Precious Metal Jewelry Buying Guide
Today jewelry is created using a wide range of materials. However, the number of metals that can be used is limited. There are only 86 known metals and of those, relatively few are commonly used in contemporary jewelry. The majority of jewelry crafted today tends to use only a handful of metals. Here we will look at the metals that are the most poplular.
Platinum is a silvery, white metal that’s extremely rare and considered more precious than gold. Priced significantly above gold, platinum is among the heavier metals used in jewelry. Despite this increase in cost, platinum jewelry has become increasingly popular especially in platinum engagement rings and wedding rings.
Like most other metals used in jewelry, platinum has an interesting history. Naturally occurring platinum and platinum-rich alloys were first used by ancient Egyptians. However, it was not identified as an element until the 18th century. Spanish silver miners first named the metal â€œplatinaâ€ or â€œlittle silverâ€ when they first encountered it in Colombia, South America. Eventually, the Spaniards dismissed platinum as an â€˜undesirable impurity’ in their mined silver, and often discarded it as a worthless by-product. Needless to say, that has changed today.
As with other metals, platinum is commonly mixed with other metals. However, for a piece of jewelry to be labeled as â€œplatinumâ€ it must have a minimum level of purity of at least 95% pure platinum. A purity level of less than 95% would require the metal be identified as a platinum alloy. Normally, platinum jewelry pieces can be identified by a stamp with â€œPLATâ€.
Perhaps no other substance on earth has captured the hearts and minds of man more than gold. Popular for its rarity and luster, gold quickly became a method of payment and a key component used in the manufacture of jewelry when it became fashionable during the times of Alexander the Great. After a temporary decrease in status, gold regained its popularity as a jewelry staple often seen used in gold rings during the 15th century and continues to be popular today. Gold is the most easily worked of all metals and ranges in softness based on its purity. Generally pure gold is too soft for use in jewelry, so it’s commonly mixed with alloy metals such as copper and zinc. Below is a breakdown of the percentage of pure gold in each of the popular karat weights:
- 24 Karat: 99.9% Pure
- 22 Karat: 91.7% Pure
- 18 Karat: 75% Pure
- 14 Karat: 58.3% Pure
- 12 Karat: 50% Pure
- 10 Karat: 41.7% Pure
When selecting jewelry like gold necklaces or bracelets, it’s important to balance gold purity with the durability. Jewelry items like rings and bracelets often take more abuse and are much likely to become deformed if softer gold is used; as a result, 18k or 14k gold may be a better selection for those types of items.
The color of gold is determined by two factors: the type of metal alloys included and the percentage of each metal alloy.
Yellow Gold Natural gold and color-saturated alloys are what give yellow gold jewelry its rich shine. The alloys most commonly used, are copper with a red hue and silver featuring a green hue. An expert mixture of copper, silver and pure gold gives this precious metal its signature warmth.
White Gold A silvery white character is what makes white gold jewelry so appealing. In order to make the gold white, it is combined with metal alloys that are white in nature ad plated with am extremely hard element called rhodium. Although strong, rhodium, may wear away over time. Re-plating is a simple process that can be done to restore whiteness to your jewelry.
Rose Gold The beautiful pink hue of rose gold jewelry is created using a copper alloy. Again, the overall percentages of metal alloys is the same for rose gold as it is for yellow or white, there is just different mixture of what alloys are used.
Pure silver, also called fine silver, is a relatively soft, very malleable and easily damaged so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5 silver and 7.5 percent copper. Any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling, centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be its best companion; improving the metal’s durability without affecting its beautiful color. The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metal’s value. Instead, the price of the silver item is affected by the labor involved in making the item, the skill of the craftsperson and intricacy of the design.
Although the majority of jewelry is created using more popular and main-stream materials, there is still a diversity of metals that continue to be used to create some truly unique pieces of jewelry.
is a rare silver-white metal of the platinum family.
is a rare silver-white metal of the platinum family. It is particularly hard and is the most expensive precious metal.
is a natural element which has a silver-white color. Titanium is the hardest natural metal in the world. It’s three times the strength of steel and much stronger than gold, silver and platinum yet is very light weight. Pure titanium is also 100% hypo-allergenic which means that it is safe for anyone to wear.
is a steel-gray metal whose strength and high melting point makes it a favorite of the arms industry. Metallic tungsten is harder than gold alloys and is hypo-allergenic.