Speaking of Sparkles, Pt. 1: Know Your Metals

A couple of Bella customers have recently asked me questions about the stones and metals I use. When you’re not dealing with the vocabulary of jewelry supplies all the time, like I am, I guess it can get pretty confusing! Gold filled, vermeil, plate, dipped, briolette, druzy, quartz, crystal – what’s it all mean?

In this multi-part series on the vocabulary behind pieces I design, I’ll tell you just that, and what it means for the care and longevity of your Bella Sparkle pieces.

I take pride in using premium, heirloom-quality components in my jewelry….and everything starts with the metal I use.

Sterling Silver: 

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925.

Why Sterling silver instead of Pure Silver? 

Sterling silver is usually alloyed with copper to give it strength while preserving the ductility and appearance of the precious metal. 99.9% pure silver, is generally too soft for producing functional objects.

Why Sterling Silver instead of Silver Plate?

This is a solid metal, so there is not a chance of chipping, flaking, or wearing away. However, Sterling Silver will tarnish.

How to clean your Sterling Silver Jewelry:

You can clean it using Silver cleaner or to make a natural cleaner at home, Combine 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 tbsp. baking soda, then soak your piece (be prepared for the bubbles!) for two to three hours, then rinse and dry.

14K Gold-Filled:

Gold-Filled components are composed of a solid layer of gold, which must constitute at least 5% of the item’s total weight, mechanically bonded to sterling silver or a base metal. The related terms “rolled gold plate” and “gold overlay” may be used if the layer of gold constitutes less than 5% of the item’s weight.

Why Gold-Filled instead of Gold Plated?

Gold-Filled components are less costly than solid 14K Gold, but they do not flake, chip, or get worn away like Gold Plate.

How to clean your Gold-Filled Jewelry?

Use only warm water and a mild soap-based detergent to clean your jewelry. Soak your jewelry pieces for no more than a minute in the water. If you have to scrub, use a soft baby toothbrush and be gentle. Never use tissue or any other paper-based material to clean the pieces. Always pat the jewelry dry.

Air dry your jewelry overnight before you put it away. Excessive moisture when stored can lead to jewelry that is corroded and tarnished.

Use a jewelry cloth on your gold-filled pieces to bring back the sparkle that may have washed off with the water. This often happens after gold-filled jewelry comes in contact with water and soap.

24K Gold Vermeil:

Jewelry Components made of 24K gold vermeil are less expensive than solid 24 K Gold but higher in quality than gold-plated pieces. To create vermeil, sterling silver is covered in a layer of gold like plating. However the vermeil products that Bella Sparkle uses has a much thicker layer than general plating. The layer of Gold is 1 micron thick, which is 40 times thicker than standard plate.

Why Gold Vermeil instead of Gold Plate?

Although vermeil jewelry typically costs less than pieces made from pure gold, it is more expensive than gold-plated pieces. That’s because its coating of the precious metal is 40 times thicker. In addition, plated jewelry often features a core of cheaper copper, rather than silver.

How to clean your Gold Vermeil Jewelry?

Avoid Chlorinated water at all costs. Buff VERY gently with a soft and dry 100% cotton cloth or a microfiber cloth.

Gold or Silver Electro-Plating (sometimes known as Gold or Silver dipped):

Sometime due to the nature of the piece, Bella Sparkle uses simple standard Gold or Silver plating. What this means is that the item has a thin layer of the metal coated over it, or over part of it. This can be used because a thicker coating of metal like Vermeil is too much for the delicate items like natural leaves etc, Or simply because it makes the piece more affordable.

How to clean your Plated Jewelry?

Use a silver cleaner and carefully apply and rinse. Then dry COMPLETELY. Or, mix together equal parts baking soda and water to form a thick paste. Dab this paste liberally onto your silver-plated jewelry and let sit for an hour. Scrub the jewelry gently, using an old toothbrush and the paste. Rinse the paste off completely, and let dry.

What is Rhodium Plating?

Rhodium plating is a metal deposition process used to coat materials with a decorative and protective layer of rhodium. Rhodium is a noble metal that imparts an extremely bright and hard wearing finish when applied as plating. When applied as a thin plate, it affords a durable finish of exceptional brightness, reduces tarnishing, and makes the sheen of the metal underneath last much longer.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at jenn@bellasparkle.com.