Everyday Jewelry Metals Explained

Ever wondered what the difference is between the various types of gold and silver jewelry? If so then this guide should help! And if you’ve been browsing the site you’ll see that I use all the ones mentioned below in my designs.

What is Gold Vermeil?

Gold vermeil is a thick layer of real gold that has been electroplated (coated) on to a base that is .925 sterling silver. In the U.S. the gold layer on the pieces needs to be a certain thickness to be classified as gold vermeil. For people with sensitivities to nickel or copper gold vermeil is a good hypo-allergenic choice.

What is Gold Filled?

Gold-filled is a very thick layer of gold that has been fused by heat/pressure bonding on to a base metal (usually brass or copper). The bonding is a permanent process so gold-filled items are very durable. And to be classified as gold-filled the gold layer must be 5% of the jewelry’s total weight.

The two main differences between vermeil and gold-filled is the manufacturing process and the base metal - vermeil is real gold electroplated over sterling silver while gold-filled is a thick layer of real gold fused on to a base metal.

The sweet sun charm on the left is gold vermeil while the disc chain and ball posts on the right are made from gold-filled.

Sterling Silver vs. Hill Tribe Silver

Sterling Silver

Sterling is the most common type of silver and I bet you have at least a few sterling silver items in your jewelry box right now. Sterling silver is a metal alloy (a combination of metals) and it contains 92.5% of silver and 7.5% of another metal - usually copper or zinc. (Seeing the stamp of 925 makes much more sense now doesn’t it?) When exposed to the air and elements sterling silver will tarnish due to the presence of copper but you can easily polish it up with a cloth or silver cleaner.

Hill Tribe Silver

Hill Tribe Silver refers to silver that has been handcrafted by the Karen Hill Tribes of Thailand. Using silversmithing techniques that have been passed down for generations, these artists create beautifully unique and intricate charms and beads. Hill Tribe Silver contains a higher silver content than sterling silver and is usually between 95% to 99% pure silver. The higher silver content means gives the silver a gorgeous bright lustre.

The necklace on the left features a hammered heart made of Hill Tribe Silver while the earrings are on the right are made with beaded sterling silver wire and posts.

I like working with all these types of metals and especially love mixing silver and gold for a striking contrast! 

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