Jewelry, we all wear it! But which metals are used and what are their advantages and disadvantages? Especially the question of how quickly something discolors is often asked. Of course this varies per person, think of the PH value of your skin, nickel allergies and the look you want to achieve. We have listed the most common types for you.
Would you like your jewelry to last and stay beautiful? Then choose quality. For silver this is 925 sterling silver or argentium 935 or 960. For gold, it is best to choose real gold (from 14 carat gold). There is often a price tag, but see it as a good investment.
Want to spend less? Then go for stainless steel. This often wins the price and the silver color hold its color, the gold layer is of good quality and with proper care it will last a long time! The color is a bit darker than real silver or gold.
When you want to change jewelry more often and find the price a little more important than quality? Then gold or silver plated is a good option. For gold plated jewelry, it is nice if the base material is brass, so you avoid the discoloration that is quickly visible. If you choose for plated, it is important that you take care of your jewelry and take it off when it comes in contact with water. At the bottom of this blog you can read how to take the best care for your jewelry or read on for a detailed explanation of each material.
More and more jewelry is made of stainless steel, but what is it exactly? Stainless steel is made from an alloy of iron, chromium, nickel and carbon.
The largest part consists of iron. The layer of chromium protects the iron from discoloration and oxidation. In stainless steel, a high quality is used so your jewelry is extra protected against corrosion (rust and discoloration).
Jewelry is often made of 316(L) and 304. Both types contain nickel and that may sound crazy! Stainless steel is often indicated as hypoallergenic (allergy free). Fortunately, there is a low percentage of nickel in it, so low that you will not have an allergic reaction.
Good to know:
The color of stainless steel is a silver color. When you hold sterling silver next to stainless steel, you will see that stainless steel has a much darker color. There are also gold colored jewelry that are made of stainless steel. This is a plating used so there is a layer of gold on top of the steel. In stainless steel, a thicker layer is used, of high quality. Also, the gold layer adheres incredibly well to the base material. The layer therefore has a long life, provided you take good care of your jewelry. The gold layer is also darker / warmer in color than real gold or a chemical coating.
316(L) stainless steel consists of 17% chromium, 12% nickel and 2% molybdenum, the rest is iron. Because of the combination of molybdenum and nickel, it is more resistant to corrosion than the 304 version. 316L stands for low carbon, so there is less carbon in it when there is an L behind it. The more carbon it contains the harder the material. 316L is also called surgical steel.
304 stainless steel consists of 18% chromium, 8% nickel and iron. The material is just as strong as 316(L), but is less protected against corrosion because of the low nickel content. By the way, did you know that stainless steel is recyclable? It is melted down and reused without losing quality!
Stainless steel is a material that is well protected, but with intensive contact with chlorine (think of the pool), rust can occur and that would be a shame! Also with body lotion you should be careful. Let it soak in for 30 minutes before you put your jewelry back on. The advice is therefore to take off your jewelry when you go swimming in the pool. With jewelry made of 304 stainless steel, you can not swim in chlorinated water or the sea.
Do you have a quick allergic reaction to cheaper jewelry? Then try stainless steel. Furthermore, it is easy to maintain and lasts a long time! Take your jewelry off when you go swimming in the pool and with the 304 stainless steel, you better not swim in the sea. Good to take into account is the color, it is darker than real gold or silver.
Want to spend a little more on your jewelry? Then you can choose silver. Silver can be found with different markings and we have described them below.
999 Silver is 100% silver, well as good as. They also say 99.9%, because you can never guarantee 100% pure silver. 999 silver is not used for jewelry, as it is far too soft.
Pretty much the most common kind is 925 sterling silver. This consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or another metal. This other metal is added for strength. A disadvantage of 925 sterling silver is that it can discolor through weathering and the PH value of your skin. Your jewelry may become discolored or black. Not to worry! By using silver polish, you can make your jewelry shiny again.
A new grade is Argentium 935 and 960. This grade has been on the market since 2006 and has a higher alloy than sterling silver. The copper here is replaced by germanium. Germanium ensures that the silver does not oxidize and thus makes the jewelry stronger. Because the material is newer, there are not yet as many different types and sizes to be found for jewelry.
Silver plated or silver plated jewelry, is jewelry that often has copper as the base material. Over the copper comes a thin layer of silver. This jewelry is often cheaper in price, but also wears out quickly. Among other things by the PH value of the skin and weather conditions, the layer wear and the copper color will be visible. The advantage is the price and if you are careful with your jewelry, it will certainly last a while.
Silver filled you see more and more nowadays. This does not stand for filled silver, as the name implies. The jewelry has a thicker layer of silver than silver plated jewelry. Often 5-10% of the jewelry is silver, this ensures that the jewelry has a longer life than plated jewelry. By using silver filled wire for example, you can make beautiful rings! Often these prices are cheaper than 925 sterling silver and the quality is also good, making this a good alternative.
Finally, there is also 625 silver, which is a mixture of different metals with a very small amount of silver. This is not “real” silver, because all values below 800, are not considered real silver.
Don’t want to spend that much? Then silver plated is a good option. The jewelry may discolor over time, but that depends on how the jewelry is cared for. The PH value of your skin plays a major role in this. Do you prefer to invest in quality? Then 925 sterling silver or Argentium 935 and 960 is a good option! Silver retains its value and by polishing it sometimes, it will not discolor. Don’t want to have to polish it? Then Argentium 935 or 960 is a better choice.
Want to make a real investment? Then gold might be something you’re looking for. Gold jewelry is often expressed in carats and this indicates how much fine gold (pure gold) has been incorporated into it. 1 carat stands for 1/24th part gold. In the Netherlands this must be at least 14 carats, everything below this may not be called gold. For example, in Germany and England 9 carat is called gold, so this may vary by country.
14 carat consists of 58.5% pure gold and 41.5% of another metal, often copper or silver. The value stamp is 585. Adding the other materials makes the gold stronger. The higher the carat the more pure the jewelry is, but also the softer it is. Like silver, gold is quite soft.
18 carat consists of 75% pure gold and 25% copper or silver. The value stamp is 750.
20 carat consists of 83.3% pure gold with a value stamp of 833.
22 carat is stamped 916 and consists of 91.6% pure gold.
24 carat is the highest and consists of 99.99% pure gold! The value stamp is therefore 999.
Often 14 karat is good value for money because it contains a high percentage of other metals. This is because it is strong and wear-resistant. 24 carat gold has the highest value, but is more fragile than for example 14 carat.
When the jewelry has a higher carat, the color is also “deeper” gold. Furthermore, the color can be adjusted by adding more copper, for example, this makes the color warmer. When a large amount of copper is added, rose gold can be made and with a large amount of silver or palladium, white gold is made.
Gilded or gold plated
You can often find this jewelry for a fraction of the price of real gold jewelry. As with silver-plated, here too a thin layer is put over the copper jewelry. Often a 14 or 18 karat gold layer is used for this and through various techniques it adheres to the copper. Sometimes it is written how many microns are used. Microns indicate how thick the gold layer is and indicate how long the layer will last. 1 micron stands for about 1 year, again depending on how you care for the jewelry. It does not say how many microns it is used? Then the layer is quite thin and will fade faster.
Another plating that is often used is a chemical plating. The layer does not consist of real gold, but of a dye. The price of jewelry with a chemical plating is often the lowest because no real gold is used. The price is nice and low, but the quality is also lower. With this jewelry it is wise to take it off when it comes in contact with water, perfume or body lotion. The PH value of the skin affects the discoloration of the jewelry.
Gold Filled: With gold filled jewelry, the layer of gold is again thicker than with gold plated or plated. The base material is often copper, silver or brass. The layer of gold must be at least 5% or 1/20th of the total weight. Gold filled jewelry is cheaper than real gold jewelry. The quality is often good, because of the thick layer of gold the color remains beautiful for a long time, provided you take good care of the jewelry.
Are you considering buying gold jewelry? Then look carefully at the various options. It is often a big investment, but you pay for the quality. Would you rather have a cheap option? Then you can always opt for gold-plated or plated. The prices are considerably lower, but so is the quality. Gold filled can be a good middle ground.
Brass is a mixture of copper and zinc. Often there is a gold or silver layer on this material. For this jewelry, use is made of electroplating, by means of electricity the layer attaches to the base metal. The advantage of brass is that it has a slightly darker gold color. Especially with gold plated jewelry, it is less obvious when there is a scratch or slight discoloration. How fast your jewelry will discolor again depends on the PH of your skin and the care of your jewelry. In principle, the silver and gold layer wears away over time. Brass therefore has by itself a slightly darker color gold and will not change much, but may become slightly darker.
Brass is an excellent and inexpensive material, it helps your gold plated jewelry to stay beautiful a little longer, because the colors are fairly similar. For jewelry with a silver layer, it is wise to take it off when in contact with water, perfume and soap.
Nickel-free jewelry is jewelry made exclusively from nickel-free titanium. Ideal for people who easily suffer from a nickel allergy. Many people are allergic to nickel and this is often found in jewelry. You may suffer from swollen earlobes (when wearing earrings), red spots and other skin irritations. It is often described whether a piece of jewelry is nickel free. In most cases sterling silver and real gold are also nickel free.
Care of the jewelry
As you have read above, the care of your jewelry is very important. Per material this is different, but there are also similarities.
For each material, the PH value (acidity) of the skin affects the discoloration and quality of the jewel. The PH value is different for everyone and therefore the same piece of jewelry can discolor faster on you than on your friend. The PH value is also influenced by, for example, perfume and body lotion. Do not spray perfume directly on the jewelry and let body lotion soak in for at least 30 minutes before wearing the jewelry.
For any material, the more carefully you handle it, the longer it will stay beautiful! Avoid contact with water as much as possible, especially chlorinated water and the sea.
For 925 sterling silver and real gold jewelry, you must take into account polishing.
Hopefully you are a little wiser after reading this blog! Do you still have questions or is there still something not quite clear? Please leave us a message and we will be happy to help you! Have fun making and wearing your jewelry!