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Difference Between Silver, Sterling Silver, Silver Plated, Gold Filled and Vermeil

Difference Between Silver, Sterling Silver, Silver Plated, Gold Filled and Vermeil

If you've recently been interested in purchasing some silver jewellery, you may have found that silver jewellery is rarely just described as "silver jewellery". Instead, you may have come across terms such as silver plated, 925 silver, sterling silver, gold plated or vermeil. Never fear! We will help unravel what each of the terms truly mean to help you with your decision making process.

The difference between pure silver and sterling silver is its purity. Pure silver, also known as fine silver, is generally too soft to make jewellery, therefore other metals, such as copper, aluminium and zinc are added to increase its strength. 925 sterling silver or 925 silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. Most 925 silver jewellery will have a 925 stamp on it somewhere. This is considered high quality for jewellery crafting, but as a result of the addition of other metals it is prone to tarnishing due to oxidisation. This is reversible though as described in our jewellery cleaning and care blog.

When something is described as "plated", whether it be silver or gold, it simply means that the base material is coated with a thin layer of whatever it's plated with. For silver plated jewellery, the base material usually consists of copper, brass or nickel. For gold plated jewellery, the base can be any of these or sterling silver.

Vermeil refers to gold plated sterling silver, but it is of a high quality gold such as 14k or 18k and is at least 2.5 microns thick. In addition, the gold layer is achieved using gold leaf or powder instead of a sheet of gold. Vermeil is becoming a popular choice as you can still get the gold look and a high quality piece without the expense of solid gold.

Gold filled jewellery is one step up again. It is similar to gold plating but is thicker and is layered onto a gold alloyed material, thus increasing its value, even more so than vermeil. It should not tarnish and is considered hypoallergenic. 

To help you through your choices, you can check out this link.