A beautiful piece of jewelry creates a visceral response. We don’t always stop to think about WHY we love a gorgeous necklace or pair of earrings. Falling in love isn’t terribly rational.
Sadly, however, depending on how it was made, that beautiful jewelry can also break your heart. Maybe it breaks literally, suffering a broken chain, clasp, or setting. Maybe a formerly glittering pendant quickly becomes faded and chipped. Or maybe its finish wears off entirely, turning your skin green or (even worse) causing an allergic reaction.
“Depending on how it was made.” Did you catch that? Because it’s undeniably true: A jewelry studio’s choice of materials makes a huge difference in how long its jewelry will last. Those choices also impact whether the jewelry can even be worn by people with sensitive skin or metal allergies.
Why the Heartbreak? Lack of Knowledge — and Lack of Transparency
You may not be aware that many jewelry brands often use materials that aren’t designed to last. Even many expensive, high-prestige brands. That’s why, when making buying decisions about jewelry, it’s important to understand the materials used. Looking critically at material types can help you make smarter choices. After all, would you still buy that “gold” necklace if you knew it was only designed to be worn a few times a year? And that if you wear it regularly, it really will lose its luster? Maybe. But maybe not.
Many people don’t understand the difference between Gold Filled and Gold Plated jewelry, or between Sterling Silver and Silver Plated jewelry. They see the words “gold” and “silver” and stop asking questions. But that’s exactly what leads to the heartbreak we described.
At Bloom, we believe jewelry should never break your heart. That’s why every piece we make is backed by a lifetime guarantee. It’s also why we are 100% transparent about the materials we use. We genuinely believe that educated consumers are always the happiest consumers. So it’s time to talk about materials, helping you make more informed buying decisions… that won’t lead to heartbreak.
The Difference Between Gold Filled vs. Gold Plated Jewelry
The difference between Gold Filled and Gold Plated jewelry begins with how each type is made.
Gold Plated jewelry is a popular choice for many studios simply because it’s the cheapest, fastest, and simplest way to make jewelry. Gold Plating is added on top of base metals such as Brass, Copper, Nickel, Stainless Steel, or Silver. Whatever the base metal, a layer of Nickel is attached as a buffer between the Gold Plating and base metal. An electric current is used to create an electrochemical reaction involving a solution that includes dissolved Gold ions, depositing a thin layer of Gold on the surface of the jewelry. (“Vermeil” is a special type of product that consists of Gold Plating on a Sterling Silver base.)
Gold Filled jewelry is a massive step up from Gold Plated jewelry. While the process is more difficult and expensive than Gold Plating, it’s still far less expensive than working with Solid Gold. Base metals used include Brass, Copper, or Silver. To make Gold Filled jewelry, extreme pressure and heat are used to mechanically bond a thick layer of Gold to the base metal. (Regulations require the use of at least 10K Gold in making Gold Filled jewelry.)
Advantages of Gold Filled vs. Gold Plated Jewelry
- More actual Gold. Gold Filled jewelry has a much thicker outer layer of gold than Gold Plated jewelry — at least 100 times thicker, on average. US government regulations require Gold Filled jewelry to have at least 5% Gold by weight. Conversely, the total amount of Gold used in a piece of Gold Plated jewelry is generally less than 0.05% of its overall weight! Indeed, the “value” of Gold Plated jewelry isn’t about its Gold content, but rather its style points.
- Vastly improved durability. Gold Filled is designed to last a lifetime. The mechanical bonding process used to create Gold Filled jewelry results in a highly resilient finish that isn’t susceptible to flaking, cracking, or chipping. You can safely wear Gold Filled jewelry into the shower or while you sleep. Gold Plated jewelry, on the other hand, is highly prone to wear. As jewelry is worn and handled, the Gold Plating wears away, exposing the base metal. And that base metal is what’s prone to oxidizing and tarnishing. (In other words, if a piece of “Gold” jewelry has ever turned your skin green, it was likely Gold Plated.)
- More hypoallergenic. With its thick, resilient outer layer of Gold, Gold Filled jewelry ensures that your skin is only exposed to actual Gold. On the other hand, as the thin finish on Gold Plated jewelry wears away, exposure to the base metals may cause sensitivity or allergic reactions in wearers.
You may be thinking… given all of these clear advantages, why do jewelry designers sometimes choose Gold Plated over Gold Filled? Well, Gold Plated can be a good choice for special occasion pieces that are designed to be worn infrequently, making it possible to create a “WOW” piece on a non-wow budget.
The Difference Between Sterling Silver vs. Silver Plated Jewelry
Silver jewelry is primarily made two ways: either as Sterling Silver or Silver Plated (though You may also come across something called Coin Silver). The difference between Sterling Silver and Silver Plated also comes down to how each is made.
Sterling Silver jewelry is made of 92.5% Silver and 7.5% other base metals. Why? Pure Silver is too soft to be durable for jewelry crafting, so mixing it with other metals makes it harder. Sterling Silver is often marked with a “925” imprint indicating that it meets regulations.
Silver Plated jewelry is made using the same electroplating process as Gold Plated jewelry, although Silver ions are used instead of Gold.
Coin Silver jewelry adheres to a lower standard of 90% Silver and 10% Copper.
Advantages of Sterling Silver vs. Silver Plated Jewelry
The advantages of Sterling Silver over Silver Plated Jewelry are similar to those of Gold Filled over Gold Plated. Sterling Silver contains much more actual Silver, and is far more durable and hypoallergenic than Silver Plated. While Sterling Silver will eventually oxidize and tarnish, it can easily be polished (with a cleaning cloth) back to its original state.
Bloom’s Materials: Primarily 14k Gold Filled and Sterling Silver
It’s all right there in our company description: “Bloom makes fine jewelry for real life. Your jewelry should be timeless — in style and substance. That’s why every piece we make is backed by a lifetime guarantee, so that your Bloom jewelry truly lasts forever.” We couldn’t make these commitments without first making the choice to use high-quality materials. For us, that means using primarily Sterling Silver and 14k Gold Filled. Bloom does use some Silver Plated and Gold Plated materials, but generally in more special-occasion pieces for which we are trying to keep price points lower.
All that said, every Bloom piece is designed to be:
- Long-lasting. We believe that jewelry should always be designed to last, and that absolutely steers our choices. As a precious metal, Sterling Silver will last forever. Gold Filled — just like 14k Solid Gold — will not tarnish or chip, and is meant to last decades. (Frankly, we couldn’t offer our lifetime guarantee if too many of our pieces were Gold Plated.)
- Attainable. We also believe that jewelry should be attainable for all. By working primarily with 14k Gold Filled and Sterling Silver, we are able to provide more accessible price points without compromising quality.
- Hypoallergenic. Both Sterling Silver and 14k Gold Filled are hypoallergenic, which means they’re highly unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. Our findings (e.g., clasps, ear posts and wires) are always Sterling Silver or 14k Gold Filled. We occasionally use heavier metals such as Brass or Gunmetal in our mixed metal chains, but all metals are always listed in product descriptions. Regardless, if you ever find you have sensitivity to any of our jewelry, we will take the jewelry back and issue an immediate return.
- Easy to clean. We recommend simply gently washing most of our jewelry with mild soap and warm water. Do not scrub. Sterling Silver will oxidize over time, but it can be polished back to its original state. (You’re welcome to ask us for a complimentary cleaning cloth!)
- Keepsake- or gift-worthy. We want every piece of Bloom jewelry to be worth giving and receiving. That means anyone should be able to wear it (hypoallergenic), and that it should be designed to last.
Now that we’ve spent so long talking about Gold Filled and Sterling Silver jewelry, how about checking out a few representative pieces made by Bloom?
Our Signature Small Oval Wrapped Hoops are absolutely designed for frequent use! They come in three hand-wrapped combinations of 14k Gold Filled and Sterling Silver.
Our Signature Stardust & Filigree Necklace is available in 14k Gold Filled, Sterling Silver, Oxidized Silver, and Two Tone. Which will work best with your day-to-day wardrobe?
Our Starburst Pave Diamond Studs are set in Sterling Silver, creating elegance that can take you all the way from the ballroom to the boardroom.
Starburst Pave Diamond Studs$99.00
Our Ruby Filigree Layering Necklace is made with 14k Gold Filled and hand-wrapped Ruby. A Bloom customer favorite, it’s a great layering piece that will work with pretty much any of your Bloom pieces.
Have any questions about the materials we use or our lifetime guarantee? Send us a message! We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.