Jewelry Materials: What are you getting when you buy jewelry?
Have you ever been jewelry shopping and asked what something was made of only to hear silver filled, gold plated or base metal and wondered what the heck that meant?
I want to give you a bit of info to help you be a more educated consumer. This way you will know the true value of the jewelry piece.
First we need to talk about Elements vs Alloys.
Elements are the basic building blocks of nature, what comes right out of the ground or air, unaltered by human hands.
Alloys are a mixture of various elements. This is done for a number of reasons: cost, strength, color, melting point, and so on.
Base Metal is a catch-all term for any metal that is not a precious metal. This can include brass, copper, steel, pewter, nickel, stainless steel or surgical stainless steel, etc.
Precious Metals and Jewelry Titles
Gold is a very soft material, so most gold in jewelry is an alloy. It is measured in karats with 24 kt being pure gold. That is why you will see 10 kt up to 24 kt. The larger the number, the more gold present. Therefore, 14 kt means 14 parts out of 24 are real gold leaving 10 parts to be other metals.
Sterling silver is the same way, but is measured as a decimal. That is why you have .925 as the code meaning 92.5%. You might also see .999 silver. Silver is usually alloyed with copper.
Gold Filled or Silver Filled means there is a thin layer of gold or silver applied using heat to a base metal. This is done to save cost, but it will still get some value of real gold or silver. It needs to have at least 1/20 of the metal be the precious metal to be called filled. This application using heat means the silver or gold will not wear off.
Gold Plated or Silver Plated is a much, much thinner application of the precious metal or metal color. Unless it says 14kt gold plated, it means it is gold or silver COLOR applied to a base metal. Plating is just applied like paint, so it can wear off over time.
There is a place in jewelry making and your jewelry collection for all of these. I use a variety of these products while making jewelry so that I can create levels of value in my collection. Jewelry made from base metals tend not to tarnish or can be cleaned very easily. This makes for great everyday jewelry.
Jewelry made with real gold or silver need to be cleaned often because the sulfur in the air and the oils in your skin cause reactions with the metal. Jewelry made with real silver and gold need to be cared for more carefully and should not be worn in the shower or while swimming. To read more about how to care for your jewelry you can visit this post.
Hopefully, this has given you some knowledge you can use next time you go jewelry shopping.
Posts about nickel allergies, why copper turns your fingers green and what’s actually in karat gold are coming soon!!
Your Turn! What did you learn from this post? Leave me a comment, I would love to know!
Thanks for reading!