I had a customer in the other day that bought a watch on sale at a gift store for $25 and was having it sized. It was some randomly named cheap knock off styled like a famous brand watch. After I sized the band, she commented on being glad to find such a cheap watch with a stainless steel band. I said “it isn’t a stainless band, it is a base metal plated band.” She said the back said “stainless steel.” The back actually said “stainless steel back.” This lead me to think about all the misleading or confusing terminology used in the jewelry business. This gave me lots of ideas for my blog, which is good because I often suffer from writers block.
“Stainless Steel Back” refers to the case back only. “Stainless Steel Case” is used to refer to the whole watch being stainless steel. Plated base metal usually has a more nickel-like, more white or silver finish than steel. Also the links in a base metal band will often have a mold line, a raised line of metal, usually on an inside portion of the link. The plating kind of gives the seam a bit of a covered over look.
The reason base metal is used is because it is cheap. Base metal is any combination of metals other than precious(copper, brass, tin, lead, and nickel to name a few). After the plating wears off the metal underneath tends get very pitted. Both the plating and the base metal can cause allergic reactions. Stainless steel is hypo-allergenic for almost everyone. It is also harder, more expensive to work with and far more durable.
Case materials can be a significant portion of the cost of producing the watch. There are different grades of stainless steel and different ways of forming it. Inexpensive steel watches will often use folded links in the watchband. They are folded from sheet metal and are identifiable by open seams and light weight. Better links are either cast or machined and are solid and heavier.
You can buy watches and jewelry from any number of places, but a professional independent jeweler will be best able to explain what you are getting and how the features are beneficial or detrimental to you.