Jewelry Metals buying guide
Jewelries are composed of two main elements. These are precious stones and precious metals. The metals are used as the base where the stones are set. There are different metals that are used for both investment and aesthetic purposes. This guide aims to educate the consumer on the different metals that are used in jewelries.
These metals are gold, silver, titanium, platinum, palladium, tungsten, stainless steel and rhodium.
Gold is probably the most commonly used metal for jewelry for its price, luster and most likely traditional significance. Gold comes in different grades and colors. Generally speaking gold is yellow in color. This can change due to the inclusion of other metals.
Grading of Gold:
Gold is graded as karat. Pure gold is graded at 24 karat and is very soft and malleable. Pure gold is often ill advised for jewelry due to it being very soft. There are other grades of gold and they are arranged throughout a percentage of gold purity. The lowest purity of gold is 10 karat. The ideal balance of gold purity and stability is 18 karat. Therefore this is the most commonly used grade for jewelry. The consumer should be aware that gold jewelry are normally engraved with the karat denomination that would ensure the consumer that the gold that they are selecting is of the particular purity that they desire.
These are the purity of gold based on karat.
- 24 karat – 99.95%
- 22 karat – 91.67%
- 20 karat – 83.33%
- 18 karat – 75.00%
- 16 karat – 66.67%
- 14 karat – 58.33%
- 12 karat – 50.00%
- 10 karat – 41.67%
Color of Gold:
Gold is often incorporated with other alloys to give it stability and give it a different color tone, hence the different gold colors that are available in the market today.
Yellow Gold is a mixture of pure gold, silver and copper or zinc.
White Gold is a mixture of pure gold and white metals such as nickel, silver and palladium. White gold is often grayish in color and rhodium is added to give a whiter tone to white gold. Consumers should be aware that modern production of white gold restricts the incorporation of nickel due to some people getting allergic reaction from this metal. This also applies to other metal.
Rose Gold is a mixture of pure gold and copper. The reddish hue found in rose gold is due to the high proportion of copper in the mixture.
Green Gold is a mixture of pure gold and silver. Generally speaking copper would be added in the mixture which would result in yellow gold, by removing the copper element the green hue is achieved.
Like gold, silver is a common metal used in jewelry and have been popular probably as long as gold has. Silver like gold is primarily a jewelry metal due to its soft characteristic. Silver is in fact softer than gold, platinum or titanium. Due to the softness of silver it is normally incorporated with another metal to give it some hardiness. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper which makes silver a durable and long lasting metal. The consumer should be aware that silver tends to turn blackish. In this situation subjecting the silver to polishing would return its sheen.
Other incorporations of silver are vermeil silver and silver plating. Vermeil silver is the coating of 14 karat gold over sterling silver, this makes vermeil silver similar to the appearance and feel of gold. Silver plating is the coating of silver over other metals.
Titanium has become a popular metal for jewelries. Several characteristics make titanium a popular choice as metals for jewelries. The most prominent is the silver-grayish color, ability to be colored and the durability of the metal. Titanium by far is stronger than any other metals and is lightweight at the same time. This combination makes titanium a popular metal for both men’s and women’s jewelry. Titanium also is scratch free and 100% allergen free, this is due to the exclusion of other metals especially nickel. The consumer should be aware that due to the strength of titanium, this metal cannot be soldered like gold, silver or platinum. In the event of resizing, titanium needs to be cut off. Aircraft grade titanium cannot be cut off. It is in the advice of this guide that if the consumer decides to choose titanium as a precious metal for jewelry they should take note of the size of the jewelry and the changes that their body undergoes, especially in the case of rings.
Platinum is popular metal for jewelries and is commonly used in higher end jewelries due to its beautiful combination with diamonds. Platinum is easily malleable but is very heavy. This combination of popularity and weight makes platinum one of the most expensive metals to be used for jewelries. Platinum is considered to be lustrous and this characteristic is heightened with the combination of other platinum group metals such as palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and osmium. The main advantage of platinum is its resistance to tarnish and durability due to its high density and weight. Platinum is graded from 800 to 1000. 800 being 80% pure platinum and 1000 as 100% pure platinum, platinum pieces with 95% platinum are considered to be platinum due to its near pure composition. If the buyer is to select their platinum piece they should check for the grading that is engraved on the piece.
Palladium is similar to platinum and the two metals belong to the same family. Palladium is traditionally used as an incorporated metal to bring out the luster in most white metals. Most recently however palladium is used as the main metal in jewelry due to its silvery-grey-white color.
Tungsten is a popular metal due to its durability and nearly perfect scratchproof. In addition to this, its gray-white color is popular amongst men. Tungsten is harder than most metals and only harder materials can actually scratch this metal, in fact diamond is probably the only other material that can scratch tungsten. Tungsten is also known to be polish free, after the first polish the metal doesn’t have to be polished again. Consumers should be aware that Tungsten jewelry comes in what is known to be tungsten carbide that is the combination of tungsten and carbon. Consumers should also take note that tungsten cannot be cut due to its hardness and consumers should take the same advice as posted under titanium before procuring tungsten carbide jewelry.
Stainless steel is similar in appearance to silver but possesses the characteristics of not tarnishing and hardness. Stainless steel emits a metallic appearance and is often preferred by consumers who do not desire a metal that possesses a high level of sheen. Consumers should be aware that stainless steel can be made out of nickel, although this is not always the case. If you are allergic to nickel and are selecting a stainless steel metal, make sure to consult a reputable store regarding the composition of the stainless steel that your are procuring.
Rhodium is a lustrous metal that is considered to practically not tarnish. However rhodium by itself as a base metal for jewelry is considered to be very expensive due to its rarity. Instead rhodium is used as an incorporating metal together with other white metals such as silver and platinum to give them the luster and anti tarnish characteristics of rhodium.
Aside from the above mentioned characteristics of metals. The consumer should also ensure that the store that they are selecting their precious metals from is a reputable store. Many high end stores will provide consumers with guarantees regarding the metals that they sell. This is especially important for higher priced metals or purer classifications. If guarantees are not provided then the consumer should either look for other markers such as engraved purity representations or get some testing done on the purity. If the store does not provide any of these then the consumer should look elsewhere.