Monday, January 25, 2010

Vermeil? Gold-filled? The different types of precious metals commonly used in artisan jewellery

Many of you would be familiar with sterling silver and solid gold. But have you heard of gold-filled, vermeil or karean silver? These are just different types of precious metals commonly used in jewellery and are NOT to be confused with plated jewellery, which often are steel or some other cheap alloys plated with a thin layer of gold or silver that tarnishes easily and permanently.


Gold is the most precious of all metals. However, pure gold (24K gold) is very soft and therefore unsuitable for making jewellery. Other metals have to be added to pure gold to harden it so that it can be worked on. This results in different types of gold - white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, purple gold etc. For example, copper is added to pure gold to achieve the rosy hue you see in rose gold jewellery.


Vermeil (pronounced vehr-MAY), is also known as silver gilt. It is sterling silver coated in a layer of gold to give a gold appearance. To be labelled vermeil, the gold must also be at least 10-karat and be at least 1.5 micrometers thick. Sterling silver covered with any metal other than gold cannot be called vermeil.

Gold filled(GF) is an actual layer of gold pressure bonded to another metal. GF is not the same as gold plating as it has about 100 times more gold than gold plating. It is therefore much more valuable and tarnish resistant and can last a lifetime, with proper care. It looks like solid gold and wears like solid gold, but at a fraction of the cost.

Karean silver

Karean or Karen silver has between 99.5% and 99.9% pure silver, a much higher silver content than sterling silver. The solder used to fuse the silver components together makes up the last fractions of a percent. Consequently, it has a weight, bright satin colour, and feel, all of its own.
Every piece is handmade and no two pieces are alike. You can actually see evidence of each piece having been formed by the hands of a Karen craftsmen and that's part of its appeal.

Sterling Silver

925 Sterling Silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper.Copper gives it strength whilst preserving the malleability of the silver, making it ideal for making silver jewellery.
I hope the above gives you an idea what you are getting when you next shop for jewellery.

At Maggie In The May, I use only sterling silver and 14K gold-filled metal components, so you can be assured of the quality of my handmade creations which are meant to last. Even though sterling silver tarnishes when left exposed to air and gold-filled will lose some its luster over time, you can easily bring back the shine with jewellery polishing cloths.

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