Everyone has a beef about something (mine is that murky brown dishwater than masquerades as coffee in drive-thrus). But what’s really bugging me lately is a crazy online trend for retailers to misinform buyers about the quality of metal being used in their jewellery. What this means is that you end up NOT buying the quality product you think you are, and often being overcharged.
So you could end up buying plated alloy metal which is being presented as precious gold or silver. We're talking a lick of gold or silver over a concoction of what is so often some very cheap and sometimes unhealthy alloys. You know, the stuff that makes your skin go green, and for sensitive people gives you nasty allergies.
So here’s what you have to look out for.
Common plated metal (often called gold or silver tone) is just very thin layer of precious metal that will wear away often appearing 'black' or 'tarnished' quite quickly, and will need to be re-plated in a year or so. Of course this is pretty much typical for cheaper or seasonal fashion jewellery, and that's fine. As long as you know what you're getting and don't intend handing the piece down through the generations!
Sometimes you just don’t want to pay a lot for fashion jewellery, and we use plated ourselves in our more affordable pieces. Also, in some cases various components are only available as plated metal, so using them is unavoidable.
What we have found though is claims online bamboozling customers with pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo to convince them they are buying precious metal.
Watch out for ambiguous and very glam terms like "special 24k gold micro-plating". Sounds great doesn’t it? But it's still just a thin layer than will rub off before you know it. It’s just plated fashion jewellery however it’s disguised. If you love it and it’s priced affordably, go for it! Just don’t expect it to last for very long.
For quality jewellery, what you should be looking for is a specification that the piece is gold-plated over sterling silver, which involves a different process and the use of a much greater proportion of real gold in the piece.
Most of our jewellery is either sterling silver, oxidised (darker) sterling silver, gold fill or vermeil gold. Even our black leather chokers are accessorised with sterling, gold fill or vermeil - they are designed to last.
To make things clearer about relative cost, here is an interesting price comparison: you can buy a gold-plated earring wire for a few cents, but the equivalent gold-fill component will set you back dollars.
So make sure you’re not paying gold fill prices for gold-plated items!
You'll find the jewellery on Her Lovely Bones varies in price reflecting the cost of the metal and materials used.
Technical info for the techno-inclined:
If you've ever wondered what the difference is between plated gold or silver, gold vermeil, gold fill, or solid gold jewellery, here's a fact-filled outline to keep you super informed.
Silver, even when hardened, gradually softens over time. To maintain hardness, other metals are added to form alloys that are harder, stronger, and less susceptible to scratching and marring. The best-known copper-silver alloy is sterling, which is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper, although pure fine silver is still used in many beautiful pieces. All our Wolf Tooth earrings are suspended from sterling silver large earwires.
Gold-plated and silver-plated jewellery
In gold and silver-plated jewellery a base metal is dipped into a electroplating solution along with solid gold/silver creating a layer over the base metal. This base is usually steel, brass, or mixed alloys sometimes including a variety of cheap metals, including lead (yikes!). Hello allergies! The better quality plated pieces we use at Her Lovely Bones have a 'clean' metal as a base, such as jeweller's brass.
When sterling silver is used as the base metal, the process is different and the jewellery is in the vermeil or gold fill category. Gold/silver plating uses a very thin layer of gold or silver - it wears quickly and will have to be re-plated in a year or two. Its advantage is that's it's very affordable and great for seasonal fashion jewellery. Industry standards for gold vermeil is a minimum of two microns thickness of gold; gold-plated jewellery is identified by anything less than this - in the cheapest cases, little more than the equivalent of a lick of gold or silver is used. Due to the lower micron thickness of the precious metal, plated jewellery should be significantly less expensive than gold vermeil, and has a much shorter lifespan.
This process originally used mercury, but today vermeil is produced by a safe electrolytic process. The inside core is sterling silver and the outside is a coating of gold, as in this necklace. Vermeil can darken over time, adding an often desirable antique effect to the piece.
Gold vermeil jewellery
Gold vermeil jewellery is much higher quality when it comes to gold jewellery which includes a plating process. The difference is that it is dipped for a longer period of time, creating a thicker layer of gold plating. The base metal, which is generally sterling silver, needs to have at least two microns and ideally more of gold to classify as gold vermeil. Jewellery that is listed as being melded with gold vermeil should not lose plating for years if you care for the piece properly. These gold satellite chains are vermeil gold.
Gold fill is a process of securely bonding several layers of gold to a sterling silver core. The gold is permanently bonded. Gold fill (unlike gold plate) has an actual thick layer of gold, giving it more value and making it tarnish-resistant. Our gold crescent pieces are gold fill, for example. Gold-filled jewellery consists of a number of layers of solid gold. Using heat and pressure gold alloy is permanently bonded to a sterling silver core. The biggest difference between gold fill and gold vermeil is that gold-filled jewellery will never lose its golden hue, as the gold is permanently bonded with the base metal. Due to the more permanent nature of gold fill, this jewellery tends to be much more expensive than plated and a little more expensive than vermeil, but should not be confused with solid gold jewellery. Vermeil and gold fill has become a popular alternative to solid gold, as it shares the qualities of beauty and durability without the exorbitant cost of pure gold.
So happy jewellery buying, oh enlightened one! Now you know the tricks of the trade and won’t be misled into buying something that will end up disappointing you!