Gold-filled, vermeil, sterling silver and gold-plated
At shows, I am often asked, what exactly does gold-filled mean? We use a lot of gold-filled materials in our jewelry, including fine vintage gold-filled brooches. Here is a short glossary of metals typically used in jewelry:
Gold-filled materials (also called rolled-gold or gold-overlay, favoured by the fantastic vintage jewelry company Krementz) are made by pressure bonding many layers of solid gold over a metal, usually brass. It is usually 1/20, or 5% gold in composition, and the layer of gold in gold-filled materials is 100 times thicker than "gold-plated" materials, which are made by a different process (electroplating). 14K gold-filled materials, which are mostly what we use at pequitobun, are 1/20 14K gold. Gold-filled jewelry should maintain their lustre and look for decades with care.
Vermeil describes sterling silver that is electroplated with gold (at least 10 karat), and hence, there is typically 100 times as much higher karat gold in gold-filled materials than in vermeil. Since the layer of gold in vermeil is very thin, scratches may expose the underlying sterling silver and tarnish it, causing the gold to darken over time.
Sterling silver describes an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper. It is often favoured over fine silver for jewelry making, as fine silver is softer and hence more difficule to manipulate. Sterling silver tarnishes easily, but can be restored to a shine with various treatments.
Although pequitobun uses many signed and marked sterling silver and gold-filled vintage jewelry pieces, some beautiful pieces are simply not marked and their metal content unknown. These pieces may be described as gold-tone or silver-tone, or simply have no description of their metal content.
Caring for your jewelry
pequitobun uses the finest materials in our jewelry, including 14K gold-filled wires, chain, clasps, earwires and findings, and some sterling silver. Our karat gold collection uses solid 14 karat and 18 karat gold. We also use vintage brass findings, vintage gold-tone baubles and brass or copper chains that are extra special.
Jewelry should always be handled carefully, and the appropriate care taken for each kind of material. Avoid wearing jewelry when swimming or taking a shower, and always pat them dry if they get wet. When they are not being worn, store jewelry in separate compartments of an airtight box or in separate bags, as they can scratch one another. Jewelry can be regularly taken care of by cleaning with a jewelry cleaning cloth and/or washing gently with mild soap and water and patting dry.
Solid gold jewelry should last several lifetimes if taken care of. pequitobun karat gold pieces are delicately wired and thus should be handled gently. Solid gold jewelry can be cleaned simply with a cold water or detergent soak. They should be pat dry after cleaning.
In general, 14K gold-filled jewelry will last a longer time than other materials other than solid gold. However, to ensure that the brass core is not exposed, which might lead to tarnish, avoid rough use of gold-filled jewelry. Keep gold-filled jewelry items in an airtight container when they are not being worn, and keep pieces separate to avoid scratches. Gold-filled jewelry can be polished and cleaned with jewelry cloths. Once in a while, they can be cleaned gently with mild soap and water, and then pat dry.
Much care should be taken with sterling silver and brass jewelry, as they tarnish very easily. pequitobun uses bright sterling silver in our designs. To maintain their shine, keep sterling silver jewelry in airtight boxes when not being worn, and clean them occasionally with jewelry cleaning cloths. Shine can be restored to sterling silver that has aged over time, using a simple household recipe of aluminium foil, baking soda and water. You can find tutorials of how to do so on the web.