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Glossary of Common Jewelry Terms
Here is a list of common terms used in the jewelry business. Many of them may be familiar to you, but there may be one or two that are new. Hope this is helpful.

Sterling Silver
Refers to the content of silver used in jewelry and bead manufacture. Also called "925," the content of most silver jewelry is at least 92.5% silver to qualify as sterling. Only rarely will you find higher content than 92.5%, since manufacturers are usually competing on price, so more silver content adds to price but not to quality. The except to this rule is Hill Tribes silver, from Northern Thailand. Since the Hill Tribes use only the most basic of tools, higher silver content makes for softer and more easily manipulated silver.

Karat Gold
Like silver, content provides the basis for the classification of gold jewelry. Gold percentages are defined in karats. 24 karat gold is pure gold, 12 karat gold is 50% pure, 18 karat is 75%, etc.

Gold Fill
A layer of karat gold is bonded to a base metal through heat and pressure. When used to create wire, the gold is formed into a seamless tube around a base metal core, which is usually brass, and then drawn out to the desired thickness. The finished product has a fairly thick outer layer of karat gold, is very durable, and is considered a lifetime product. The gold layer of 14K/20 will not wear off with normal wear, as it will with gold plate. 14K Gold Filled produces a strong wire with all of the advantages of 14k gold. It requires the same care as jewelry produced from 14K gold and is suitable for making heirloom jewelry - at a fraction of the cost of 14K solid gold. As the base metal is completely covered by a durable layer of 14K gold, allergies to the base metal are not a problem.

Gold Plate
Plating puts a microscopic layer of gold on a base metal. The layer of gold is measured in microns (). The various terms may use different techniques, but the primary differences between them are the minimum thickness of gold required to be deposited - ~ Gold Plate - .5 microns (approximately 20 millionths of an inch) ~ Heavy Gold ElectroPlate - 2.5 microns (~100 millionths of an inch) ~ Gold Electroplate - .175 microns (~7 millionths of an inch) ~ Gold Washed or Gold Flashed - less than .175 microns thick

Gold Vermeil
Vermeil is gold plate sterling silver. Usually the layer of gold is at least 2.5 microns thick. Vermeil tends to wear through to the base metal more easily than gold plate, since it is "dipped" rather than mechanically applied like gold plate.

Gem/Gemstone
There is no generally accepted definition for gemstones, but they all have one thing in common: there is something about them that makes them special. Sometimes it is color or texture, other times it is what they are or what they represent. Gemstones come in all sorts of flavors. There are minerals (e.g. diamond), mineral aggregates (jade or turquoise), or less commonly rocks (lapis lazuli). Some are organic in nature (amber, petrified wood), some are even synthetic.

With no clear demarcation line, the term gemstone can include anything used for ornamentation purposes. In this definition, gemstones may include wood, coal, bone, glass and metals. Ultimately, if it is pretty and used for adornment, odds are someone will consider it a gemstone.

Semi-precious Stone
Refers to the less valuable category of stones used in jewelry and gemology. Specifically, it is easier to define stones that are not in this category than those that are in it, since the category is so broad. Precious stones like diamond, emerald, sapphire, etc. are classified as precious gems, hence they are obviously excluded. Architectural stones like marble and granite, as well as rocks like basalt or limestone are also not members of this group. Generally a stone is considered semiprecious if it is generally accepted as such. Semiprecious gems include stones like garnet, amethyst, moonstone, lapis lazuli, jade, onyx, etc.

Crystal
Crystals are uniform structures, ordered at the smallest scale (atoms or molecules) into a geometric latticework. Examples of crystals are quartz and amethyst.

(This article written by Mike McGinnis and published originally on indiasilver.com. We encourage republication but stipulate the piece be copied in its entirety with links and attribution.)

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