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  • Precious metals

Buying jewelry may top your list of “most-fun but-most-confusing” activities if you don’t know a few basics about jewelry materials - particularly about precious metals, which are hard to ignore if you’re looking for the perfect bracelet, necklace, earrings, rings, brooches or pins, cufflinks or tie tacks.  Here are a few facts about precious metals. 

Since precious metals in contemporary jewelry play such an important role in the appearance, durability and cost of a piece, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few basic metallurgy terms. That way you’ll be ready to make informed decisions when buying jewelry and choose a piece that’s right for you.  Our professional associates can guide through the process.  Visit or contact us.

Precious metals are very rare metals that also have desirable characteristics - like their ability to make beautiful jewelry.  Eight metals are deemed precious: silver, gold, platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium.

Precious metals used to make jewelry are also called “noble” metals.  Unlike easily-oxidized metals such as nickel, brass, and copper, noble metals have a high surface luster and do not rust or corrode.

The best-known precious metals are Gold, Silver, and platinum. However, many jewelers are now using "contemporary" metals to create wonderful jewelry designs. Among these contemporary metals are titanium, tungsten, and cobalt.

titanium tumgsten cobalt
Titanium rings offer several unique properties: they are hypoallergenic, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and have the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any crystalline metal. Titanium is highly resistant to most causes of corrosion, including sea water, chlorine, and some acids. Titanium is a white metal with a smoky hue. Its natural color is darker and deeper than silver or white gold. Rings made of Tungsten will last forever. Tungsten rings are virtually scratch proof and won't ever lose their shine. Tungsten rings are not made out of pure Tungsten - instead they are made out of Tungsten Carbide, because it is easier to work with. Tungsten rings have a light gray color which can be darkened with brush finishing processes. Cobalt is a super strong metal that combines an amazingly high level of durability with the bright reflective look of white gold. Cobalt Chrome is a harder metal than precious metals like platinum, gold and silver, and as a result will resist scratching and wear to a greater degree than precious metal equivalents. The color of Cobalt is more akin to that of white gold or platinum.
Since before the beginning of recorded history, gold has been one of the most sought after metals.  It doesn’t tarnish easily or corrode, and its luster and color are beautiful.  Jewelry designers can incorporate gold into a large range of designs.

gold-turtlesGold’s softness makes it the easiest metal to work with, but pure gold is too soft for most jewelry and would scratch or bend easily.  It is usually blended with silver or copper for a more resilient alloy. 

Jewelers use the term karat, abbreviated “k” or “kt,” to describe the percentage of pure gold in the alloy, with 24-karat being “pure gold.”  Karat shouldn't be confused with carat weight used for measuring precious gems.

24 Karat:  99.9% Pure 14 Karat:  58.3% Pure
18 Karat:  75% Pure 12 Karat:  50% Pure
22 Karat:  91.7% Pure 10 Karat:  41.7%

Solid gold - “Solid gold” is an alloy that contains at least 10k of gold and is not hollow.       Gold vermeil - “Gold Vermeil” refers to a coating of gold on the outside of another metal but has a much thicker layer of at least 100 microinches.  Gold vermeil is done over sterling silver, and the coating has a purity of at least 14k.  Gold vermeil jewelry is much more durable than regular gold-plated jewelry.

Gold-plated - Items that have been plated with at least 10k gold.  A base metal, such as brass, is dipped into a bath of electroplating solution, with a lump of solid gold.  When an electric current is applied, a thin layer of gold is deposited on the metal.  Since the plating is thin, the plate can come off with frequent wear.

  White gold - White gold is an alloy of gold and nickel, sometimes containing palladium or zinc.  These metals give gold a pale, platinum-like color.
Gold-filled - “Gold-filled,” (also “gold overlay” or “rolled gold-plated”) are items with a coating of 10k or greater gold, but in gold-filled jewelry, the gold is mechanically bonded to the base metal in a more durable fashion than with simple gold plate.

  Blue gold - Blue gold is an alloy of gold and ferrous (iron-containing) metals, causing gold with a bluish tinge.
Rose gold - Rose gold is an alloy that combines gold with copper to create a golden metal with a reddish hue.

Like gold, silver has been popular for thousands of years because of its versatility, luster and rarity. 

sterling-silverLike gold, silver is too soft in its pure state for use in jewelry and must be alloyed with other metals to prevent scratching and distortion.  The purer the silver, the more easily it is scratched.

Unlike gold, silver is not rated by karats.  Instead, jewelers use the terms “fine” and “sterling” to refer to very pure silver, although fine silver is less commonly used for jewelry-making.
800 silver   80% silver and 20% copper or other metal
925 sterling silver   At least 92.5% silver and no more than 7.6% copper or other metal
950 sterling silver   At least 95% silver and no more than 5%  copper or other metal
Fine silver   99.9% silver that is too soft to be used for most jewelry but is sometimes applied in a thin coating over sterling silver to make it appear shinier.
Rarer and pricier than gold, the six metals in the platinum family are the finest of the precious metals.  Platinum is a silver-white metal found worldwide, typically strengthened with other metals, such as iridium, osmium, or nickel, for use in jewelry.  Like silver, platinum is not measured in karats, but rather is stamped with a standardized platinum quality mark, indicating the percentage of platinum contained. Pt1000 denotes pure platinum.
Platinum is the most durable, lustrous, and scratch-resistant of the fine metals, but its scarcity makes it an uncommon material for jewelry-making.  Most jewelry artisans prefer gold and silver as raw materials because they can make a greater range and volume of pieces.

So when it comes to selecting your jewelry, use your knowledge of precious metals to choose with confidence.
stainless-steelStainless Steel Jewelry - Stainless steel jewelry has become increasingly popular in recent years due to changing tastes and style trends that lean toward a more industrial look.  Today, stainless steel jewelry is a favorite of both men and women.  Departing from tradition, stainless steel jewelry can be found in the use of machined pendants, dog tags and more experimental pieces of jewelry.
The majority of jewelry is created using more popular and main-stream materials, but there's diversity of metals used to create some truly unique pieces of jewelry.
citizen-watch  Rhodium - Rare silver-white metal of the platinum family.  It is particularly hard and is the most expensive precious metal.

is a reddish gold metal that patinas to a warm brown but can also take on a green patina with oxidation.  Copper is the oldest known metal.  Copper jewelry is often considered to have healing properties.

is a copper and zinc alloy that's gold color.  It will tarnish and turn brown overtime

Nickel is a white metal that looks like silver but can cause allergic reactions to some people.



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