Does Lightweight Jewelry mean Lesser Quality?
Did you know just because stainless steel is on the lighter side doesn't mean it is lesser quality than sterling silver? I am blogging about the metals in jewelry because I had a customer comment that because her Stainless Steel Bracelet was lightweight she thought the quality was poor. The customers really educate me so I can inform them.
So....What makes me an expert?
I am truly the Queen of Stainless and have been working in this metal since the late 1990's. When I first discovered Stainless Steel, I tested the hell out of it, had friends wear it, looked at the best quality, sanded, formed on my 25 ton press, patina and even put it through my steel rolling mill. Stainless didn't stand a chance! This metal certainly surprised me and I broke several of my jewelry tools along the way. I have been asked to teach the use of this metal in creating womens jewelry by several manufacturers and jewelry shops plus jewelry boutiques, fine jewelers as far away as Milan, Italy have asked to carry my designs. Most of my findings, clasps, settings and components are created from sketches I draw that then go to my stainless manufacturer for my artists and I to create our one of a kind jewelry just for you. Yes, we test everything that hits the bench to make sure it is stainless steel.
Stainless verses Sterling which is Harder?
There's something in jewelry called the Mohs scale which tests the strength of a metal. Sterling is 2.0, Stainless is 6.0 - the higher number being Stainless the hardest metal of the two and making it 3x's harder than Sterling. Sterling silver is an alloy made from 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent alloy. An alloy is essentially the mixture of two (or more) other metals. Regarding sterling silver, the alloys can include zinc, copper or nickel.
Because of this stainless requires no fillers which would make it heavy. Sterling on the other hand is a very soft metal and requires nickel, copper and other fillers in order to fabricate the metal, this is the reason Sterling tarnishes and tends to be heavier than stainless, it's the fillers doing the tarnishing and as stainless contains no fillers it will never tarnish.
Full Disclosure or What is your Jewelry Really Made of?
Many websites that sell inexpensive plated jewelry will not even list what metal they are using in your jewelry which is always circumspect and I would question any website that does not have a section listing the metals. What concerns me more is all the jewelry on Etsy, Ebay & Amazon telling you they are selling you a stainless steel or sterling silver bracelet for $23. Yep, Not Sterling or Stainless and most of the time nothing more than plated Tibetan Metals and Zinc Alloy! When I was researching this blog further I did a Etsy search and spent 1/2 hour looking at so-called sterling silver or stainless jewelry, within that time I found over 238 pieces that did not have their metals listed correctly. Some had inexpensive chains that may have been stainless/sterling, but the charms. settings and findings were nothing more than Tibetan Silver, see below for my explanation on the dangers of this metal in charms and findings.
Plated by Any Other Name?
Do you know recently I have seen the following to describe nothing more than plated jewelry. I have always felt this is a way to try and fool the consumer into thinking they are getting better quality jewelry than they are.
- Artisan Metals
- Silver Dipped
- .925 Sterling Silver Plated
- Gold Dipped
- Layered Sterling Silver
- Silver Tone
- Nickel-Free (but they won't list the metal)
Plated metals like plated gold and silver tend to be nothing more than metals mixed together and covered in a thin silver or gold plating. The also tend to be quite heavy and wear off quickly turning that ugly orange/copper you see underneath, which is brass, copper and other fillers. Be careful of any jewelry company that won't disclose their metals.
Is Tibetan Silver, Really Silver?
Tibetan Silver is the scourge metal of the jewelry industry and no jewelry artist will work in this stuff. It's not silver, is made overseas, the metals are circumspect as to what is in it, not regulated here in the USA, and oftentimes it contains toxic metals! It's heavy weight and the quality is poor. Yet you can find this stuff all over Etsy, Ebay & Amazon with jewelry crafters calling it stainless, great quality or even sterling silver. One of the worst things is these charms and findings produced overseas, have ripped off most of the copyrights from the charm manufacturers out of New York and Rhode Island.
Want more information on Tibetan see my recent blog:
The Dangers of Tibetan Silver
If you are looking for inexpensive costume jewelry by all means plated jewelry is the way to go, just know what you are purchasing be cautious of jewelry with Tibetan Silver (while many times jewelry crafters won't mention this) and how long you will be able to wear your jewelry before the plating starts to wear off.
Dea - Queen of Stainless!