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Jewelry Metals Guide

~ Silver Metals ~

Fine Silver ~ Silver that is designated fine, pure or .999 is the purest form of silver available. It is not usually used in jewelry because it is too soft to retain a shape. It is softer and more brittle than sterling silver.

Sterling silver is an alloy consisting of no less than 92.5% silver and 7.5% of some other metal, usually copper. These proportions are fixed by law; in the USA and Bali the remaining 7.5% MUST be copper. However, in silver from other sources, the other metal contents are not restricted to copper and could include pewter, nickel and others. Copper is added to make the alloy less prone to breakage and scratching; but it is also responsible for the tarnishing or discoloring that commonly occurs with silver. Sterling silver is about twice as strong as pure silver. Its color will patina over time giving it an antiqued look. Sterling Silver pieces are often stamped “925.”

Argentium™ Silver is also a type of 92.5% sterling silver but contains a slightly reduced 6.4% of copper and 1.1% germanium, which creates tarnish resistance.

Bali Silver is fine silver beads and components handmade by silversmiths in Bali, Indonesia. You can find out more about Bali Silver here.

Hill Tribe Silver (aks: Thai Karen Silver, Karen Silver, Hill Tribe Silver) is fine silver beads and components handmade by the Karen Hill Tribe silversmiths in Thailand. You can find out more about Hill Tribe Silver here.

Shiana Silver is also a type of Hill Tribe Silver. It is handcrafted of 99.99% pure silver in small batches by the Karen Hill Tribe silversmiths in Thailand. You can find out more about Hill Tibe and Shiana silver here.

Silver Plated designated items have an industry standard of 0.15 to 0.25 mils thickness of sterling silver electroplated to the surface of the base metal.

Silver-Finished, Silver Color, Silver Tone or Silver Washed refers to a base metal of steel or brass electroplated with a non-standardized thickness of silver or nickel.


~ Gold Metals ~

Karat (kt) Gold ~ Karat is the measure of the fineness of gold. 24kt is 100% pure gold, 18kt is 75% pure gold, 14kt gold is 58% pure gold and 10kt is 42% pure gold; the remaining balances of these being alloy. 14kt is the standard fineness for most jewelry in the United States.

Gold-Filled designated items are made by combining a layer or layers of gold to a base metal (usually brass), then forming the metal to the desired thickness and shape. In addition to the thickness of the plating, the difference between gold fill and gold plating is the method by which the plating is done; gold fill is applied by heat and pressure bonding and is more durable than electroplating. It has a long life and can be worn by most people without reactions or difficulties.

Gold Vermeil (pronounced "vermay") designated items are made of sterling silver heavily electroplated with 14kt or 22kt yellow gold.

Shiana Gold Vermeil consists of a full 3 microns of 24kt gold plated on fine silver and topped with a special protective e-coat of 5-7 microns placed over the gold to ensure that it lasts.

Gold Plated designated items have an industry standard of 0.15 to 0.25 mils thickness of gold plated to the surface of the base metal.

Gold-Finished, Gold Color, Gold Tone or Gold Washed refers to a base metal of steel or brass electroplated with a non-standardized thickness of gold.


~ Copper ~

Copper is a naturally-occurring, reddish-brown, malleable metallic element.


~ Pewter ~

Pewter is an alloy made mostly of tin with varying amounts of lead, antimony, copper, silver, etc.; avaialable in genuine and lead-free varieties; today manufacturers are required to make lead-free pewter. It comes in silver and gold and other colors.

Lead-free Pewter (aka: Culinary Grade Pewter) ~ the term "lead free pewter" is used to describe pewter that meets the stringent FDA standard of less than .05% (or 500 parts per million) lead content in pewter in contact with food.

TierraCast® ~ high-quality beads and findings made of a lead-free pewter base electroplated with fine silver, 22kt gold, copper or rhodium


~ Other Metals ~

Base Metals are non-precious metals used as a base or core for plated and gold-filled items. Base metals can include brass, copper, nickel, zinc, lead, aluminum and tin.

Brass is a copper and zinc alloy with a gold-like appearance that is relatively resistant to tarnish

Gunmetal is a copper, tin and zinc alloy similar to bronze that typically has a gray, blue-black or brown-black finish

Nickel Silver is not silver at all. It is made of an alloy containing mostly nickel, zinc and copper. It resembles sterling silver in color, with a darker gray tone, but does not contain any silver.

Niobium items are made of a hypo-allergenic metal first engineered to protect space vehicles. After manufacturing into the desired shape, such as ear wires, the niobium which is naturally gray in color is anodized to create six signature colors. Which of the six colors results depends on how much electric current runs through the piece. Most people who are metal-sensitive can comfortably wear niobium.

Platinum is a naturally-occurring, rare, silvery-white, malleable metal resistant to wear, tarnish and corrosion

Rhodium is a naturally-occurring, rare, hard, silvery-white metal of the platinum group commonly used in the jewelry industry to coat sterling silver, white gold and platinum to give them a reflective white surface

Stainless Steel is a generic term for grades of steel alloyed with chromium and other metals to be virtually immune to corrosion. Stainless steel can also contain nickel, molybdenum, titanium, niobium and other elements.

Surgical Steel is a type of stainlees steel used in medical applications; termed such because it is easy to clean and sterilize, strong and virtually immune to corrosion. As stated above it can contain nickel, molybdenum, titanium, niobium and other elements.

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