Thursday, March 5, 2009

Guide to metals

I get asked a lot about what the difference is between gold filled and gold plated jewelry so, I thought I'd make up a cheat sheet to the different metals you'll come across. I use gold filled and sterling silver for my earrings. I mostly use gold filled and sterling chains for necklaces because the quality is soooo good. But sometimes, I just really like the look of base metals for these too!

Gold filled is a much higher quality than gold plated. Gold filled jewelry is the next best thing to solid gold. It is made by forming a tube of solid gold that is then filled with a base metal. The gold is bonded to the base metal with heat and pressure, making it about 100 times stronger than something that is gold plated. Everything you see and touch on a gold-filled piece is actually gold. That’s why this piece will never tarnish or turn your skin green or flake off. For most people, a gold filled piece will last a lifetime. Gold filled jewelry is economical and durable. You get the look and feel of gold for a fraction of the cost!

Gold plated has a microscopic film of gold particles that have been adhered to a base metal through a dipping process. While it may have the same look as gold filled pieces initially, gold plated pieces are of far lesser quality and has the tendency to flake off, turn your skin green, and wear off over time.

Sterling silver consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Because pure silver is relatively soft and easily damaged, sterling silver is most often used for jewelry. It is both beautiful and durable. Because it is such a high quality silver, it will develop a lovely patina over time. It requires polishing if you like the high luster look of pure silver. With proper care, your sterling silver pieces will last a lifetime. Sterling silver jewelry is both beautiful and affordable.

Pewter is a tin alloy consisting of tin with copper, antimony, or bismuth. Pewter has a slightly dull look, and can never be polished to the fine luster of sterling silver.

Base metal is a catchall term to describe any of the non-precious metals which can include steel, zinc, brass, tin and copper. These can be used as the core of gold filled/gold plated jewelry. They can also be used on their own. I love to incorporate raw brass pieces into my own designs as they develop a lovely patina over time and will go from a shiny goldish finish to a warm honey colored finish. I love these pieces in all their various stages!

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