There are several different types of metals used to make jewellery. The most commonly used metals include Sterling Silver, Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Titanium and Stainless Steel.
Sterling Silver is a grey coloured metal. It is made up of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. It is a highly popular metal in the jewellery trade due to its low cost. While it is softer than the other most commonly used metals such as gold, it is a durable and long lasting metal. However it is prone to tarnishing due to oxidisation and results in it turning black. Therefore it is recommended that silver jewellery only be used for occasional use. But all it needs to regain its colour is a simple cleaning with silver jewellery cleaner and it will be back to its best.
Yellow Gold is considered the worlds most favourite metal where jewellery is concerned. The warmth of the colour and ease of use makes it the most popular metal used in jewellery, in particular in engagement and wedding rings. However it is also used widely in all other types of jewellery including pendants, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and cufflinks.
The carat of gold refers to the gold content of the metal. It measures the proportion of pure gold mixed with other alloys to make up the final metal. The higher the proportion of pure gold, the more valuable and expensive the metal. Gold is available in a number of different carats from 9K, 10K, 14K, 18K, 22K, 24K.
- 9K contains 375 parts of pure gold to each 1000 parts or 37.5% pure gold.
- 10K contains 410 parts of pure gold to each 1000 parts or 41% pure gold.
- 14K contains 585 parts of pure gold to each 1000 parts or 58.5% pure gold.
- 18K contains 750 parts of pure gold to each 1000 parts or 75% pure gold.
The remainder of the metal is made up of a combination of different metal alloys such as silver, copper and zinc. Pure gold is yellow in colour, but the addition of the other metals is what gives gold its different hues, hence the reason 18K gold is a lot yellowier than 9K gold as it has more gold alloys then other metals. Different parts of the world tend to use different carat gold in their jewellery. For example in the Middle East, they tend to use 22K, in the USA they use 14K and in Europe they use mostly 9K and 18K. Carat can also be spelled Karat or abbreviated to ct, kt or K. Hallmarks can vary. E.g. 9K can be hallmarked 375, 9K, 9ct, or 9kt.
The higher the carat the softer the gold. 9K -18K gold are relatively hard-wearing and durable and are therefore used in all types of fine jewellery. 22K and 24K on the other hand are much softer and are not considered suitable for everyday jewellery such as wedding rings.
Gold is also available in a number of different colours. The three main colours are yellow gold, white gold and rose gold, though on a lesser scale you can also get red gold and bronze gold. Yellow gold is by far the most popular worldwide, though white gold has seen a huge rise in popularity over the past number of years. A combination of gold can also be got called two-tone or multi-coloured gold. The difference in colour between the gold is determined by the metals used in the alloy mix, e.g. Copper results in the rose-red colour of rose gold while the presence of silver and palladium in the alloys of white gold results in its white appearance. Though it should be noted that white gold is actually greyer in colour, so to achieve its bright white appearance it is coated with a white metal called rhodium. This rhodium plating gives a much whiter and shinier appearance and makes it more aesthetically pleasing however this plating will wear away so it will be necessary to get most white gold items in particular rings re-rhodium plated. White gold is generally more expensive than yellow and rose gold.
Titanium is a natural element which has a silver-grey-white colour. It is the hardest natural metal in the world and is three times as strong as steel. Dent, bend and scratch resistant, it is also very light weight, it is lighter than all other jewellery metals. It is also 100% hypo-allergenic so everyone can wear Titanium. Low maintenance, it does not fade so is perfect for jewellery, however it cannot be soldered so it would not be possible to resize rings. Another advantage of Titanium is that it can be coloured which is dependent upon the anodizing process. This makes it a highly poplar metal in jewellery making. However it is quite expensive.
Platinum is a white metal which is 95% pure. It is a precious metal and very rare hence the expensive price. Extremely hard-wearing and very white in colour, it is a dense metal so tends to be heavier than gold. It is a lot more expensive than gold, so it tends to be used mostly in rings. It is resistant to tarnishing and therefore takes a lot less maintenance making it ideal for use in jewellery.
Palladium is a white metal with a silver-grey-white colour. Similar to platinum, it is part of the platinum group of metal which also includes rhodium and iridium. It is used mostly in wedding rings. While it is more expensive than gold, it is cheaper then platinum. Stainless Steel Stainless Steel is a hard and durable metal. Due to its appealing colour, low cost and robust nature it is used mostly in dress and fashion jewellery, in particular men’s jewellery.