Updated: Dec 14, 2018
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between silver or gold FILLED vs. PLATED jewelry? Which is better? Here is your answer:
Silver-FILLED or gold-FILLED jewelry offers a great alternative to pure sterling silver or carated gold because it keeps everyone’s cost down while providing a quality material that will last for decades. Sterling silver filled wire, for example, is a tube of actual sterling silver (92.5% silver) that is “filled” with a base metal such as brass or copper. Filled materials come in two qualities, “1/10” and “1/20”. “1/10” means that 1/10th of the weight of the material is the precious alloy. Because silver and gold filled items have a measurable weight of precious metal, they can be legally called “sterling silver filled” or “14k gold filled”, as examples. Keeping heavy cleaning (rouge cloth) to a minimum, many studies confirm that one can wear a 1/10 gold or silver-filled item DAILY for about 25 years before the precious metal shows signs of wearing through to the base metal. Not too shabby!
Silver and gold-PLATED materials, on the other hand, are pretty much completely a base metal with a VERY THIN layer of gold or silver applied to the surface. When I say very thin, according to the Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers by Rainwater, Martin and Fuller, the thickness of the plating layer ranges between 0.00015″ to 0.00125″. To put this in perspective, the thickest layer of silver or gold plate is about the same as the thinnest human hair! For this reason it’s essential that you never use a rouge cloth or silver cleaner on your plated jewelry. Use a jewelry cleaning / shining cloth or old T-shirt, instead. Also, because these items do not have a measurable weight of the precious metal in them, they cannot legally include “sterling” or cite any carat of gold in their description. This rule is not followed in MANY online shopping venues so BEWARE! And if the shop states that an item is “sterling silver” but the price doesn’t seem in line with sterling, ASK before you buy! Many times, in my experience, they will “clarify” that the item is plated and not actually sterling silver. It also follows that when you see an item description such as “sterling silver plated” or “14k gold-plated”, BEWARE! They should know better and are employing deceptive practices.
Now you know! Shop smartly. 🙂