Silver, and Other Metals, Plating and Tagging, What to look out for

Posted by Not Just Stones on Oct 29th 2020

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Silver, and Other Metals, Plating and Tagging, What to look out for
Including ethical concepts of doing business in metals
by: Manager – Not Just Stones


“ I guarantee this one , I will not buy non-plated pieces from China or anyone who deals with Chinese metal dealers; US sellers or not.”



The only way you learn some lessons is to be deceived into thinking you are getting a really good deal for silver or other metals; only to later find out they are plated. Electroplating uses electrolysis to bind silver to a base metal; in most cases this will be brass (brass adheres well to silver). The industry standard for electroplating is stated to be around 2,000 microns per square inch. And many will use lighter plating.  Considering there are 25,400 MI (Microns) per square inch, we are not talking a very thick layer of silver. 1/12 inches in simple terms. Though not common, some manufactures will place a heavier layer on products.


In such cases the silver will take quite some time to wear off. Generally speaking, as noted, this is not industry standard. In the reverse, many will use a lower plating standard. And you may as well be buying brass as the plating will wear off after only a few uses. The product may be cheap; but you soon realize why when it starts irritating a customers skin.


Nicely plated silver, is not a bad buy in terms of having a piece that may not irritate the skin or otherwise, until actual plating wears off. And for some consumers, it's a better alternative than more expensive non-plated metals, or even solid silver; at least 925 Sterling; or even Sterlium, Argentium, and other forms, that reputable U.S. dealers may sell.


Plating can be redone but the cost effectiveness of doing it on costume or fashion Jewelry generally outweighs what most want to spend on it. As you have to have the machine to do it with as well as the materials to complete the actual electrolysis process. Buying such equipment will cost more than what the piece may be worth.  Though you can find vendors like us who will be able to get it re-plated for you. The cost may also outweigh what you want to pay.


Other issues are related with products that you believe are .925 Sterling Silver. United States industry standards is 925 parts of Pure Silver and 75 parts of other alloys which may include nickle or otherwise. Much like Platinum, such as 950 platinum (950 parts pure platinum and 50 parts of other alloys), Sterling is also measured in increments of 1000. For example a 950 Plat CO marked piece, which by U.S. industry standards (very popular and most often purchased), indicates the piece is 950 parts Platinum PLAT and 50 parts of Cobalt CO. Cobalt In this case is a platinum derivative and many pieces use it.


Though you may find products that have another derivative combined with it; Cobalt works well; much like with a brass base plate on silver plated jewelry, Cobalt works well to adhere platinum based metals. 


You will see Silver being sold on sites like Ebay, Amazon, and Etsy among others, that are selling for nice prices. But beware; much of it, though it may be stamped .925, or have a quality tag indicating Sterling Silver, or some other markings, may well be plated. We have seen it and we have unknowingly in the past bought it. And with most pieces; many of these pieces will be plated at far less than aforementioned, industry standards of 2,000 microns. In short, you bought costume pieces that will lose it's color very quickly.


In many cases the pieces look very white. Much like Platinum. This can be an indication that it is not solid sterling. It could also be plated with White Gold or other metals such as Rhodium which may give the silver a much brighter look; much like you might see with higher levels of Platinum pieces. As white gold contains silver, Rhodium is often used for plating to not only provide a tarnish protector but give a whiter-brighter look.


Keep in mind, though vendors may state otherwise; reputable ones would relate plating methods are not designed to increase retail values; as opposed to sales value. And for good reason; even with nicely plated pieces, the plating is not very thick; and deals more with protecting it from Tarnish. In many cases, plating is not a bad idea in such cases, and it is a common process to use with a base of Sterling Silver or even White Gold. Giving it that “high class” look and feel that people love with Platinum based metals; as well as the primary purpose to protect it from tarnish.


Many pieces that may be plated and selling as natural metals; particularly silver pieces are generally bright white. Platinum bright white. And this should give you cause to be suspicious. Sterling in itself is shiny,but it is not generally considered very bright. Much like White Gold. It is shiny, but due to the presence of silver alloys in it's construction, it's not considered very bright. Only after plating with Rhodium or other metals will it have that “bright-like” whiter-brighter finish.


You will also see silver that is not only stamped .925 but also comes with a quality tag on the piece, usually on bracelets, necklaces etc. that indicate it is .925 Sterling. Again this can be misleading. I have seen much for sale on secondary markets where this was the case; they were plated. And they all came from Ebay, Amazon and Etsy. And not all of them were from Chinese metal sources. Many of them came from U.S. Vendors merely reselling Chinese or other goods.


Vendors in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, and particularly India or Mexico generally deal with quality products; vendors who are not selling plated pieces without disclosure. Even so, be wary. Though of course some Chinese or other deals will disclose; this is not the norm.


In terms of nice silver, Mexico is famed to have some of the best. Rare will you find nicer silver than Silver coming out of Mexico. Though many retailers sell Italian Silvers as well. India the same. Generally dealing with those suppliers, you can pretty much bet you're going to get a good solid piece. This is not to say, you don't have to be aware. But generally speaking, the countries listed, commercially deal, like the US; in quality metals if they are marking or tagging it. But be careful. We can only discuss our experience and they have mostly been good for the ones noted.


In the US, it is adverse to FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines to sell sterling and tag it as .925 unless it is actually Sterling Silver with 925 parts of pure silver. Other metals apply as well. This is not to say you will not run across vendors that do not sell on these marketplaces. It's much like water. It's on every market you can think of and more so where ti pertains to secondary marketplaces. The same sellers who bought it off Ebay, Amazon, Etsy, and other places are no likely selling it in stores or on other forums, throughout the US.


We now mention Peruvian silver which is mostly known as Alpacan silver, that is used in making products that contain Peru's famous Murano Glass (Not to be confused Italy's Venetian Glass from Murano, Italy)– nice necklaces and other pieces. Though most of the silver being used is known by such terms as Alpacan which has a very low silver content or in some cases none at all. And will generally discolor quite quickly. It's not suggested for everyday use in other words. Sometimes referred to as German Silver, or by other names with the industry.


Murano pieces however, is very beautiful Jewelry and the Peruvian Craftspeople do an excellent job in making it. We have many such pieces and would buy it even knowing the facts of the very low silver used in it's construction. Just so long as one is aware of the real facts behind most of the pieces hitting the markets.


Some Peruvian vendors deal with genuine silver, such as solid sterling or even higher grades as Fine Silver .999 pure; but not as many that deal with those types that will not take long to irritate the skin. Alpacan or German Silver as noted. Though today it's more difficult to even research it. Of course this is not to say don't buy the necklaces and pieces the Peruvian's sell; they are world famous for it, but if you plan to wear it all the time, beware of the facts as this is true in 99% of the cases with Murano Glass pieces from Peruvian sources.


Generally purchases from places such as in the Middle East and the Asian Markets, other than what I have noted, are generally good buys. I've bought it from here to the Philippines and back again to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other places. Indonesian vendors are generally giving you a clean bill of health on products and for the most part, I'd trust products. Of course this is not a guaranteed way to not get burned. It just helps. The same goes for other products, not related to silver. Such as, what is known as Bacan stones they sell. But again, be careful.


If you are going to be buying any amount of silver or other manufacturing products; best bets : stick with U.S. Manufactures and Jewelers like us who deal with them. US Manufactures are some of the best as they do have strict FTC (Federal Trade Commission) standards that they must abide by. Not to say they always do of course. Even so, these same standards not going to be the same for other vendors in another location. Though many locales seem to try to keep a watch over it; perhaps for sake of “diplomacy?”


If they are small dealers; they may very well have bought it from the secondary markets (Ebay; Amazon & Etsy to name a few). Again, just because they are US sellers, “does not” mean they did not buy products off secondary markets who obtained them from less than reputable sources and are just reselling them. And again, I'd avoid Chinese metal sellers, or ones who deal with them. You are forewarned.


And for silver I would simply put, avoid secondary markets anyway. We do! You may pay more in the process but you will at least have some legal recourse in doing so. Of course using metals and making Jewelry ourselves, cutting it, tagging it, polishing it, soldiering, etc., or even plating it, we know what we are selling and stand behind it. Like you, we don't like to be lied to. Or in simpler terms, deceived.


Final note, be careful; there are many bad apples in the bushel when it comes to high value metals. And you should avoid secondary marketplaces whom deal with many, less than ethical Chinese and other metal dealers. Though many other areas can be used as well. It should be noted that I don't believe all Chinese or other dealers for that matter; will give you a bad bushel of apples; but far too many will and have done so and the secondary marketplaces of course; allow it to thrive.


I will not forget a time an earring broke off into a small girls ear that had to be surgically removed. This came from an Ebay seller! What's more the Seller was a US Seller whom after I contacted them admitted to having received the products from a Chinese metal dealer on, Ebay! The only reason I did not pursue it when it happened, it was not in the United States.


Thank you!
Peace and Health to you and yours!

Not Just Stones
Quality and Affordable Elegance you can count on!
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