RESOURCES – Jewelry Metals Glossary

Base Metals


Brass

Brass is a metal alloy of copper and zinc. It is used as a substitute for gold items because it is much less expensive, but it needs to be sealed after jewelry crafting to prevent tarnishing over time. The brass used in jewelry making is typically lead-free.

Copper

Copper is a soft, easily worked metal with an orangish red color. It has been used for thousands of years to make various tools and jewelry. The warm color is particularly loved by many as jewelry.

Nickel Silver

A commonly used alloy of nickle that is often used in costume quality jewelry. In general appearance it looks like sterling silver, but does not tarnish and is much less expensive, but there are many people who are sensitive to nickle silver and cannot wear jewelry made from it.

 GOLD


Gold Fill

Because of the costliness of gold, gold filled items have become very popular replacements for solid gold. An item can be labeled as gold filled as long as it contains at least 1/20th or 5% of the total weight of the item in the gold alloy layer.

  • Gold Fill Marks: A stamped mark on a jewelry item of 14/20 GF means that the item contains 1/20th of it’s total weight in 14 karat gold. The first number represents the karat purity of the gold alloy, and the second number, the fractional amount of that alloy present in the item.

Gold Plated

Like gold fill, gold plated items only contain an outer layer of gold, and are not gold all the way through. Unlike gold fill however, the gold coating is not created from one solid layer and applied mechanically. Instead electroplating is used to deposit a thin film of gold on the surface. Consequently, gold plating will wear off over time.

Karat

This is a term used to classify the gold content of gold alloys. A single karat is 1/24th of the whole alloy content, so something that is 10 karate gold contains 10/24th gold and the rest is made up of other metals.

Changing the amount of gold in an alloy changes the overall color of the metal so something that is 24 karat gold is much more yellow than 10 karat gold.

Also, the more gold is in a metal alloy, the softer it will be so more care must be taken not to damage higher karat gold pieces.

Here are the most popular karat gold mixes on the market.

  • 10 karat – Usually you will not see gold items that contain less than 10 karat gold.
  • 12 karat – A less expensive alloy than 14 karat which is only a little less ‘yellow’ in appearance.
  • 14 karat – The most popular alloy!
  • 18 karat – Rarely seen.
  • 24 karat – Pure gold, very brassy looking in color, not very durable because it is so soft.

SILVER


Fine Silver

Fine silver contains 99.9% silver, and is also sometimes called simply “pure silver” though the are also trace amounts of impurities. This grade of silver is used to make bullion bars. While it is sometimes used in jewelry, fine silver is much softer than sterling silver and can be easily damaged during ordinary use.

Silver Fill

Because of the rising costs of silver over the past few years, silver filled items have started to appear on the market as replacements for sterling silver. An item can be labeled as silver filled as long as it contains at least 1/20th or 5% of the total weight of the item in the sterling silver layer.

Silver Plated

Like silver fill, silver plated items only contain an outer layer of silver, and are not sterling silver all the way through. Unlike silver fill however, the silver coating is not created from one solid layer and applied mechanically. Instead electroplating is used to deposit a thin film of silver on the surface. Consequently, silver plating will wear off over time.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver contains 92.5 percent silver, with the rest being made up primarily of copper, though sometimes other trace metals appear. Sterling silver is much more durable than fine silver because of it’s copper content. Sterling silver findings are often stamped with the mark “.925”.

Vermeil

Silver covered with a very thin plating of gold. Usually 24k gold is used as the plating later, which gives vermeil and very brassy appearance.

 MEASUREMENT


Gauge

This is a term used to specify the thickness of wire. As strange as it may seem, the smaller the gauge number, the larger the wire.

The reason for this is that the manufacturing of wire involves gradually reducing the thickness of the wire by drawing it through ever smaller holes till it reaches the correct size. So each time the wire is drawn through a smaller hole, the gauge number is increased.

Troy Ounce

A weight measurement typically used in the sales of gold and silver materials. A troy ounce is not the same as a dry ounce (it’s slightly larger at about 1.1 regular dry ounces) so make sure when comparison shopping for gold and silver materials that you know which standard of measure is being used.

Troy ounces are often designated as ozt.

From Brandywine Jewelry Supply

 

 

 

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