Q&A: A simple guide to jewelry materials and how to care for silver, gold and gold vermeil jewelry

This question was asked on Instagram two months ago: Jewelry care?

I did a poll in my Instagram stories listing a range of material terms, included the ones subject to this post, and 85% said they were not fully familiar with the terms. In my search online I haven’t found a material guide made for ordinary people. One with no fancy long words, just listing what the materials are and what it means to the jewelry wearer. So I decided to make one, that makes sense irl for most of us.

First a short and sweet disclaimer; This article is intended to be a short and sweet introduction so anyone without a jewelry background can learn the bare basics and better understand materials and make a more educated decision when choosing the jewelry that is right for them. If you want to nerd out on all fancy words and chemicals, this article is not for you. Simple is the key here, these are the bare basics but enough. 

Let’s split the materials into three; 
silver, gold, gold plated.

Silver


Most often we mix the terms silver and Sterling silver. Fine silver is 99.9% silver and too soft to be used for jewelry. But when 92.5% pure silver is mixed with other metals it's much studier and suitable for jewelry. This is known as Sterling silver. Technically they are different materials and most group them under Silver. As do I. 

Silver is a popular jewelry material for several reasons; It's allergy friendly, makes for good quality jewelry at a low to mid price range and takes little care to keep looking nice and shiny. Most often when silver jewelry looks dull or tarnished, it's due to incorrect storage. Silver reacts to oxygen and sulfur so it will oxidize over time but a simple polish will easily make it shiny again. The best part is: the more silver is worn the shinier it will be. The next time you buy a pair of shoes, keep the silica gel bag and place it where you store your silver jewelry.


Care
As mentioned, incorrect storage is most often the cause of tarnish. Therefor my best tip is to store the jewelry separately (that's key) in the jewelry box your jewelry was delivered in. Or stored separately it a zip lock bag. If your jewelry has a light tarnish try a silver polishing cloth. If the tarnish is stubborn you could try what I call a quick silver cleanse (Link to how-to here) I recommend this method for your silver jewelry every so often. The transformation is amazing!

Gold

Gold is a common term for many types of gold. Color and karats. Let’s break this down.

Karats
Karats refers to how much gold a piece contains. 24 karat is 100% gold. Here's how karats are measured:  So of maximun 24 parts, 14 parts are pure gold. That’s 14k gold. Of maximum 24 parts, 18 parts are pure gold. That’s 18k gold. And so forth.

But contrary to what one might initially think:
A higher karat number is not necessarily positive; gold is a soft material and the higher the gold content the higher the price and softer the material. The difference between a ring made in 24 ring and 9k ring, are most notably price, wearability and color. 
I’d chose a 9k ring over a 24k ring any day off the week. A 9k ring is much sturdier and longer lasting than the 24k ring. Plus it has a more subtle gold color. The most used and popular gold is 14k and 18k. Both are excellent choices in jewelry.

Color
Yellow gold, white gold and rose gold. Color is only a matter of personal taste and does not affect the value of the gold.

Gold, as all fine jewelry metals, are combined with other metals to form an alloy. These metals affects the color. White gold has more zinc in it and that helps create a whiter color. White gold is also plated with rhodium to be and keep white. Due to this treatment, white gold costs more. Rose gold has more parts copper, hence it’s warm hue.

Care
Gold is low maintenance. Keep your gold pieces away from harsch chemicals, like chlorine and other cleaning products. Keep your pieces stored safely in its original box when not in use. 

Mix a tiny bit of mild dish detergent with warm water and soak your jewelry for 5 minutes. Use a soft brush to scrub gently. A baby tooth brush is perfect for the job. Rinse with water and pat dry with a soft tissue paper or a polishing cloth.

TLDR; Karat refers to the purity, higher number -> purer and more valuable but not necessarily better. 18k and 14k is preferred and excellent choices in jewelry. Gold color is only a matter of taste and is determined by which other metals are in the mix. 

Gold plated plated, gold vermeil, gold filled


The other materials with the word ‘gold’ has only a tiny bit in common with the gold mentioned above. Gold filled, gold plated plated, gold vermeil is something different.

Gold vermeil is jewelry made of 925 silver and with a layer of gold outside.

Gold plated
is jewelry made of non-fine metals (usually brass or bronze) with a layer of gold. So gold plated and gold vermeil jewelry might look the same, but they are in fact not even made of the same material. In terms of quality and allergies; gold vermeil trumps gold plated 10/10 times. 

Gold filled is jewelry made of silver or any other metals with gold mechanically bond to the base metal. It’s the same as gold plated but the gold layer is 5 to 10 times thicker than gold plated. So it’s the same as gold plated and gold vermeil. Just the with the extra thick layer of gold outside the base metal.

Care
Avoid contact with water, chemicals and beauty products. Keep each pieces of jewelry separated and stored in the orginal box or similar when not in use.

Simply keep in mind that your piece is only plated gold, not solid gold so it will fade with time. Wear and store correctly to increase lasting time. If you at some point want to have your piece re-plated, contact the shop or brand you purchased your jewelry from and ask them if you can have your piece re-plated. Most likely a fee will apply, but it also gives you a brand new looking piece!

If you have any questions or comments to this post, or questions you would like answered in future Q&As, email me at info[@]swystudio or via DM on Instagram @stillwithyoucph.

 

Thanks for reading and talk soon!

Renathe