Metals 101

Alternative Metals Explained

Sterling Silver & Karat Gold (10K, 14K or 18K)

Sterling Silver and 10K (or 14K or 18K) Gold describes jewelry that is composed of both Karat Gold and Sterling Silver used together AND is Distinguishable as two (2) separate and distinct metals. The two metals are usually soldered (welded) or linked together and the colors of each metal are usually clearly defined.

Karat Gold (10K, 14K or 18K) “BONDED”

Karat Gold “BONDED” describes jewelry that is composed of a sheet of Karat (14K or 10K) Gold, which is mechanically affixed (bonded) on top of a Sterling Silver core. In certain instances, the silver may or may not be visible. The silver is covered with a permanent layer of 14K or 10K gold that is not removable. All external surfaces are essentially Karat Gold and everything that is seen or touched is true Karat Gold. Bonded product is very durable and long lasting

Gold (10K, 14K) “Filled”

Karat Gold-Filled describes jewelry that has a layer of at least 10 Karat gold mechanically bonded to a base metal. Specific percentages of gold apply to the use each of these. For instance, “1/20 14K Gold-Filled”.

Sterling Silver

Sterling Silver is a term used to describe precious metal jewelry made from an alloy containing a minimum of 92.5% pure silver combined with other metals. Additional usage (generally on surgical steel posts and clutches) includes Gold plated stainless steel or Silver plating to give a richer silver color.

Sterling Silver & Plated Karat Gold (10K, 14K or 18K)

Sterling Silver and Karat Gold Plated refers to Sterling Silver jewelry that has been electroplated (submerged) in a bath of Karat Gold (10K, 14K, 18K, 22K). Gold plated articles will be appropriately and legally marked as “Gold Plated”, “GP”, “Gold Electroplate”, “Gold Flashed” or “Gold Washed” depending on the minimum thickness of karat gold applied.

Vermeil (Sterling Silver with heavy gold plating)

Vermeil describes either mechanically plated, electroplated, or any other means of plating gold over sterling silver with a minimum of 2.5 microns of fine gold.True Vermeil is Sterling Silver covered with a gold layer which has in it at least the equivalent of 2.5 metric microns of pure gold.

Example: The minimum Karatage for plating is 10K.  Therefore,  in order to be able to use 10K and yet provide the minimum gold content requirement for Vermeil, we need to plate with a thickness of 6 microns of 10K gold (2.5 x 24/10 = 6 microns), 18K plating will require 3.33 microns and 14K will require 4.29 microns].

Platinum

Platinum is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pt. A dense, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white transition metal, platinum is resistant to corrosion. Platinum is denser than gold, so an identical ring made in platinum rather than 14kt gold would be around 60% heavier and 40% heavier than a ring made in 18kt gold. Platinum’s rarity means that its price is invariably higher than that of gold.
All platinum jewelry is hallmarked. There are a number of symbols or marks that have to be displayed on a piece of jewelry to indicate that it is high purity platinum. Here are some examples of the platinum marks to look for: PT950, 950PT , 950PLAT, PT900, 900PT.

Palladium

Part of the platinum group of metals, palladium has a silvery white color but is less rare and therefore less treasured than platinum.

Titanium

Titanium is a metal which is used by many high-tech industries including aircraft due to its strength. Titanium is also used in jewelry because it is lightweight but is also very durable, dent-resistant and has extraordinary corrosion resistance. Titanium is not considered a “precious metal”.

Tungsten

Tungsten is a steel-gray metal that is naturally both scratch-resistant and hypoallergenic. Because of this, it is a great material for rings. Tungsten is not considered a “precious metal”.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel is defined as a steel alloy with specific anti-corrosion ingredients. The term is used to describe a piece of metal jewelry that is made of steel with rust free and dent resistant properties. Stainless Steel is not considered a “precious metal”.

Stainless Steel with Yellow Plating

Stainless Steel with Yellow Plating refers to jewelry that has been coated with a mixture of non precious metal and baked in an oven in order to achieve a gold tone without using Karat Gold.