You've probably heard the terms gold plated or silver plated when it comes to jewelry. You've likely also heard of gold-filled and sterling silver.
So what do these terms mean? In short, they refer to different types of metals. You might be wondering, is one type of metal better than another? We're here to enthusiastically tell you, YES!
THE METALS WE USE
All of our jewelry is made using 14k gold-filled and .925 sterling silver metals. Our pieces are durable and long-lasting.
In our experience, the more you wear your silver jewelry, the less it tarnishes. It often comes in direct contact with oils from your skin which help protect it from discolouring.
The gold in our gold-filled pieces will last a lifetime if cared for properly. The gold can be exposed to freshwater and soap, and won't ever flake or rub off. This isn't the case for plated jewelry.
So what do 14k gold-filled, .925 sterling silver, and plated jewelry consist of?
Let's break it down:
.925 STERLING SILVER
This is also a metal alloy; a combination of metals. Pure silver is relatively soft and malleable, which means it can be easily damaged.
In order to make this metal more durable, 92.5% (by weight) pure silver is added to 7.5% (by weight) copper, resulting in the sterling silver we use.
There has been a long history of combining silver and copper. Starting around the 12th century, silver coins made from this metal alloy were referred to as Easterlings, and the name was eventually shortened to sterling. This term is now used to indicate the highest grade of silver.
Plated metals are made by using electricity or chemicals to add a layer of gold or pure silver over a base metal, usually brass or copper.
This layer is so thin (often 1/1000th to 3/1000th of an inch) that the resulting jewelry piece is often quite fragile. The gold or silver plating is prone to flaking off and causing the base metal to tarnish when exposed.
THE TRUTH ABOUT GOLD-PLATED JEWELRY
INEXPENSIVE DOESN'T MEAN GOOD FOR YOUR BANK ACCOUNT
We get it; you don't want to break the bank when buying jewelry. And gold-plated items are very low-cost. But a one-time small purchase can result in more, larger, and unnecessary purchases down the road.
Here's why: the plating that covers gold-plated jewelry will inevitably wear away, and often quite quickly, exposing the base metal underneath. So your options are to continue to wear the piece as it continues to degrade and look unsightly, have it re-plated somewhere, or buy a new gold-plated piece altogether.
Both options are costly and can be avoided entirely by purchasing a higher quality gold-filled piece in the first place.
In addition, the process for plating metal is usually done in factory settings due to the chemicals required. Where are those factories located? Oftentimes overseas. The low price tag that comes with purchasing manufactured gold-plated or silver-plated jewelry can have a very human cost.
Purchasing your jewelry from small, independent owner-led businesses allows you to ask about healthy processes, ethical supply chains and whether there is follow-up customer care that doesn't involve simply discarding damaged jewelry into landfills.
LONG-LASTING? NOT SO MUCH
Because the gold plating layer is so thin, it is prone to chipping or rubbing off, causing the metal underneath to be exposed and to tarnish or irritate your skin.
Even with the most intensive care, a gold-plated piece of jewelry will only last 1 to 2 years before the base metal starts to become exposed. The gold-plating will also lose its shine and start to fade.
On the other hand, the layer of gold in gold-filled jewelry is much thicker and far more durable. With proper care, a gold-filled piece of jewelry will last 30+ years before showing any signs of age. The same can be said for sterling silver.
EASY ON THE EYES, IRRITABLE ON THE SKIN
Are you allergic to metals such as brass, copper, or rhodium? Then gold-plated jewelry isn't for you. Although it looks similar to gold-filled jewelry, gold-plating often contains materials that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.
But you'll never have this problem with gold-filled jewelry; as with pure gold, it does not cause any allergies or rashes even when worn against the most sensitive skin.
The same can be said with .925 sterling silver - it is entirely hypoallergenic.
GOLD-PLATED DOESN'T WIN THE GOLD MEDAL
We'll be honest. In our opinion: plated jewelry just isn't worth it. You'll get more sparkle for your dollars (and a more authentic look) from gold-filled or sterling silver jewelry as opposed to gold-plated or silver-plated.
Higher quality means longer lasting, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you've invested in a piece of jewelry that will always be there for you.
Now that you've learned about the different metals, do you have any questions? Did you learn something new that you didn't know before? Leave a comment below!