Sunday, October 31, 2010

Some Things You May Not Know About Nickel & Precious Metals

There have been many recalls of Fashion Jewelry made in foreign countries due to the high lead content.  These days, it is also important to look at the Cadmium content, another inexpensive metal used to replace lead, yet just as dangerous, especially to children! 

At Jyl Walker Jewelry Designs, I strive to use only the best materials from the most reputable sources.  I work with precious metals and some copper, taking care in my designs, so that only the precious metals touch your skin. 

Below are some common terms and definitions for purchasing jewelry.  I hope you find them helpful for purchasing purposes.  Please visit my previous blog post for more information, and if you ever have any questions, please, don't hesitate to contact me at

The term precious metals usually means platinum, gold or silver.  Sterling silver, stamped .925, is an alloy of at least 92.5% silver, and (usually) copper.

Fine silver, stamped .999, is at least 99.9% pure silver.

Karat (kt) gold: Pure gold is 24kt, meaning 24 out of 24 parts are gold. 24kt is too soft to be functional, so it is alloyed with other metals for durability, cost and color.

14kt is 14 parts gold out of 24.  The remaining 10 parts are other metals (which can be yellow, rose, green or white), the other parts may be copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium and/or manganese. *People with nickel allergies should be aware that white gold contains nickel. 

Gold fill (also called gold overlay) is made by using heat and pressure to apply a layer of karat gold to a base of less costly metal. This produces a surface with karat gold. The minimum layer of karat gold must equal at least 1/20 of the total weight of the item.  The surface layer of karat gold on gold-filled items is usually 10kt, 12kt or 14kt.   To know the thickness of the layer, look for a fraction, such as 1/10 or 1/20. It will be 1/20 unless otherwise stamped.

Vermeil, pronounced "vehr-MAY," is a plating of karat gold over sterling silver.

What are Platings?
A plating is a thin deposit of metal that is electrochemically or otherwise appplied to the surface of a different metal base.  White is the silver color that you most often see on costume jewelry and base-metal findings. White-plated components are generally a bit grayer, but also more durable, than silver-plated components.

Silver plate is a thin surface layer of silver color or actual silver.
Gold plate is a very thin deposit of gold color, or actual gold (about 1/1,000 - 1/1,000,000 of an inch). The color matches 14kt gold.
Copper plate is a bright, shiny copper plating.

Antiqued pewter (AP), Antiqued silver (AS), Antiqued gold (AG), Antiqued brass (AB), Antiqued copper (AC)  has a plating that has been darkened to provide a "distressed" (oxidized) appearance.

Gunmetal plating varies in color from gun blue to matte dark gray to shiny black metal. It often consists of black nickel plated over brass.

Gilt is a very thin finish of gold color (not actual gold).

Vermeil, pronounced "vehr-MAY," is a plating of karat gold over sterling silver.

What's the Difference between Gold Plate and Gold Fill?

Gold fill is 50 to 100,000 times thicker than gold plating, and about 17 to 25,000 times thicker than heavy gold electroplate.

I hope this has been helpful.   It is important to trust the source of your jewelry! 

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