Updated: Oct 19, 2021
I'm getting a HUGE number of ads show up in my feed on Instagram for water and sweat resistant, tarnish free jewellery. I decided to check a few out to see what they are made from. And most are made from stainless steel and then have a gold colour or 14ct or 18k gold PVD finish. So I decided I wanted to learn more about PVD, so I went digging.
PVD stands for Physical Vapor Deposition, a vacuum coating process. From the research I have done it appears that it's mostly used for gold household fixings, medical equipment and some watches. It's stainless steel then a layer of titanium nitride and then a thin layer of gold or gold colour. The layer of gold appears to be much thinner than that of gold vermeil which has to be a minimum of 2.5 microns of gold on sterling silver, but because of the titanium nitride its harder wearing than gold vermeil.
PVD seems to be between 0.3 and 1 micron of gold. So what appears to be happening with some gold PVD jewellery is that when the gold is wearing off (and most likely wearing fast) you are actually seeing the layer underneath which gives the allusion that it's not worn. It doesn't tarnish in the same way as silver so it doesn't tarnish like gold vermeil jewellery can meaning it won't react to the oils on your skin, your sweat, water, body lotions etc in the same way silver, golds and gold vermeil can.
I've also seen these companies described themselves as ethical and sustainable but do not explain how other than saying that 60% of stainless steel is recycled and that it can be recycled. I have read that PVD is "more environmentally friendly than alternatives such as electroplating and painting because there are no gases, water waste and other residue released" This is about the extent that I can find. What concerns me is at the low prices for this jewellery, are consumers going to recycle their ring when finished with it or will they simply add it to landfill?
The rise of PVD jewellery and the way it's marketing makes me feel rather uneasy. What do you think?
Also did you see my post about the ladies engagement ring that was sold to her as Sterling silver but in fact turned out to be brass flash plated with a silver colour? You can learn more on this on my Instagram highlights called Education.
Want to learn a little more about why gold can tarnish, please click here.