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.
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.
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.
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.
Plating puts a microscopic layer of gold on a base metal.
The layer of gold is measured in microns (µ). 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Crystals are uniform structures, ordered at the smallest scale
(atoms or molecules) into a geometric latticework. Examples
of crystals are quartz and amethyst.
article written by Mike McGinnis and published originally
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