Definitions of Metal

Very early in history, value was associated with metal; various metals were found to be useful for a variety of purposes. The Bible even mentioned metals: In Numbers 31: 22-23, it is stated that "Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean." At Matthew F. Sheehan, many of our items are made from pewter, sterling silver, 14- or 18-karat gold or are referred to as "gold filled." Following are some helpful definitions and explanations of these terms that will help shed a little light on these metals.


Ancient pewter contained approximately 70 percent tin and 30 percent lead; today's pewter has been refined by adding alloys such as antimony and bismuth. Pewter used in modern products is about 91 percent tin, 7.5 percent antimony and 1.5 percent copper. Pewter is cast, then finished by hammering, burnishing and engraving. It has a satin luster and is known for its subdued, antique-like finish.



14- or 18-Karat Solid Gold

Solid gold is too soft to use in every-day items, which is why it is mixed in with other metals to enhance its durability. A "karat" is a unit of measurement that is used to describe the purity of a metal: The finest gold available is 24-karat gold and is considered to be "100 percent pure." Eighteen-carat gold is considered 75 percent pure; further, 14-karat gold is 58.3 percent pure.



Gold Filled

Gold-filled items are created through a heating and bonding process: Gold that is permanently bonded to an alloy resists flaking or chipping. "Gold filled" is much more valuable than "gold plated," and is 50 to 100,000 times thicker than gold plating. It its production, solid gold is rolled out into a sheet then applied to a base metal through heat. Gold-filled products are beautiful, easy to care for and will maintain their shine for a lifetime.



Sterling Silver

Silver is a beautiful and accessible fine metal that is easily malleable and is generally too soft when it is used in its pure state. It is combined with other materials, such as copper, to enhance durability. Sterling silver is 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 other metal; regular care is needed to maintain its luster. Because of its reactivity to air and water, it is necessary to maintain sterling silver by wiping it down with a soft cloth.