Knowing Your Metals
The Different Metals Used in Jewelry Making
|Use in Other Jewelry Pieces||Use in Mens Wedding Band||Rhodium Plated|
|Platinum||Typically 90% but some makers use 95%||Most commonly Iridium, sometimes Cobalt||Very high, although still malleable||Yes||Yes, especially good for those allergic to nickel||Yes||No|
|White Gold||Various levels
10kt = 41.7%
14kt = 58.5%
18kt = 75%
|Most commonly mixed with nickel||High||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Yellow Gold||Various levels
10kt = 41.7%
14kt = 58.5%
18kt = 75%
|Commonly silver, copper and zinc||High||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Silver||Most common in jewelry is 92.5% known as sterling||Most commonly copper, others include platinum and germanium||Low||No, because of the softness it is not a good metal to use for everyday rings||Yes||No||Sometimes, some makers plate in rhodium to help tarnishing|
|Palladium||Typically 90% but some makers use 95%||Other platinum family group metals||High||Yes, although has a grayer appearance than platinum||Rarely, although being use more as an alloy||Yes||No|
- The most appealing characteristic of platinum is its durability. Each time other metals are scratched or polished, a tiny bit of metal is lost. In fact eventually, prongs of white gold and yellow gold may wear down enough that you need to have them reinforced with more metal for safety, but not with platinum. A scratch in platinum may leave a mark on the metal, but this metal is so strong that it will not readily chip or splinter. For that reason, platinum is best for setting loose gem stones and diamonds.
- While it is the strongest of jewelry metals, it can scratch and develop a patina of wear. Many people prefer this look, unique to platinum. But if you like the shine, a jeweler can polish your jewelry to bring back the original reflective finish. In the mean time, buffing with a soft cloth can give your jewelry renewed luster.
- Gold won't tarnish, rust, or corrode, and though it's very strong, it is also the most malleable of all metals.
- Pure gold is too soft to withstand the stresses of every-day wear, so it is alloyed with a mixture of metals like silver, copper, nickel, and zinc to give it strength and durability. Karatage, noted by a number followed by "k" indicates purity, or how much of the metal in a piece of jewelry is gold. Karatage is expressed in 24ths, making 24k gold 100% gold.
- The color of gold is determined by two factors:
- The type of metal alloys included in it
- The percentage of each metal alloy
At Moyer Jewelers, you'll find 18k and 14k yellow gold. 18k gold contains more precious metal than 14k gold. It is composed of 75% gold, which is alloyed with other metals to make it strong enough to withstand every-day wear. Because 14k gold is composed of only 58.3% gold, and 41.7% other metals that give it strength, its gold color is not as rich as 18k gold.
Because 18k white gold is 75% gold, and 14k white gold is 58.3% gold, jewelry made from these metals has a slight yellow color. To enhance the whiteness, almost all white gold is plated with rhodium, a shiny, white metal which is extremely hard. Depending on the amount of wear to a piece of jewelry, over time this rhodium plating may wear off, revealing the original metal color. Re-plating is a simple process that can be done to restore your jewelry's whiteness if needed.
Caring for Your Gold Jewelry
Keep your gold jewelry away from harsh chemicals such as chlorine and cleaning fluids. This will reduce daily abrasions and prolong gold's luster. To clean gold jewelry, use a solution of warm water and detergent-free soap and wash gold gently with a soft-bristled brush (a dull tooth brush works well).
Pure silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft, very malleable, and easily damaged so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Although any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling, centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be its best companion, improving the metal's hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color.
Most high quality silver items are stamped with a "fineness" or "quality" mark. This mark designates the precious metal content of the jewelry, and under federal law, must be accompanied by a maker's mark or registered trademark.
Because pure silver is so soft, it should only be used when malleability is required, such as in handcrafted jewelry featuring weaving and other intricate designs. Sterling silver is most often used for jewelry and household accessories because of its combination of beauty and durability. Acceptable quality marks for sterling silver include:
- sterling silver