Sterling Silver Jewelry
Sterling Silver is a mixture of pure silver and some other metal, usually copper. The resulting alloy gives the silver strength. The standard is at least 92.5% silver. Hence the .925 stamp you see on some sterling silver items.
*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.
Gold vermeil is sterling silver which has been gold plated. The highest quality Gold Vermeil is 24K, but it can be made with varying qualities. A higher karatage will result in better quality.
*Pros: Gold vermeil allows for the look of gold at a fraction of the cost.
*Cons: Over time, the gold coating could come off with rough use. However, this may add character to the piece and it shouldn't happen any time soon with normal use.
Also called rolled-gold. These jewelry items are not actually filled with gold. They are made of a base metal (usually brass or copper) covered by sheets of gold in a mechanical bonding process. Effectively a thick coat of gold: the gold content is 5% or 1/20 of the total weight. Gold-filled items are also use for top-of-the-line jewelry. Usually made with 14k gold, it is hard wearing. With reasonable care it will not peel or flake, and should last as long as solid 14k gold jewelry. It is safe for most people with sensitive skin.
*Pros: Gold filled looks and wears like solid gold because its outer surface is solid gold. It doesn't tarnish or change colors, nor rub or flake off. Gold jewelry wearers can wear gold filled jewelry without an allergic reaction.
*Cons: Gold-filled jewelry is generally more expensive than gold-plated jewelry. Though it will last longer; it does not have an infinite time span, unlike pure gold pieces.