Stainless Steel Jewelry: The 411

Interested in our gold-plated stainless steel chains? Check out this quick & easy guide to decide if stainless steel is the right type of jewelry for you!


New to stainless steel jewelry? Let's talk about it! Stainless steel is a popular metal used for jewelry because of its affordability, durability, & longevity.


Contents

Quick Summary

Durability

Affordability

Tarnish-Resistant

Longevity

Layer of Chromium: What is its purpose?

PVD vs. Electroplating: What are they & how do they compare?

PVD: Physical Vapor Deposition

Electroplating

PVD vs. Electroplating

Will Stainless Steel Tarnish?

Safe To Wear? Hypoallergenic?

Longevity

Will Stainless Steel Jewelry Turn Your Skin Green?

Is Stainless Steel Waterproof?



Quick Summary

Durability

Steel is known for its durability & long-lasting nature. Stainless steel jewelry can withstand several years without scratch & dullness. It does not require careful handling, unlike its gold & silver counterparts. You can be relatively careless when wearing this type of jewelry. However, it is possible for the metal to develop dents, which can eventually lead to scratching or restructuring. Ultimately, you don't have to be protective of your stainless steel jewelry, but you should refrain from banging it with great force against a hard surface.


Affordability

Compared to gold or silver jewelry, stainless steel is more affordable. However, the price will vary depending on the plating process, what type of jewelry it is, etc.


Tarnish-Resistant

Stainless steel jewelry is covered with an invisible layer of chromium, which protects it from oxidation - the process that causes gold or silver jewelry to tarnish. What's more, stainless steel jewelry does not need to be polished frequently!


Longevity

Stainless steel jewelry can remain in good shape for years, even generations! It's durability & protective coating will keep it looking good for much longer than other types of metals.


For more information on these topics keep reading for more details ☺︎



Stainless steel jewelry has an outer layer made of Chromium. What is its purpose?

The presence of a stable layer prevents corrosion by acting as a barrier to limit the ingress of oxygen & water to the underlying metal surface. Without this thin layer, the stainless steel would corrode, tarnish, & rust in the presence of water & other elements. This Chromium layer is what makes stainless steel a durable material that requires little maintenance & can be worn with a carefree disposition!



Methods for Plating/Coating Stainless Steel: PVD & Electroplating

What is PVD? What is Electroplating? How do they compare?

There are many methods for plating (or coating) jewelry, such as electroplating, PVD caging, DLC coating, CVD coating, etc. The most popular processes include PVD & Electroplating.

PVD: PVD-prepared jewelry is more expensive. It gives jewelry an excellent luster effect, increased durability, a longer lifespan, & corrosion resistant properties.
Electroplating: Stainless steel jewelry made plated using the electroplating method is more affordable.

PVD: Physical Vapor Deposition
PVD coating refers to a dry plating on the surface of jewelry, which can make the jewelry show different colors & features. The main PVD working process involves the deposition of a thin layer of elements on the base material. The process takes place in a vacuum chamber.

Once the PVD coating is applied, it is nearly impossible to remove this type of coating. It makes the object highly resistant to wear & tear situations.

The Process Behind Physical Vapor Deposition*
Basic Process
The coating substance (in this case, gold) is evaporated & the vapors are bombarded on the surface of the object. The majority of the vapors will attach to the surface of the base metal (stainless steel) as soon as they touch it at an atomic or microscopic level.
More Detailed Procedure
The base metal (in this case, stainless steel) is cleaned thoroughly. Any debris left on the surface could disturb the plating process. The stainless steel is then placed into a sealed chamber that is airtight. All of the air is sucked out of the space, turning it into a vacuum chamber. Next, the material used for the coating (ex. the gold) is placed in the chamber. The gold is negatively charged, which encourages the atoms to come off the gold material & settle on the stainless steel.

* There are various ways in which PVD coated material can be produced, however, the underlying science is usually similar to the process above.


Electroplating
Electroplating is a quick & easy process that does not involve high cost or complex pieces of equipment.

The Electroplating Process
Basic Process
The jewelry is cleaned in an electrolytic solution & then deposited into a gold solution. A negative current is applied to the jewelry & a positive current is applied to an anode. The opposing charges allow the dissolved gold in the solution to be deposited on to the jewelry.


PVD vs. Electroplating
The two methods used to coat jewelry have very different working principles, procedures, & uses. Let's do a side by side comparison ...
PVD ELECTROPLATING
Anti-Scratch ☆☆☆ ☆
Fading by Sunlight not possible possible
Durability ☆☆☆ ☆
Hardness very hard less hard
Coating Costs expensive cheap
Life-Span longer long
Coating Equipment costly, complex low cost, simple

Ultimately, PVD coating will keep your jewelry in pristine condition with relatively minimal care. At a higher cost it will make your jewelry more durable, prolong its lifespan, prevent wear & tear & scratching, & increase its hardness. If you love to wear your jewelry every day with little maintenance, we suggest you invest in jewelry with PVD coating rather than electroplated jewelry. However, although electroplating is not as effective in the aforementioned areas, your electroplated jewelry will remain in good shape if you take care of it properly.


Does stainless steel jewelry tarnish or rust?

Tarnishing, or rusting, is inevitable for any element, thus stainless steel will as well. The misconception that stainless steel jewelry will never tarnish is due to the outer Chromium film. Stainless steel jewelry contains about 10% Chromium, which keeps it from tarnishing or rusting. However, continuous contact with the external environment will cause this layer to fade & then it is only a matter of time before the stainless steel underneath begins to tarnish or rust, as well.



Is stainless steel safe to wear?

Yes, stainless steel jewelry is safe to wear because it has the least toxic substances.

While local jewelry products contain Nickel, Cadmium, Lead, polishing compounds, cyanide, acids, solvents, plastic, & more toxic substances. Stainless steel jewelry, on the other hand, contains Nickel & Chromium, but in such low quantities that they cannot harm your skin. You can even wear stainless steel jewelry if you have a nickel allergy!


How long does stainless steel last?

Generally, stainless steel jewelry will last several years without changing appearance. However, if it is plated, the method that is used to do so will affect its longevity. PVD coated jewelry is more expensive, however, it is more durable, has a longer lifespan, & has corrosion resistant properties. The less expensive choice, electroplating, will last with proper care, but not as long as PVD coated jewelry.



Does stainless steel turn your skin green?

No, just as the metal doesn't tarnish, it won't cause the skin to turn green.

Stainless steel doesn't have any elements or metals that will react with your skin to form the green color. It is the ideal metal for everyday wear because of its durability, strength, & aesthetic. It can withstand different weather conditions without damaging it, as well.



Is stainless steel water proof?

Yes, stainless steel is waterproof due to the outer layer of Chromium film. This layer of Chromium protects from tarnish & rust, as well as moisture, ultimately making the piece of jewelry waterproof.