Buying fine jewelry is one of the most exciting shopping experiences but can be confusing if you do not know the basics about jewelry metals. When searching for the perfect necklace, ring, bracelet, or earrings knowing which metal used can be helpful. Here is our breakdown of the different types of precious metals to help you make an informed decision when purchasing jewelry.
Precious metals are very rare metals used in beautiful jewelry. Precious metals, also known as noble metals, have desirable characteristics such as their luster, and ability to not rust or corrode. Unlike base metals that easily oxidize (copper, nickel, and brass), the precious metals will last for many years.
Gold has always been the most sought-after precious metal coveted for its tradition, luster, and beauty. Pure gold, also known as 24 karat, is a very soft metal. Because of pure gold's softness, jewelers frequently mix it with an alloy to increase its hardness and durability. Jewelers use the word karat (abbreviated k or kt) to specify the percentage of gold combined in the alloy mixture. The most popular kinds of gold are 18k and 14k.
18k gold contains 75% pure gold and 25% metal alloy. 18k fetches a higher price than lower purities because of the higher gold percentage. Jewelry made out of 18k have a richer color because of the higher gold content.
14k gold contains 58% pure gold and 42% metal alloys. Jewelry using 14k are more durable to wear and tear because 14k has more alloyed metals making it a harder metal.
Most gold jewelry comes in three different colors: white, rose, and yellow. Gold's natural color is a vibrant radiant yellow and to achieve the other colors different alloys are used in the gold mixture to alter the color and create either rose or white.
Silver, another well-known metal, will always be popular for jewelry because of its affordability, radiance, and versatility. Much like gold, silver at its pure state is very soft, and jewelers combine it with an alloy to prevent scratches and distortion. Silver does not use karats to describe its purity; instead, jewelers use the term sterling. Sterling silver mark as 925 is 92.5% pure silver and no more than 7.6% alloy. 950 sterling silver is 95.8% pure silver and no more than 4.2% alloy.
Platinum is the rarest (30 times rarer than gold) and finest out of all the precious metals. Platinum, a real white metal, is the most durable out of all the metals. When platinum is scratched, the metal is merely displaced. Platinum, however durable, is still a soft metal and with normal wear, jewelry will obtain a satin finish. Jewelers usually mix platinum with other similar metals from the platinum group (iridium, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, and osmium).
Most precious metal jewelry has a stamp or quality mark that clarifies the purity of the metal. The trademark or hallmark of the brand that stands behind the mark could be stamped on the jewelry as well. Sometimes quality stamps are shown in hundredths based on the metal's purity percentage. Such as for pure metals, 999 is the quality mark shown, or 99.9% pure.
Gold's quality mark will demonstrate the purity of the gold followed by k or kt. Examples of 18k gold: 18kt, 18k, or 750.
Silver's quality marks are 958, 925, Sterling, and SS.
Platinum's quality marks are pt., plat., 900, and 950.
There are more hallmarks and quality marks, if you ever have a question about your jewelry's markings, stop by the store and see us!