Buying Jewelry Resources Guide


If you are contemplating buying jewelry, whether online or in the store, I am sure that you have run into some various terminologies that can be quite confusing. The question “What exactly am I buying” will sure pop up. We will attempt to touch on a few of the questions that you may have pertaining to certain types of materials used in making jewelry. If the questions below do not answer your questions, be sure to reach out to the friendly staff at Gifts Are Blue as we are always here to help.

What is 925 Sterling Silver?

The 925 as it pertains to sterling silver represents the amount of pure silver used to make the item. In this case 925 represents 92.5 percent pure silver. The remainder of the material can be several different elements such as copper, zinc, and platinum. In general jewelry made with 925 or .925 sterling silver will be more expensive than jewelry that was silver plated or stainless steel. It is indeed considered the top of line for fashion jewelry and has been in used since the tenth century. Now in case you wondering, why add in the other elements, why is it not 100%. This is largely to the fact that pure silver oxidizes over time, causing it to tarnish and form a brownish color. The remaining 7.5% that is made of copper or alloy actually slows down the process which is good when it comes to jewelry. These elements also make the material more durable and also much easier to manage and form into jewelry pieces. The fact is that silver in its purest state, 999.99 is considered too soft for use in jewelry. The easiest test to determine if jewelry is 925 sterling silver is to see if it is attracted to a magnet. If it is then it is not sterling silver.

What is Silver Plated?

Silver plating allows jewelers to maintain the look of silver while using less costly metals beneath to create the jewelry. In this regard these items will cost less than 925 sterling silver jewelry. There are two ways to garner this silver plated effect, electroplating and filling. With electroplating, silver atoms in a solution and are permanently bonded to a piece of jewelry made from another base metal. Electricity is used such that as current passes through the jewelry, the silver is attracted to it and forms a sheath of precious metal over it. The coating is thin but durable. Eventually it may wear away to reveal the common metal beneath it, but this wear can take years if the jewelry is maintained well. Jewelry that is made with this electroplating method is sold as silver plated. These items may be stamped with SP (silver plate), EP (electroplate) or EPS (electroplated silver). As an example an item noted as 925 SP means that is has been plated with 925 sterling silver.

What is Sterling Silver Filled?

As discussed above, filling is another way to garner a silver plated effect. These jewelry items are made by pressing and heating the silver to bond it to the other element. Filled silver jewelry will have a thicker layer of silver. Denotation of SF or FS will let you know that the jewelry was made by silver filling. Some may also note the thickness of silver layer, for example 1/20 to 1/20 the total thickness of the metal.

What is Gold Filled Jewelry?

Gold filled jewelry is where a thick layer of gold is bonded to a base metal. The base metal can be sterling silver, brass, rhodium (a member of the platinum family) or other alloys. Since the entire outer layer is a certain carat of gold, say 14K or 18K, it maintains the appearance of pure gold at a fraction of the cost. Because the gold is bonded to the base metal, it will not flake off or peel off. The gold weight in gold filled jewelry must constituted at least 5% of the weight. In as much, everything you can see and touch is pure gold and in fact gold filled items are regulated by the government. Gold filled items will generally last long, easily 5 to 10 years on bracelets and necklaces and up to 30 years on earrings. If the weight is less than 5%, manufacturers may use terms such as Gold Overlay or Rolled Gold Plate instead.

What is Gold Plated Jewelry?

Gold plated jewelry is created using an electro-chemical process that places a layer of gold on copper brass or some other base metal. The thickness of the gold use in plating will vary. And will determine how long the jewelry will last. Gold plated jewelry is less expensive than gold filled jewelry but the gold color will eventually wear off. Jewelry may be stamped with 14KGP (14K Gold Pate) or 24K Gold Plated (The plating layer here is 24K gold, which generally indicated an electroplating process was used). Vermeil, is where sterling silver or fine silver has been gold plated.

What is Rhodium Plated Jewelry?

Rhodium is used to make certain metals appear shiny and “silvery”. It is a silver white precious metal and a member of the platinum family. It offers a highly reflective finish, along with corrosion resistance. In general it provided an extremely bright and hard wearing finish when applied as plating. Other great features include that it is hypoallergenic, and will prevent yellow and white gold from leaving a greenish tinge on the skin. Rhodium actually holds a distinction as the being the world’s most expensive precious metal. Rhodium plating is applied using a process called electroplating which is described above. Jewelry that is applied with rhodium plating will last between 2 years to 10 years depending on wear.

What is White Gold?

Firstly, pure gold is never white, and as such 24 karat gold will always be yellow. However, most jewelry is not made from 24 karat gold. Typically you will see 14kt gold which is 14/24 gold and 10/24 other metals, or 12kt - 12/24 gold and 12/24 other metals and so on. The other metals in this composition can be copper or silver in which the gold remains yellow, or palladium or nickel, which has a bleaching effect and the mixture becomes whitish, creating white gold. Nickle is used more widely because it is much cheaper than palladium, especially in the US. With that, rhodium plating steps in here, because it is used quite frequently on white gold to create a more dazzling, shining effect.


Hopefully now you have a better understanding of the words sterling silver, plating and filling and can make more educationally informed decisions when purchasing jewelry. Be sure to look that the prices reflect the type of jewelry that you are buying. As such filled jewelry will cost more than plated jewelry, and pure metal jewelry will cost more than filled. Filled jewelry will last a bit longer than plated and so on. Take all this into evaluation when looking at price.

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