Gold is the most popular precious metal used in jewellery and is the most desired metal by the majority of people. Gold in its natural and purest form is too soft to be used in the making of fine jewellery and this is why it needs to be mixed with other metals, called alloys, to increase its strength and durability.
Now there are a few different qualities of gold namely 9ct, 14ct, 18ct and 22ct but in Ireland most opt for 9ct or 18ct. it is important to know that ‘ct’ or as ‘K’ refers to the carat of metal, essentially what is the percentage of gold in the metal. So, what’s the difference between the various carats of gold? For something to be 18 carat gold, it has to be 75% pure gold with the other 25% being a mix of alloys, 14ct has to be 58.5% pure gold lastly 9 carat has to be 37 ½% pure gold. This is the reason for the stamps you’ll find on the inside of your pieces 750 = 18ct, 585 = 14ct and 375 = 9ct. Simply put, there’s more gold content in 18ct hence the higher price point but it also results in the slight colour variations and different durability lengths too. With 9ct yellow gold, you can see the copper alloy coming through slightly, whereas 18ct yellow gold is very much how you imagine the colour of gold, it’s a lovely rich yellow. Due to the higher gold content, it means that 18ct gold is slightly less durable than 9ct meaning it will pick up slight scratches easier.
White gold follows the same principle as 9ct and 18ct yellow but is made of a mixture of pure gold and white metals such as nickel, silver and palladium which gives it that white colour. White gold is alloyed (mixed) with stronger metals than yellow gold, making it a bit more durable and scratch-resistant which is the reason for its popularity in recent years.
Rose gold, on the other hand, leans more towards the colour of conventional gold, and because it's got a high percentage of copper it gets that nice warm colour so many people love. It is often adorned by women due to its feminine touch and something I learned while researching for this blog is it’s quite a new metal that was developed in the late 1800s by the renowned jeweller Carl Fabergé, famous for his Fabergé Eggs.
Platinum is a rare precious metal comprised of 95% platinum and 5% other alloyed metals. Hence when stamped on jewellery it’s marked as 950 and ‘Plat’. Platinum is a dense, strong and durable white metal which is just about malleable enough for crafting jewellery. The strength it possesses is the primary reason why it’s used in engagements rings nowadays as it secures diamonds and other precious stones so well. Its colour is naturally white and over time it will slightly scratch but that can be amended by polishing out the scratches to restore the metal to its original lustre. An interesting fact is that platinum is 30 times rarer on earth than gold partially contributing to its higher price point. It is naturally hypoallergenic meaning it’s ideal for those with sensitive skin or allergies. Its melting point is also 1767 Degrees Celsius compares to golds melting point 1065 Degrees Celsius so as you can imagine working with platinum in the workshop has its obstacles but worth it when you see the finished piece.
Never heard of palladium? You wouldn’t be the first. Most people in the market for rings don’t but it’s one of the best metals for making strong, forever pieces of jewellery. Palladium is very similar in colour to platinum with only one shade of white in the difference and this colour will remain like this forever. Unlike white gold, both platinum and palladium are not rhodium plated since they are naturally a bright white colour. There are predominantly two versions of palladium you can get. Firstly, palladium 500 has been stamped with 500, it means it contains 50% palladium with the other 50% consisting of alloys and secondly, palladium 950 which is marked 950 and means it contains 95% palladium with 5% other alloys. Now the second version is, of course, more expensive due to its higher percentage of precious metal but palladiums price point is always similar to that of platinum but both prices always fluctuate as the market is volatile to events such as Covid 19 for example.
* One thing to be aware of is that platinum and palladium build up patina rather than scratching. What is patina?
Patina refers to the look that platinum and palladium rings develop over time from constant wear. When you bang your platinum and palladium rings off hard surfaces instead of scratching the metal just shifts around from one part of the ring to another. Over time, a matte finish appears on the ring and this is known as patina. This contrasts with gold rings because when gold is scratched, microscopic pieces of the metal come off quicker. Most people are relatively excited for their ring to develop a patina finish because of the look it gives to a ring. But if you prefer the shiny unmarked look you can always bring the ring to a jeweller, here in Topaz Jewellers of course, who will restore it to its original flawless state.
Last but not least is sterling silver, a very commonly used metal and a great entry-level metal for jewellery due to its price point. Silver is marked with the stamp 925, meaning there is 92.5% pure silver in the metal along with 7.5% other metals which are often copper and nickel as they add to the metal’s durability. Silver is much more abundant than gold, platinum and palladium which contributes to its lower price point but at various stages of history, silver was valued more than gold. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to silver, most notably is that silver tarnishes. If left unattended and exposed silver jewellery will undergo chemical reactions. The chemical reaction that causes silver to tarnish requires a compound called hydrogen sulphide and this compound can occur in our air. Silver jewellery can always be polished by jewellery to restore it but the best method to counter this is to store silver items in protective pouches or simply wrap in tissue and this will reduce the amount of tarnish significantly. Another point to consider when buying silver is that it’s not ideal for those people unfortunate enough to have sensitive skin or allergies to metal. We have all heard or seen people’s skin going black/green from silver jewellery but this does not necessarily mean its silver you are allergic to. Nickel which is a trace element mixed with silver to whiten and strengthen the pieces is actually what most people are allergic to so before making a purchase maybe try on someone else pieces for a while just to ensure you don’t have this issue.
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