this metal. Tonally, Aurumite leans towards the dark, lush sound of solid Gold.
Gold – Denser than Silver, when alloyed with other metals (Copper, etc.) it is also harder. Gold flutes are prized for their warm tone. Different karat tells of the volume of pure Gold to alloyed metals (don’t confuse this with carat, a weight measurement for gems). Gold is normally alloyed with Copper, but can be alloyed with Silver and other material as well.
The higher pure Gold content, the darker, warmer the sound. Powell’s 14K Rose-Gold is thought to be warmer sounding than its 10K Yellow Gold. Pure Gold is 24K, but this metal would not easily form tubes, etc. Most practical alloys are 14K or less. Price follows purity. From Powell’s 10K model to Nagahara’s 18K, Gold is fabulous.
PCM – A Silver alloy used exclusively by Miyazawa. By blending 65 percent Silver with other precious and semi-precious metals, they’ve created a metal that offers a brilliant sound that speaks quickly and projects well.
Platinum – The most dense of the precious metals group, this white metal is known for its penetrating sound (some hear it as bright and harsh). When encountered by the invading Spaniards in 1538 it was called Platina, because it held the look of Silver, which they called Plata.