Jewellery MetalsVarious different metals are used in jewellery making. I've outlined the most common, and relevant to my shop, in this section.
The vast majority of my items are Sterling silver. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver with the rest being made up of other metals (usually copper) and is the most common standard of silver worldwide. It does not cause allergies in people who are allergic to plated and non-precious metals and should last a lifetime is cared for properly. Sterling silver does usually oxidise (tarnish). You can help prevent this by keeping your silver jewellery in an airtight bag when not being worn. Normal silver polish can be used on silver jewellery but care must be taken around gemstones. Sterling silver may also be made without the copper content (non-tarnish or Argentium Sterling silver) which is more expensive but much more resistant to tarnishing.
There are other grades of silver. Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver and therefore more desirable than Sterling. Lower grades include the silver alloys commonly known as Tibetan, Peruvian and Mexican silver. There are no laws governing the amount of silver contained in these alloys which means the actual silver content can be very low and can cause allergic reactions. For more information on precious metals and the law, please see my Hallmarking page.
Gold is becoming less widespread and popular as the price of gold continues to rise but remains the most beautiful of the precious metals. Gold can come in a number of colours - yellow, white and rose being the most common (the colour is determined by the metals that make up the portion of the alloy that isn't gold).
Under British law there are 6 standards of gold which are as follows: -
It is a little sad that the usual standard in the UK (9 carat) is a washed out version of the real thing - higher finenesses are much prettier and brighter!
- 375 gold (9 carat) - 37.5% real gold
- 585 gold (14 carat) - 58.5% real gold
- 750 gold (18 carat) 75% real gold
- 916 gold (22 carat) - 91.6% real gold
- 990 gold and 999 gold.
10K gold is not a legal standard in the UK, and items marked as 10K must be properly hallmarked by a UK assay office and sold as 9k.
Gold Filled items are popular in the USA and gaining popularity in the UK as the price of solid gold rises. Gold filled items are regulated in the US and must contain a minimum of 5% of the gold alloy (usually 14K) which is concentrated on the outside of an item (hence the term gold filled - the gold is on the outside, the inside is filled with base metals). As most gold filled is produced for the US, its a safe assumption that it all conforms to US law - there are no equivalent laws in the UK.
Gold filled must not be confused with gold plate - gold filled items have approximately 100 times the gold content of gold plated and will not flake, chip or cause allergies in the way gold plate will. In the US its considered on par with Sterling silver for desirability. Gold filled items can be very beautiful and look exactly like solid gold items (unlike gold plate which looks rather tacky, in my opinion). They should last as long as an equivalent piece in sterling silver.