Information About Metals
Metals...what is the difference?
Jewelry is often created using a range of various materials, many of which are metals. Although there are approximately 86 known metals, only a few are common in contemporary jewelry. You've probably heard of sterling silver, gold, gold or silver filled, gold or silver plated, brass, tungsten, copper etc... so what's the difference between between these? Which one is the best one for you? This depends on your budget, where, how, when you're wearing it and more. Here is a little bit of information you might find interesting. If you click on the metal listed, information pertaining to that metal will pop up for you. We have listed them in two sections, the first section includes metals used by Living Aloha Creations in our fine jewelry. The second section includes metals we do not use in our fine jewelry for a variety of reasons, but may be found in our “Aloha” section (typically $10 or less). We have included this second section for your information as well as to help you compare metals. We believe this information to be accurate but do not guarantee it.
Metals Commonly Used in Living Aloha Creations “Fine Jewelry”:
- Sterling Silver
- Gold filled
- Stainless Steel 316
- Fine Silver
- 14k Gold (coming soon!)
Sterling silver is Living Aloha Creations most commonly used metal. It is a high quality, fine piece of jewelry that will last, all at an affordable price. Sterling silver is usually comprised of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals. Pure silver is a very soft metal, so its strength is increased when it's mixed with another metal, this is why it has the 7.5% added. In order to be called sterling silver, the metal must possess at least 92.5% pure silver, however, the other components can vary.
Pros: Scratches on sterling silver pieces will be less noticeable, since the underlying color would be the same color as the outer layer due to it being a solid piece of sterling silver. Living Aloha Creations works hard to offer you unbeatable prices on this fine jewelry that will last.
Cons: Sterling silver can get a little pricey. Living Aloha Creations does our best to keep our prices as low as possible. Although sterling silver can tarnish, it also cleans up easily. Pure silver is not susceptible to tarnish, but the other metals (7.5%) in it generally causes sterling silver to tarnish. Sterling silver can be brought back to its beautiful shine over and over again! Whenever possible, Living Aloha Creations has our jewelry rhodium plated. Please read more on rhodium if it is new to you.
Care: Use a jewelry polishing cloth or sterling silver cleaner. If you wear sterling silver daily, it should not tarnish easily.
- Vermeil is sterling silver which has been plated with a gold or pink overlay. Living Aloha Creations uses vermeil in many of our “gold” pieces to offer the look of gold at the cost of sterling silver. Living Aloha Creations offers many vermeil pieces.
Pros: Gold vermeil allows for the look of gold at a fraction of the cost. Vermeil jewelry is considered fine jewelry that will last. You do not have to worry about your skin turning green since it is solid sterling silver beneath the gold layer. Most people do not experience any negative reaction to vermeil if you can wear sterling silver, which most people can.
Cons: Over time, the gold coating could come off with use. However, this may add character to the piece. Keep in mind that if it does wear through, you will still have solid sterling underneath. You also have the option of having it dipped in gold again.
Care: To clean gold vermeil jewelry, buff jewelry very gently with a microfiber cloth, or a soft and dry 100% cotton cloth.
Gold filled jewelry uses a technique in which real layers of gold are bonded by heat and pressure to a base metal center, such as brass. Living Aloha Creations tends to use 14k when we use gold fill although it is possible to have 10k gold fill. Gold filled is considered the next best, quality alternative to solid gold. Compared to gold plated, gold filled is much more valuable and tarnish resistant. Living Aloha Creations often uses 14k gold fill when making our bangles, ear wires, clasps and other handmade “gold” jewelry. We are able to solder it (using a torch) similarly to how we do with sterling silver or gold. The layer of gold is nice and thick and withstands the torches flame.
Pros: Gold filled looks and wears like solid gold because its outer surface IS solid gold. It doesn't typically tarnish or change colors, nor rub or flake off. Gold jewelry wearers can usually wear gold filled jewelry without an allergic reaction. By law, gold filled items must be at least 1/20th gold by weight.
Cons: Gold-filled jewelry is generally more expensive than gold-plated jewelry. The layer of real gold is substantially thicker. Though it will last considerably longer; it does not have an infinite time span, unlike pure gold pieces.
Care: Gold filled jewelry has the same care as gold jewelry: keep jewelry away from chemicals and clean regularly with a mild, soapy, solution, rinse, pat dry with a gentle cloth, and gently polish with a jewelry polishing cloth.
- The majority of our fine jewelry IS rhodium plated. Rhodium is a rare silver-white metal within the platinum family. It is particularly hard and is one of the most expensive precious metals, and unique for its high reflectance. Solid (pure) rhodium jewelry is very rare. The metal has a high melting point and poor malleability, which makes jewelry hard to fabricate. Rhodium plated jewelry is more commonly found.
Pros: Rhodium finishes can enhance the appearance metal. Rhodium plating substantially helps prevent tarnishing in sterling silver and adds to the value. Living Aloha Creations uses rhodium plating over our sterling silver and other fine jewelry whenever possible.
Cons: It is the most expensive precious metal.
Care: Clean your white rhodium plated jewelry with soap, water, and a soft cloth. Rhodium plating may wear off or last a lifetime. This depends on several factors, such as the plating thickness and quality, the wearer's individual body chemistry, and the type of metal being plated. Replating the metal is always an option.
Whenever possible, Living Aloha Creations uses 316 grade stainless steel in our rings, link bracelets and more… 316 is the highest grade of stainless steel available and can be used in surgery with humans. Whenever possible Living Aloha Creations prefers stainless steel that is stamped with the 316 stamp. Unfortunately, not all stainless steel pieces have been stamped even if they are high grade 316. Whenever possible, Living Aloha Creations will let you know in the notes/description if that particular stainless steel is 316 quality, especially in the event that it is not stamped, but is 316 to the best of our knowledge. We are very careful where we get our fine jewelry/components and 316 stainless steel jewelry. Unfortunately not all stainless steel is stamped, but we only work with suppliers whom we can trust and we will pass that information onto our customers. A good example is one of our koa wood ring lines. We have a good relationship with this supplier who offers a larger range of sizes, including half sizes, but they are not stamped. We have been informed that they are 316 (and they hold up to that standard from our experience), despite not being stamped. We feel that being able to offer the larger range of sizes to our customers, in addition to our confidence in this supplier, makes it worth carrying this particular line.
Stainless steel resembles platinum and costs significantly less than most any other precious metal. Stainless steel jewelry is commonly used for more casual, street wear style pieces.
Pros: Stainless steel is strong and durable (they use it to make buildings, after all!). It's more affordable than silver.
Cons: Though stainless steel will not stain or rust as easily as regular steel, it isn't guaranteed to stay stain-free for life. (316 is the highest grade and lasts the best)
Care: Cleaning stainless steel requires no special agent or tools. All you need is warm water, a cloth, and dish detergent. After cleaning, polish it lightly with a dry cloth to remove remaining water spots.
- Tungsten is a steel-gray metal to tin-white color metal with a lustrous finish. Due to the hardness of this metal, the shine is not as likely to fade as with other metals that must be polished. Its known for its strength and high melting point.Tungsten jewelry is created through a process that generally uses 85% or more of tungsten and 15% or less of other elements.
Pros: Due to the hardness of tungsten, jewelry made from this metal is highly scratch resistant and resistant to oxidation and tarnish. It's hypoallergenic, which makes it a great contender for jewelry.
Cons: Tungsten rings cannot be resized because of the metal's extreme hardness. It's is very important that you get the proper size for your ring when ordering. Engraving a tungsten ring is also a challenge because of its hardness. Tungsten is such a hard material that is can actually be brittle in some cases if dropped, although this is extremely rare.
Care: Avoid chemicals and clean your tungsten jewelry with a gentle soap and water mixture.
- Titanium is a natural element which has a silver-white color. It's the hardest natural metal in the world; it's three times the strength of steel and much stronger than gold, silver and platinum. Despite it's strength, it's very light weight.
Pros: Titanium pieces are priced lower in comparison to more popular jewelry metals. Pure titanium is also 100% hypoallergenic , which means it is safe for anyone to wear. Titanium’s strength, durability, and lustor makes it a great option for jewelry items subject to daily wear.
Cons: Titanium is not great for all jewelry. It cannot be made into a ring with a prong setting unless the prong setting is made of a different metal and riveted onto the titanium. Titanium cannot be soldered. For example, a titanium ring cannot be made smaller. If you need it made larger, the only option is to remove the material from the inner part of the band.
Care: Titanium is easy to clean as it's not sensitive to most chemicals. Use a non-moisturizing soap and water and a soft cloth to gently wipe away dulling dirt and oils.
- Living Aloha Creations uses fine silver occasionally, which are strong enough to hold up and maintain their shape despite the softness of this metal. Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver, compared to 92.5% silver in sterling silver. Although lustrous, fine silver is normally not appropriate for all jewelry. Fine silver is too soft to be used in most weight-bearing applications such as chains or clasps, but it works well for other applications such as charms or larger pieces.
Pros: Though fine silver will tarnish eventually, it will happen a lot more slowly than sterling silver. Pure silver is a soft, durable metal that bends easily. This is why sterling silver is so commonly used as an alternative to fine silver.
Cons: Fine silver is not susceptible to tarnish; though it may scratch more easily than sterling silver since it is softer.
Care: Be sure to store fine silver pieces in softly lined containers to avoid scratches. Wipe them periodically with a soft cloth to remove any buildup of dirt, perspiration, etc.
As jewelry, gold's softness and natural beauty makes it attractive and appealing. It also doesn't corrode or tarnish (to the naked eye). However, pure gold is so soft that it's rarely used in jewelry. It's important to balance gold purity with the durability when you're selecting jewelry. Items like rings and bracelets usually take on more abuse and are much likely to become deformed if softer gold is used. Therefore, 14 kt + gold may be a better selection for rings and bracelets. The lower karats of gold tend to be a bit stronger. A higher karat of gold indicates a higher purity.
Pros: Pure gold pieces, with proper care, should last forever.
Cons: Pure gold is an expensive metal, and can be softer and less durable than other metals.
Care: Keep gold jewelry away from chemicals and clean them regularly with a mild, soapy, solution, then rinse and pat dry with a gentle cloth. Gently polish with a jewelry polishing cloth.
Metals possibly used in our “Non-Fine Jewelry” or not used by Living Aloha Creations:
- This might be found in our aloha section, but not our fine jewelry.
Silver plated is also known as silver tone, and is often considered the most cost effective alternative to the more expensive forms of solid silver jewelry. That being said, this form of silver is very thin, wears off easily and degrades in appearance quickly.
Pros/Cons: Silver plated material tends to tarnish less quickly, but the plating rubs off over time.
Care: Silver plated wire has a special coating to resist tarnish, but you can clean with jewelry polishing cloth. You should not wear silver plated pieces while washing your hands, bathing, or using household cleaners.
- Living Aloha Creations does not use gold plate over base metals in our fine jewelry but it might be of interest to our customers and can be found occasionally in our “aloha” sections.
Gold plated jewelry has a thin layer of gold overlaying a base metal such as zinc, copper or nickel.
Pros: Gold plated jewelry has an attractive finish that looks like real gold. It is fairly strong, durable, and is much more affordable than gold filled or solid gold items.
Cons: The gold layer on gold plated pieces is much thinner than that on gold filled pieces, and will normally wear off over time.
Care: The time-span of gold plated jewelry depends on several factors. It largely depends on your care of it as well as your bodies chemistry. Here are a few tips to get the most longevity out of your gold plated jewelry: 1) Avoid wearing gold plated jewelry during any activities where you may scratch or rub them against rough surfaces, 2) Avoid direct contact with chemicals, water, or large amounts of sweat, and 3) Clean your pieces with a soft cotton cloth and warm water. A small drop of liquid soap can be used, but avoid using jewelry cloths with chemicals.
- (we do not use silver filled in our jewelry, but this might be interesting to our customers)
Silver filled is comprised of a 5% or 10% layer of durable sterling silver bonded to/filled with a copper-alloy or brass-alloy center.
Pros: Silver filled is a lower priced option to sterling silver, and often indistinguishable from it.
Cons: Unlike gold plated items, there are no industry standards specifying how much silver these items should contain. Like sterling silver, it can tarnish. Silver filled items typically have a brass core which if exposed can contrast with the silver layer.
Care: Use jewelry polishing cloths or a sterling silver cleaner. On sterling silver with a brushed finish, polish lightly with fine steel wool. If you wear sterling silver/silver filled daily, it should not tarnish.
- We do not use this in our fine jewelry but it might be of interest to our customers. Despite its name, nickel silver isn't silver at all. It's an alloy that combines copper, nickel and zinc. It contains no pure silver. Nickel silver polishes to a bright silver like finish. Nickel silver is also known as Paktong, new silver, Alpaca silver, and German silver.This metal was developed in Germany in the late 1800's as a less expensive substitute for silver.
Pros: Nickel silver is more durable, and a lower cost option to silver.
Cons: Nickel silver can darken over time. It will eventually turn a greenish color due to the copper used in its production, and may turn your skin green.
Care: Add a small amount of baby shampoo to a damp washcloth and scrub gently. Be sure to pay close attention to details and anywhere debris can gather.
- White gold combines pure gold with other white metals, such as zinc, nickel, platinum and silver. White gold is brittle and requires platinum or rhodium plating. White gold is used in fine jewelry.
Pros: White gold is made to be a more affordable alternative to platinum. Platinum and white gold look virtually the same when new, but they wear differently over time.
Cons: Eventually the rhodium on white gold will wear off, and the slight yellow tint from the gold will appear.
Care: Clean your white gold jewelry with soap, water and a dull, soft toothbrush.
- Brass is a copper and zinc alloy, which results in a gold color. Because finished brass doesn't tarnish like silver and isn't costly like gold, it's widely used in the mainstream jewelry marketplace. You'll find more brass jewelry in department stores than silver or gold jewelry.
Pros: Brass jewelry is the fraction of the price of gold jewelry, yet it looks comparable. Given proper care, finished brass can have longevity.
Cons: Unfinished brass can tarnish over time as a reaction to air and moisture, but it can be easily cleaned. It won't change the color of your skin, but some of the tarnish might rub off onto your skin. Like silver and copper, unfinished brass can tarnish as a reaction to air and moisture.
Care: More often than not, a simple cleaning with water and soap can remove ordinary dirt. If your brass jewelry has begun to tarnish or look dull, wipe it with a damp cloth and pat dry.
Avoid submerging it in liquids or using chemically treated cleaning cloths. Rubbing the ketchup over the brass jewelry is also a gentle cleansing option. The acid from the tomatoes should be strong enough to dissolve the tarnish but too weak to damage the brass.
- Copper is a reddish gold, bright shiny metal that's soft and easily malleable. It's the oldest known metal and considered to have healing properties. It patinas to a warm brown but can also take on a green patina with oxidation. Over time, copper jewelry will lose its bright shine and take on a patina of its own.
Pros: Copper can usually be purchased at a lower price than most metals and is a naturally antimicrobial material.
Cons: The primary con of copper jewelry is the possibility of skin discoloration. Copper oxidizes easily and requires care to keep it in good condition.
Care: Use a small mixture of water, vinegar, and a bit of salt to clean. If it has a brushed finish, polish it lightly with fine steel wool. Be sure to polish your copper jewelry on a regular basis. Use your polishing cloth to gently rub away any residue as well as to polish the finish of your jewelry.
Base metals are considered the opposite of precious metals (gold, silver etc). This is a common and inexpensive metal often used to make costume or “non-fine” jewelry.
Pros: Base metals, also called jewelers metals are an inexpensive option for jewelry. A good use may be jewelry for a special occasion or short term. It is also considered a reasonable option for children who may lose their jewelry as long as they do not have allergies to the base materials. Depending on where you live, base metal may last up to several years.Cons: Base metals may corrode after a short while. Some people may have allergic reactions to base metals. Jewelry made of base metal is not expected to last.
Remember to store all jewelry, no matter the material or brand, in a clean, protected space. Keep your jewelry stored in ziplock baggies or in anti-tarnish bags to help extend their life. Keep in mind that your jewelry can be affected based on the climate you live in, your bodies chemistry and many other factors. If you invest in fine jewelry, most of the time it can be “brought back to life” with a little cleaning/care regardless of its age even if it does tarnish.