Metals with Mettle

There is an immensely wide array of options available to designers and metalsmiths when creating jewelry. Let's unpack the ones that we use here at Lotus Stone Jewelry and compare them with some of the other most popular options available on the market. The top three that we use here at LSJ are karated gold, gold fill, and sterling silver.

Karated Gold

Here at LSJ we use solid 10K and 14K, and those pieces are always clearly labeled as solid gold to differentiate them from other gold-colored alternatives. 14K is a really wonderful budget-balanced option. It has a really rich, warm color with incredible durability. If you're looking at buying a piece that you want to wear everyday your whole life through, 14K would absolutely be my recommendation. Solid 18K can be a good option, especially for people with metal sensitivities and for pieces that are a little more protected when worn, like earrings or a simple neck chain without pendant. I don't recommend 18K for rings or cuffs because our hands are always opening car doors, grabbing railings, and digging through our purses etc., and those activities will scratch and wear away at 18K. Solid 10K is another great karated option. With less pure gold in it, it's color can be a bit cooler and darker than 14K gold. 

What it's not: Pure gold

Sometimes, I will see searches looking for pure gold jewelry, which would be 24K. I don't recommend pure gold. Besides being horrendously expensive, it is incredibly soft. Pure 24K can be dented by a tooth, hence all those movie scenes that have given you dental anxiety (no? just me?), and as a consequence, it is easily scratched and misshapen. 

Gold Filled

Gold filled is the workhorse of Lotus Stone jewelry metals. Gold filled is a thick 14K layer that has been heat bonded onto a matching brass or copper base (in the case of rose gold fill). The gold layer is 14K here at LSJ, but can be other purities. By law it is required to be 5% total weight of the piece, which means that the layer can be up to a hundred times thicker than standard gold plate. Plus, the heavier and thicker the piece, the more gold that you're going to get on it. Gold filled does not wash off, rub off, flake off, or in any other way disappear. It is non-tarnishing, won't turn your skin black or green, and it is waterproof and sweatproof. Half of our work is done in gold filled easily, and it is adored by our customers for how budget-friendly it is while still having incredible quality and durability. Gold filled looks and wears like solid 14K, except that it is slightly softer, and there are usually one or two very small spots where the underlying brass is exposed. This makes gold filled really great for people with metal sensitivities, since there's no nickel as there is in plating and the gold layer is reassuringly thick.

What it's not: Plated

The plating process does best when nickel is used, which means that the vast majority of plated gold is highly allergenic. It lasts for a very short time, because the gold layer is incredibly thin, but once the gold layer wears out, the nickel is exposed and the underlying base metal (which could be anything) is likely to start oxidizing and turning your skin black. 

What it's not, Part II: Vermeil

This is an option that we use here occasionally, depending on the requirements for the design. Vermeil jewelry has a solid sterling silver base with a 2.5micron thick layer of gold plated on top of it. For reference, that's 10x what many flash plated pieces receive. It is a fantastic option, as it is entirely made from precious metals, and can easily be replated if the gold layer ever wears thin. Watch for: vermeil can contain nickel (never here at LSJ, we are dedicated to every piece being nickel-free) and, the gold layer can come in many thicknesses. Lotus Stone Jewelry's vermeil is 2.5microns, which is the standard here in the US and one of the higher standards. If you're buying mass-produced vermeil, there's a greater chance that they're using another country's definition and therefore a thinner layer of gold - as little as 1 micron thick). 

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is one of those tried and true precious metals that is well-known, but it's also a bit maligned. It is an alloy that consists of 92.5% pure silver with other metals added for strength and durability. Usually, that means 7.5% copper, which is why some people with sensitivities will struggle to wear sterling. If this is you, fine silver might be a great alternative which we're happy to offer upon request. Thanks to the copper in the alloy, sterling silver has a tendency to oxidize, and for some people will turn their skin dark. This does not mean that sterling is cheap though. It is a precious metal that is solid/un-plated and a low allergenic metal that, for most people, does not turn their skin. Sterling silver will tarnish slowly over time, but because it is a solid metal, it can be polished to the brightest white time and time again and will last for decades. Sterling silver is a fantastic option for jewelry, especially fashion jewelry, and especially if it's in your your color palette. 

What it's not: Plated

A lot of cheap jewelry that looks like sterling silver is actually what is referred to as pot metal (which I can't even define since it could be anything!). Pot metal is frequently plated in silver or rhodium, and frequently sealed with a polymer to prevent tarnish and to prolong the inevitable of it reverting into a dull-colored, skin-darkening, allergenic nightmare. That's not sterling silver. That's (maybe) silver plate, but now the water has been muddied and there's a lot of confusion about the quality of silver. The best silver options DO tarnish over time, since they're solid sterling silver, but instead of the kind of tarnish that we get with cheap manufacturing practices, it's just surface oxides which can easily be prevented (store in an air-tight, preferably anti-tarnish-treated bag) and easily removed (buff with cotton). 

Love your jewelry

Here are a few tips to enjoy a lifelong love affair with your jewelry:
  • Make sure you're buying pieces that flatter your skin
  • Consider whether they mix and match well with your collection
  • Invest in quality metals that will last for decades, and learn how to take care of those metals
  • Bonus: allow yourself to collect pieces that are deeply meaningful and personal. There's something special to that first 14K piece that you buy for yourself, and there's something special to curating a look that honors your sense of style and makes you feel beautiful. For me, that also means treating myself to pieces that have been handmade with care. I feel honored wearing something made by a metalsmith, rather than a machine.

Care for your jewelry

This is easy-breezy here at LSJ.

  • When possible, store in an anti-tarnish bag (included with all orders placed here at
  • Wash regularly with gentle soap and water
  • Avoid harsh chemicals and abrasives

We believe caring for your jewelry should be simple, which is why we invest in metals that are high-quality and long-lasting. 

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