The white metals are any of several light-colored alloys used as a base for plated silverware, ornaments or novelties, as well as any of several lead-base or tin-base alloys used for things like bearings, jewellery, miniature figures, fusible plugs, some medals and metal type.
Some of the metals that make up a white metal alloy are antimony, tin, lead, cadmium, bismuth, and zinc. Not all of these metals are found in all white metal alloys but are mixed to achieve a desired goal or need. As an example, a base metal for jewelry needs to be castable, polishable, have good flow characteristics, have the ability to cast fine detail without an excessive amount of porosity and cast at between 230 °C and 300 °C (450 °F and 575 °F).
It should be noted that in compliance with British law, the British fine art trade uses the term "white metal" in auction catalogues to describe foreign silver items which do not carry British Assay Office marks, but which are nonetheless understood to be silver and are priced accordingly.
Pure metals are soft, tough and ductile with a high coefficient of friction. Intermetallic compounds are hard and wear resistant but brittle. By themselves, these do not make ideal bearing materials.
Alloys consist of small particles of a hard compound embedded in the tough, ductile background of a solid solution. In service the latter can wear away slightly leaving the hard compound to carry the load. This wear also provides channels to allow in lubricant (oils). All bearing metals contain antimony (Sb) which forms hard cubic crystals.
|% Sn||% Sb||% Cu||% Pb||Applications|
|93||3.5||3.5||-||Light and medium IC engine big end bearings|
|86||10.5||3.5||-||Light and medium IC engine main bearings|
|80||11||3.0||6||General purpose heavy bearings (lead increases plasticity)|
|60||10||28.5||1.5||Heavy duty marine engine bearings, electrical machines|
|40||10||1.5||48.5||Low cost, general purpose, medium duty bearings|