We decided early on that ‘Alohi Kai jewelry would be made with precious metals. Not that there’s anything wrong with bronze, steel or aluminium, but we love the luxuriousness of silver, gold, and rhodium, and precious metals aren’t reactive or corrosive! Most of our pieces are cast in sterling silver, but we can always make things in solid gold too. (contact us if you’re looking for this!)
For that lovely gold look without the hefty price tag, we offer nearly everything we make in vermeil (pronounced ver-ˈmā) in addition to sterling silver. Vermeil is a legal term referring to a thick layer of gold over sterling silver. To legally be vermeil, the gold must be at least 2.5 microns or 100 millionths of an inch thick (for comparison, regular plating is usually 10-15 millionths of an inch thick). Our vermeil is thicker than 2.5 microns as standard, and we feel this is a good way to keep to our quality standards and enable us to offer gold at a more affordable rate. See our FAQs for more details.
I wanted to post some descriptions of the different metals we use in making our jewelry. The different terms can get confusing, so here is a quick and dirty run down. Do send us a message if you have questions!
Fine silver: fine silver is 99.9% (or .999) pure silver. This is a wonderful material, but unfortunately is too soft of a metal to use in most jewelry or other applications (cutlery, vases, watches, etc). It is primarily used to make bullion bars for international commodities trading and investments! In jewelry you find it most often in bezels for cabochon stones since the softer material is easier to manipulate, and some people will make small pieces with it. (see cuff bracelet on left, above)
Sterling Silver: sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver (or .925), and is an international standard. Since pure silver is too soft to make jewelry or household goods with, other metals are added to the alloy for strength and other characteristics (tarnish, ductility, handling in casting, etc). To be called ‘sterling’ however, the metal must be at least .925 pure silver. There is quite a bit of silver that doesn’t meet this standard. The remaining 7.5% is usually copper these days (the cause of tarnish! and strength) but can be any of a range of other metals (see argentium below). The black coral necklace above is entirely made from sterling.
Argentium silver: Whenever we can, we use Argentium sterling for fabrication. (see earrings on right, above) This is a special kind of sterling that uses a slightly different alloy than traditional sterling by replacing some of the copper with a metal called germanium. It is trickier to use – far more brittle when heated for example – but once past getting used to it, it is lovely stuff.
- its a whiter, brighter metal than traditional sterling
- its made from reclaimed silver! Translating to a lower impact on the earth
- it has high tarnish resistance
And since it is still at least 92.5% silver, it is very much sterling silver. It is a bit more pricey, but in the end it is much easier to care for, and we like the fact its recycled.
Rhodium: We offer many items with a beautiful rhodium coating. Rhodium is part of the platinum family, and as an inert metal, stays shiny and requires far less care than sterling. The metal is much harder than gold so the finish lasts much longer. Read more about rhodium in our FAQs.
Titanium: We don’t use a lot of titanium, but many of our earrings come with titanium earwires as an option. The reason for this is that its simply the most biocompatible (more here), and with an estimated 10-15% of the population having skin allergies (including us!) we wanted to have an alternative for people with hyper sensitive ears. Titanium is the metal of choice used in implants and prosthetics throughout the body.
Quality is very important to us, and we care about the provenance of what we use. This means we are careful to source from reputable suppliers, and we consider what materials we use in our jewelry. While we only use sterling, argentium and fine silver in our products (and 18K gold for vermeil), not all of our products are able to be stamped due to space. In these cases we put a tag on the piece elsewhere. But rest assured we only use precious metals in our jewelry – rhodium and vermeil options have a sterling silver core.