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Precious Metal Jewelry: Your Comprehensive Guide to Precious Metals

Written by Anna Currell
July 25, 2023

Precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum have been an important part of jewelry making for centuries. They are defined by key distinguishing properties, like their rarity (and therefore value), resistance to corrosion, durability, and malleability. These qualities make precious metals excellent for creating jewelry that can stand the test of time. In this guide, we’ll delve into the world of precious metal jewelry, exploring each type’s characteristics, variations, and popular applications. Let’s explore!

Gold

Gold is the most revered and sought-after precious metal, cherished for its warm, lustrous beauty and enduring value. While it is known for its resistance to tarnish and corrosion in its pure form, gold is also frequently alloyed with other metals to enhance its durability and create a variety of colors.

Pure gold is measured in karats (not to be confused with carats, which is the unit of weight for gemstones). 24 karat (24K) gold is considered pure gold, but it’s relatively soft and not suitable for everyday jewelry. Therefore, it’s commonly alloyed with other metals such as silver, copper, or palladium to create different karatages and colors. For instance, 18K gold is 75% gold mixed with 25% other metals, while 14K gold is 58.3% gold and 41.7% other metals.

Gold is also popular because it can come in a variety of colors. Yellow gold, with its naturally warm hue, is the most traditional and classic choice for jewelry. Gold is naturally yellow and is sometimes mixed with other metals to create an even richer color. White gold, on the other hand, is achieved by adding alloys such as palladium or nickel to create a silvery appearance. Rose gold, with its pinkish hue, is created by incorporating copper into the gold alloy. Each type of gold has its own unique charm.

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A refurbished Victorian locket after gold plating and polishing.

Silver

Silver, known for its brilliant white shine, is another popular precious metal used in jewelry. It’s more abundant and affordable than gold, making it a versatile choice for a wide range of designs and budgets. Sterling silver, the most common type of silver used in jewelry, is normally stamped “925” because it is composed of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper or other metal alloys to enhance its strength and durability.

Silver can be found in various styles of jewelry, from delicate and intricate designs to bold and contemporary pieces. It pairs well with gemstones, creating a beautiful contrast and enhancing their colors. However, silver is more prone to tarnishing than other precious metals, so regular care, cleaning, and polishing are necessary to maintain its luster.

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A sterling silver ring brought to a high polish.

Platinum

Platinum is a dense, strong, and naturally white metal, making it an ideal choice for jewelry. Platinum is highly valued for its durability and resistance to wear, making it perfect for everyday jewelry and engagement rings. 

While the purity of gold is measured in karats, the purity of platinum is usually expressed in parts per thousand. Platinum marked as “950” indicates that it contains 95% platinum and 5% other metals, like copper or cobalt. Its purity and rarity contribute to its higher price compared to other precious metals.

Platinum jewelry is known for its sleek and understated elegance. It complements diamonds and other gemstones exceptionally well, allowing their brilliance to take center stage. However, due to its high melting point and sensitivity, platinum is notoriously difficult to work with — many jewelers that lack specified training will not perform repairs on platinum jewelry for this reason. 

platinum-ring-stone-removal

A customer requested for us to remove all the diamonds out of this platinum band.

Other Precious Metals

While gold, silver, and platinum dominate the world of precious metals in jewelry, there are a few other noteworthy options:

  1. Palladium: Palladium has a similar appearance to platinum, but is more affordable. It is lightweight, hypoallergenic, and relatively scratch-resistant compared to other metals, making it another popular choice for wedding bands and everyday jewelry.
  2. Titanium: Although not traditionally considered a precious metal, titanium has gained popularity in recent years. It is durable, hypoallergenic, and exceptionally lightweight. It has a grayish color, and titanium jewelry often features unique and modern designs.
  3. Rhodium: Rhodium is typically used as a plating material instead of a primary jewelry metal because it is very expensive and rare. It’s often applied as a thin layer over white gold or silver to enhance its appearance, create a lustrous finish, and provide protection against tarnishing. 

Caring for Precious Metal Jewelry

Proper care and maintenance are essential to preserve the beauty and longevity of your precious metal jewelry. Here are a few general care tips:

  • Avoid exposing your jewelry to harsh chemicals, including household cleaners and perfumes.
  • Remove jewelry before engaging in activities that may subject it to excessive force or potential damage.
  • Regularly clean your jewelry using a mild soap and warm water solution, followed by gentle drying with a soft cloth.
  • Store your jewelry in separate compartments or soft pouches to prevent scratches and tangling.

Precious metals are a diverse group, offering a range of options to suit different tastes, budgets, and occasions. By understanding the characteristics and care requirements of these metals, you can make informed choices and enjoy your jewelry for a lifetime. To create your very own precious metal jewelry, work with our bespoke jewelry consultants at Quick Jewelry Repairs. We can bring your design dreams to life and walk you through every step of the process to create the perfect precious metal piece for you, whether it’s a new pendant, a wedding band, or a pair of earrings.

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