Friday, July 15, 2011

Gold, Sterling, Fine Silver, Vermeil and how to handle the rise in Metal Prices

20K Designer Beads
Metals have made the news recently with the upward spiral in prices.  Gold seems to be the focus but silver has been steadily gaining in value since 2005.  It has reached a height unheard of since the Hunt Brothers.  It now is hovering at nearly $40 per ounce!  Even once lowly copper has skyrocketed.

What does all this mean for people that make jewelry for a living or a hobby or the customers that purchase their products?  It of course, means the price is going up and staying there for the foreseeable future.  Ways we can deal with this are cutting down the quantity of metal we use in our designs, use old stock or do what we must do eventually pass it on to our customers. It does raise the intrinsic value of the items we design and this is always a plus.  Make the metal the focus and this will bring to the mind of the viewer that it is a thing of value.  I use metal as a way to bring in light and sparkle which just needs a touch here and there to achieve the desired effect.  Being creative people, beaders will come up with innovative ideas as they work this new factor into their creations.

GOLD!!! is rated in various purity amounts such as 10k, 14k, 18k, 20k or 22k.  Pure GOLD is 24k.  10k designates that it is 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts other metal this holds true for 14k, etc.  The total of parts always adding up to 24.  Adding other metals to gold increases durability and the choice of metal effects the resulting color.  Silver, platinum, palladium, zinc and nickel create a white gold while copper creates a rose gold.  The choice of metal of course does not effect the purity of gold and there is no way of knowing exactly what metal has been added. 

Brushed Sterling Beads
Some other facts: Sterling is .925 parts pure silver and .075 parts copper.  There is also another silver bead that we carry on our website which is fine silver that is .980 to .999 pure silver.  Fine silver does not tarnish as does sterling.  Sterling silver tarnishes due to the oxidation of the copper content.  I've noticed that there are some dealers selling silver filled.  A filled product has a heavy covering of the metal either gold or silver applied in a top layer to the item.  There is nothing wrong with this as long as the metal you are purchasing is clearly denoted.  It might be a bit of a task to keep them separated if you have a large amount of stock in various metals as beads as a general rule are not stamped as to content.

22k Vermeil Bead Cap

Another very useful metal for jewelry crafters is Vermeil which is solid silver with a covering of gold.  The thickness of the gold must be 2.5 micrometers thick (or approximately 1/10000ths of an inch) .  The base metal must be solid sterling or it is not considered Vermeil.  The thickness is fine for jewelry making as most items are not worn for an extended period of time.

All metals will keep well if stored in an airtight container!  They stay bright and shiny without exposure to air (oxygen).

Hope this article has added to your knowledge of precious metals and how to manage them in your jewelry designs.

(Please click on the caption under the image of the bead to go to that item.  Clicking on the image leads to an error message.:)

Sylvia C. Rose-Johnson
The Silver Rose
silvrerosebeads (

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