All About Metals
Choosing the right metal for your jewelry is finding a balance between personal style, quality, and how it will be used. Here’s our quick guide to understanding metal types.
There are significant differences between gold, silver and platinum. These three common jewelry metals have one quality in common: beauty. Since beauty is very personal and subjective, here are three questions to consider:
- Color – What metal hue is best for me?
- Luster – How does the metal reflect light?
- Heft – How heavy is the metal?
Types of gold
The purity of gold is measured in karats. When a metal is 100% pure, such as with 24K gold, it is too soft and malleable to create long-lasting jewelry. Consequently, it must be alloyed with other metals to give it strength.
- 18K Gold – 18 parts gold, 6 parts other metals by weight (75% pure)
- 14K Gold – 14 parts gold, 10 parts other metals by weight (58.3% pure)
- 10K Gold – 10 parts gold, 14 parts other metals by weight (41.7% pure)
With its warm hue, yellow gold is the most common fine metal. It is commonly alloyed with small amounts of silver and copper making this metal resilient, while maintaining its timeless shine.
White gold has a silver appearance and is composed of gold with palladium or platinum. It is also commonly plated with rhodium to add to its shine and hardness.
Rose gold is alloyed with copper and silver, giving it a unique pink-ish hue — like a rose. The copper is what gives it its distinct pink coloring. It’s strong enough for daily wear, and many people choose rose gold as the metal for their engagement ring.
Five times more rare than yellow gold and maintaining a bright white shine, platinum is the most expensive of the fine metals.
Platinum rings have the highest density of the fine metals, with 95% pure platinum and only 5% ruthenium, iridium or rhodium. This also makes platinum harder, heavier and far more scratch-resistant than other metals.
This pristine white metal shares many qualities with platinum as far as purity, density, hardness and overall beauty. Also like platinum, it is one of the more expensive metals, most often used for long-term jewelry such as engagement rings or wedding bands.
Like 24k gold, silver is too soft for making jewelry and will lose its shape over time. Sterling silver, however, is alloyed with metals like copper to create a harder metal. Still, silver is much more easily scratched than other fine metals and is not used for jewelry that is used for daily, long-term wear.
Tungsten Carbide has a metallic, silvery tone. Tungsten is a very hard and it’s 4x harder than titanium and 2x harder than steel. Despite its hardness, tungsten can shatter with pressure or upon impact in some situations. This is because of how it is produced. Tungsten and carbide are ground to a powder, bound together using nickel, and compressed into a solid state, making it porous, brittle, and susceptible to shattering.
Titanium has superior structural integrity and is 3x stronger than steel. Titanium is very light weight (1/3 as much as gold). Although a very hard and durable metal, titanium can still be scratched by abrasive materials like rocks or hardened steel tools.
Titanium also plays a role in gems. Traces of titanium dioxide impurities cause the asterism phenomenon in Star Sapphires and Rubies. Blue sapphires can get their blue color from traces of titanium as well.
Stainless steel is a metal composed of iron alloy and a minimum of 10.5% of chromium. The chromium makes the metal resistant to staining, corroding, and oxidation. Stainless steel comes in many grades that determine the application of the metal. This is a relatively hard, durable, and affordable metal, which typically comes in light gray.