Glossary of Terms

The way I’ve listed terms is not alphabetical but in the order it should be read as one flows into the other.

Precious Metals
Gold, platinum and silver are considered the metals valued in jewelry. All three metals share 4 qualities for making jewelry.

  • Allure – physical characteristics of luster, color and heft.
  • Workability – related to the relative ease to fashion into jewelry
  • Ductility – can be formed into various shapes such as wire, and hold those new shapes.
  • Durability – Gold, platinum and silver share the quality of durability of strength and resistance to wear and lasting thousands of years.
  • Rarity – Combine availability with the labor and time it takes to mine the precious metals from the earth.

Metal Alloys
Over hundreds of years, artisans found certain mixes of metals work better than precious metals alone. The mixtures are called metal alloys = mix of two or more metals. The three main reasons to add alloys to precious metals are:

  • To make them more durable and workable
  • To improve their appearance
  • To reduce the cost of creating jewelry

For example, pure gold (24K) is melted with alloy metals such as copper, tin and silver to produce improved strength and workability and improve the appearance and/or affect their color & luster.

It should be noted that it is the law, in the U.S., no alloy with a gold content lower than 10K can be sold as “Karat Gold”. 10K gold is 41.7% gold.

The units of weight for precious metals are troy ounces, grams, and pennyweight. Some countries including the U.S. define the fineness of gold alloys in terms of karats. The abbreviation for karat is K. or Kt. Karat is not the same as carat, which refers to diamond and gemstone weight.

Karat and their Equivalents
Karat and their Equivalents

White Gold
White Gold is created by adding nickel or palladium to gold . Palladium is an element of Platinum.

14K Gold-Fill
14K Gold-Fill is created by bonding 14K Gold onto metal alloy core. This produces a material that is less expensive than solid gold.

  • Gold surface of the 14K gold-fill is about 100 times thicker than a gold plated surface. Abbreviations are 14KGF or 14K .F. 
  • Traditionally, 14K Gold-fill wire is the wire of choice for wire wrap artisans.
  • 14K Gold-Fill is still 3+ times more that Sterling Silver by the ounce.
  • The cost of ¾ oz. of 14K G.F. wire is approximately the same as 1 foot of 14K Gold wire of the same gauge.

Gold Electroplate
Gold Electroplate is made by elecrolytically depositing fine gold on a base metal. The plating thickness must be at least 0.000007 inches of gold. Pieces with less than 0.000007 inches of gold can be labeled gold washed or gold colored. I don’t work with either of these but thought I would clarify what it is as so many people think that 14K gold-fill is the same as gold plate. Clearly, it is not the same.

Fine Silver
Fine Silver is pure -99.9%. It is beautiful but too soft and easily damaged. To be as versatile as its alloys.

Sterling Silver
Sterling Silver must contain at least 92.5% pure silver. The rest is usually copper and is what makes Sterling Silver tarnish. However, it is harder and stronger than Fine Silver

Argentium™ Sterling Silver
Argentium™ Sterling Silver came to the marketplace in 2005 and is an anti-oxidizing sterling alloy that is extremely tarnish resistant. The copper in Sterling Silver is replaced by germanium (definition: a brittle gray crystalline chemical element that is a metalloid used as a semiconductor and in alloys.) Argentium™ Sterling Silver is approximately twice as strong as standard Sterling Silver and is excellent material for making tarnish resistant silver jewelry.

Nickel Silver
Just to clarify a term you may have heard along the way. Actually, nickel silver doesn’t have any “silver” whatsoever. Nickel silver is the alloy that is a combination of base metals = nickel, copper and zinc, and simply resembles Sterling Silver in color. Nickel Silver is also known as German Silver.

Faceted gems are measured in carats. Abbreviations:

  • ct. or when more than one gem in a setting is ctw. = carat total weight.
  • There are approximately 142 carats in an ounce. A carat is further divided into hundredths, or points.