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Jewelry Metals

Information on Popular Jewelry Metals

Precious Metals

Fine Silver, Sterling Silver Jewelry, and Finished Sterling Silver Jewelry

Seldom is the silver used in jewelry pure, it usually consists of silver that is mixed with a small amount of another metal alloy. Silver by itself is a very soft metal and would be damaged easily during normal wear if used alone in jewelry. Another metal alloy, usually copper, is added to the silver in jewelry to give it strength and durability. With sterling silver the ratio of metal alloy to silver is limited to 7.5 percent alloy mixed with 92.5 percent of pure silver. While .999 (or 99.9 percent) pure silver is used in jewelry, its use is often limited to the bezel material around stones or a thin coating over a base of sterling silver to give extra brightness to a jewelry piece.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is by far the most popular silver alloy in the world for its use in jewelry.  Sterling silver (also called .925 silver) consisting of 92.5 percent fine silver will usually contain 7.5 percent copper. However other metals are often used instead of copper to enhance the quality of the sterling silver material. Germanium, zinc, and platinum are examples of metals that can be used in place of copper to reduce tarnish, provide increased resistance to firescale, or reduce casting porosity.

In the United States, an alloy must be at least 92.5 percent fine silver to be marketed as “silver”.  All silver jewelry items sold by Gemtree Creative Designs are made with .925 sterling silver, and some of the jewelry will also contain small amounts of .999 fine silver in areas of limited wear.

Finished Sterling Silver Jewelry

Some of the sterling silver jewelry items we sell from the MMA Silver Star Collection may be finished to enhance their look.  For some items, the .925 sterling silver design is plated with a thin layer of .999 fine silver.  This process is known as flashing, and it gives the silver item a brighter finish. Some factories will apply a plating of nickel or copper on the jewelry prior to applying the .999 silver plating. Though this flashing method gives the jewelry a brighter, longer shelf life it does require re-plating if sized or machine buffed. Other silver items are rhodium plated, which again results in a bright, shiny finish.  Other jewelry items may be gold plated or left un-plated depending on the design.  Flashing or plating silver jewelry also helps reduce irritation or discoloration for customers with sensitive skin. 

“14 Karat” Gold

Like fine silver, fine gold is alloyed with other metals to improve strength and durability. The amount of fine gold used is traditionally measured in karats. “Pure gold” is represented as 24 karat. In its pure state, however, gold is quite soft and is rarely used for jewelry.
The most common gold alloys used in the United States are 14 karat and 18 karat. 14 karat gold consists of 58.3 percent fine gold. 18 karat gold consists of 75 percent fine gold.

Gold Filled Jewelry

Gold-Filled jewelry is a high quality alternative to solid gold jewelry. Gold-Filled jewelry is not plated gold on a base metal. It is solid karated gold that is either bonded or filled with brass. Gold-Filled jewelry is typically made by bonding solid karated Gold, usually 12k or 14k, with a base metal using heat and pressure. The bond between the gold and the base metal is permanent. This gives the item the look, feel, and durability of gold jewelry at a much more affordable price. Gold filled jewelry has about 100 times more gold than gold-plated jewelry, so the gold surface will never flake, peel, or wear off.

In the United States the quality of Gold-Filled is defined by the Federal Trade Commission. FTC rules say that when 10k gold is used, the gold's weight must be at least 1/10 (or 10%) of the total weight of the item. And when 12k or 14k Gold is used, the Gold's weight must be at least 1/20 (or 5%) of the total weight of the item. Gold-Filled jewelry is sold using designations which indicate the gold's karat quality, and the gold to base metal weight ratio of the piece. The most common designations you'll see are 14/20 and 12/20. A designation of 14/20 Gold-Filled means that the piece consists of 14 karat gold, and that the karated gold makes up 5 percent (1/20) of the total metal weight of the item. 12/20 gold filled is similar and indicates the piece consists of 12 karat gold that makes up 5 percent (1/20) of the total metal weight. Gold-Filled jewelry is becoming very popular because it is considered to be a "life-time" product due to its non-peel or non-flake properties and durability. Gold-Filled jewelry items sold by Gemtree Creative Designs are comparable in durability, look, and feel to their solid gold counterparts while being considerably less expensive, making them a high quality alternative to solid gold.

Gold Plated Jewelry

Gemtree Creative Designs also carries high quality gold plated items in our store that look fantastic and wear well. Unless otherwise noted, our gold plated items consist of sterling silver with 14 karat gold plating. We also have less expensive items marked as fashion jewelry that are gold plated. These are great looking items, but to keep their expense down they do not contain precious metal (sterling silver), except for their plating. Gold plated fashion jewelry items will consist of base metal (often brass, for example) plated with 14 karat gold.

Alternative Metals

Why Are Alternative Metals Becoming So Popular?

With the cost of precious metals like gold and silver rising, alternative metals allow designers to continue to craft bold statement pieces while keeping costs down. From trendy pieces for everyday wear, to wedding bands that will last a lifetime, high-quality alternative metal jewelry has carved out a permanent place in the jewelry market.

What Are Today's Best Selling Alternative Metals?

From the golden tones of brass, to the lasting strength of stainless steel, designers turn to a wide variety of alternative metals, each with its own unique benefits. Here are some of the most popular alternative metal choices:

Other Questions

Have any other questions about our merchandise? Email us at the link below and we will be happy to answer them for you.