Choosing a metal for your engagement or wedding ring can be quite difficult when making a decision when you want it to last a lifetime. It seems like most of us have a colour preference that is either yellow or white. That sounds like an easy decision however there a lot of other factors and elements to consider when deciding on your dream ring.
The most common metals used in creating fine jewellery include; gold, platinum, titanium, rhodium and silver. By knowing more information about the different metals and comparing their benefits and their unique and individual qualities you will be able to make a better and more informed decision about your purchases when buying your jewellery.
Below you will find information about each of these metal types and their different metal attributes.
Gold is the metal that never goes out of style. Naturally Gold is Yellow in colour and will not tarnish. While it is strong, gold in its purest form is too soft for most jewellery uses and must be mixed with other metals or alloys to increase its strength and durability. The color of gold is affected by the concentration of alloys such as nickel or copper. A high concentration of nickel creates white gold, while rose gold gets it color from a high percentage of copper.
Gold's purity is measured in karats which are used to indicate the percentage of gold. Pure, one hundred percent gold is 24 karat and is more expensive but not as durable as 18 karat (75 percent gold) or 14 karat (58.3 percent gold). When comparing gold jewellery, the higher the number of karats, the greater the value out of a percentage of 24 karats.
To make jewellery suitable for wear and tear, gold is blended with copper, silver and sometimes nickel to harden it. The Karats tell you how much other metal has been added.
Always look for the karat stamp or "k" on the back or inside of the jewellery piece.
The markings are:
24K gold or 1000k of 1000 parts is pure gold.
22K gold or 917K of 1000 parts gold; contains 22 parts gold and 2 parts of other metals, making 91.7% gold.
18K gold or 750k of 1000 parts gold; contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of other metals, making it 75% gold.
14K gold or 585k of 1000 parts gold; contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of other metals, making it 58.3% gold.
12K gold or 500k of 1000 parts gold; contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts of other metals, making it 50% gold.
10K gold or 417k of 1000 parts gold; contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts of other metals, making it 41.7% gold.
9K gold or 375K of 1000 parts gold; contains 9 parts gold and 15 parts of other metals, making it 37.5% gold.
Karat weight is a key factor in determining price, along with the design and the degree of craftsmanship required to create a beautiful and unique jewellery piece.
The most common form of gold used, yellow gold is created with a silver alloy, copper and zinc mixed with gold. The resulting yellow color reflects the natural color of the gold. Yellow and white gold are similar in strength and durability. The design of the jewellery piece and the karat weight of the gold, determines the price.
White gold is created by an alloy of nickel, copper and zinc mixed with gold. Nickel is the largest component of this alloy, giving the gold a white color.
White gold can also be made with an alloy that contains a higher concentration of silver, making it a good choice for people with sensitivity to nickel.
Palladium is another metal used to create white gold alloys. Related to platinum, it is more expensive than nickel, but is less likely to cause allergic reactions than nickel.
White gold is highly reflective and does not tarnish so it is common to add a layer of plating called "rhodium plating” that will protect the reflective quality of the white metal. This does not detract from the value of the metal.
While yellow and white gold are similar in strength and durability. The design of the jewellery piece and the karat weight of the gold determines the price.
Rose gold is alloyed with copper, and sometimes silver. The proportions are about one part of copper to three parts of 24 karat gold. The resulting gold has a reddish-rose hue. Rose gold is often used in the manufacture of three-color jewellery consisting of yellow, white and rose gold together to make a 3 toned jewellery piece. The design of the jewellery piece and the karat weight of the gold determines the price.
Platinum’s natural white luster beautifully enhances a diamonds brilliance with a sleek and elegant look. Its thirty times rarer than gold and heavier, platinum is also the strongest and durable of the precious metals used in jewellery. The claws holding a diamond in a setting is more durable and stronger than set in gold.
Platinum is more valuable than gold. Platinum's high melting point made it a difficult metal to use. Even with improved casting techniques, platinum remains expensive. Platinum resists tarnishing. It is also hypoallergenic which makes it perfect for sensitive skin.
Unlike gold, platinum is often 85 to 95 percent or 850 to 950 of 1000 parts pure platinum. Platinum’s content is usually expressed as the amount of pure platinum the jewellery contains in parts per thousand.
It is frequently alloyed with gold, nickel, iridium, palladium, rhodium, or ruthenium. Jewellery that contains 850, 900 or 950 parts per thousand of pure platinum may be stamped "Plat" or "Pt" if a number is used in front of the term to disclose the amount of pure platinum in the mix, such as
"850 Plat" or "850 Pt", or
"950 Plat" or "950 Pt"
Jewellery that contains at least 950 parts per thousand of platinum group metals, with at least 500 parts per thousand of the total pure platinum, may be marked as platinum as long as the numbers of each metal are disclosed. For instance,
"600 Pt. 350 Ir." or 600 Plat. 350 Irid." for 600 parts pure platinum and 350 parts iridium
"550 Pt. 350 Pd. 50 Ir." or "550 Plat. 350Pall 50Irid." for 550 parts pure platinum, 350 parts palladium and 50 parts iridum
Titanium is a natural element which has a silver grayish white color. Titanium is the hardest natural metal in the world. It is three times the strength of steel and much stronger than gold, silver and platinum and yet is very light in weight. Pure titanium is also 100% hypo-allergenic meaning that it is safe for anyone to wear as it will not react to your skin.
Titanium provides several unique factors that make it a good metal for jewellery. It is very strong, bend and scratch resistant than gold, silver and platinum, is lightweight and importantly offers a large range of colours which other metals cannot.
One factor to consider with titanium is that it cannot be soldered, which means that titanium rings cannot normally be resized or altered by a jeweller.
Titanium rings made using pure titanium can normally be cut-off the finger in the event of an emergency, though they are more difficult to cut-off than gold, silver or platinum rings. A higher grade titanium ring normally cannot be cut-off in the event of an emergency.
Like gold in its purest form it’s too soft and cannot be used to make jewellery. Copper is the most commonly used alloy from its effectiveness in adding durability and wear to silver.
Sterling silver is a mixture of 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent copper. Silver is not designated with a karat weight; sterling silver is considered 92.5 percent pure.
Silver does have tendency of tarnishing which is a darkening that occurs when sterling silver reacts with gases in the air or with other substance that it comes in contact with. Frequent wear will minimize tarnishing. Often silver takes on a "patina" or finish that results from the contact of the silver with the person's unique skin chemistry.
Given silver's lower cost; it is a leading metal in fashion jewellery. In some cases, jewellers experiment with new and innovative designs in silver that are later duplicated in the more expensive gold and platinum.
Silver is popular with people who like a more casual look.
A polishing cloth slows down the tarnishing process and keeps the jewellery from rubbing against harder jewellery that might scratch it. Try to keep your sterling silver jewelry in a cool, dry place.