This is a quick brief about those jewelry terms as quoted from Ebay's Guide and Rio Grande's product guide:
Fine silver is marked .999 = 100% silver. Also called pure silver.
Sterling silver is an alloy and is marked .925 = 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper.
Argentium® sterling silver is a trademarked brand of sterling silver that resists firestain and tarnish. Not to be confused with "Argentium Argentine Plate" or "Argentum" which are nickel alloys containing no silver.
Silver Filled is another material that is overlaid by a mechanical process with a layer of silver. Not common in jewelry. Items I have seen marked silver filled are vintage charms as well as religious and military medals.
Silver Plate/d is another material, brass/pewter/white metal/plastic etc, that is plated with a layer of pure silver.
Vermeil (vermay) is sterling silver that is plated or coated with gold.
Pewter is an alloy of tin and is marked Pewter. It is 90% Grade A Tin and 10% metals appropriate for use in pewter.
Fine Gold is marked 24 Kt. = 100% gold. Also called pure gold.
10/12/14/18 Kt. Gold are alloys of gold.
Gold Filled is another material that is overlaid by a mechanical process with a layer of gold. The gold layer must constitute at least 1/20th of the weight of the metal in the entire article. Gold filled is preceded by a karat designation, but isn't required to be preceded by a fraction. Also called: "Rolled Gold Plate," or "Gold Overlay." May be marked "14 Karat Gold Filled," "1/20th 14 Karat Gold Filled" or other appropriate marking. Rolled Gold Plate and Gold Overlay may also be used when the gold layer does not constitute at least 1/20th of the weight of the metal in the entire article. They are preceded by a fraction disclosing the portion of the weight of the metal in the entire article accounted for by the plating, such as "1/40th 12 Kt. Rolled Gold Plate."
Gold Plate/d is another material that is plated with a layer of gold or gold alloy. The layer of gold, not less than 10 karat fineness, is required to be of a substantial thickness, and the minimum thickness throughout is required to be equivalent to one-half micron (or approximately 20 millionths of an inch) of fine gold. May be preceded by a karat designation.
Gold Flashed and Gold Washed are similar to gold plated, except they do not meet the minimum thickness specified for gold plated.
Silver filled is a new material that's been introduced to the market in 2011 following the skyrocketing silver value. The silver used for the bonding process can be either fine silver or sterling silver. Silver-filled fabrication metals offer the bright whiteness of silver at a fraction of the cost of solid silver and provide higher quality finished pieces than you can produce with silver-plating. Silver-filled is made in two qualities: 1/20 silver-filled and 1/10 silver-filled. The fraction indicates how much precious metal is bonded to the substrate. Silver-filled that is 1/20 contains 5% sterling silver by weight; 1/10 contains 10% sterling silver by weight. Silver filled can be soldered, cut, rolled, stamped with no flaking or delamination issue.
About the phrase "sterling silver plated":There is no such thing as sterling silver plated. These are misnomers that are cropping up more and more often to refer to silver plated items i.e. "another material, brass/pewter/white metal/plastic etc, that are plated with a layer of pure silver" or "another material that is overlaid by a mechanical process with a layer of silver." Always check for the word plated or filled in the description even if you see sterling in the title. Especially if the price looks too good to be true. If you don't see the word plated or filled, and the price is still too good to be true, try searching the listing using the "Search" or "Find" function under "Edit" in your browser. Sometimes it is in very small print.
If you see "STERLING SILVER PLATED" items listed to the right of this guide, they are a good example of this deceptive practice. Since sterling silver items cost more than silver plated or filled items, manufacturers and sellers can get more people to look at their items by mis-describing them. The proper term for these items is "silver plated" or "silver filled".
Read the complete article here.