The metal types commonly used to make jewellery include Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Titanium, Silver, Tungsten and Stainless Steel.
There are two things to consider when looking at gold. First, which color of gold (yellow or white). Second, which karat (10K, 14K, 18K).
The karat in gold measures the proportion of pure gold mixed with other metal alloy to make up the final metal
The higher the proportion of gold used in the final metal, the more valuable and expensive the metal will be. So, all other things being the same, an 18kt ring will be more expensive than a 14kt ring and a 14kt ring will be more expensive than a 10kt ring.
- 10kt gold contains 41.7% pure gold (417 parts per thousand).
- 14kt gold contains 58.5% pure gold (585 parts per thousand).
- 18kt gold contains 75% pure gold (750 parts per thousand).
Now, how pure is this 22K gold? Let’s do a simple mathematical calculation:
24K gold = 100% Pure Gold
Thus, 1K Gold = = 4.167% Pure Gold
Thus, 22K Gold = (4.167 * 22) = 91.67% Pure Gold
How Gold is Marked/Stamped
Jewellery is normally stamped with a marking to show the type of gold.
- For 10kt gold the stamp will normally be either the number 416 or 417, 10kt, or 10K.
- For 14kt gold the stamp will normally be either the number 585, 14kt or 14K.
- For 18kt gold the stamp will normally be either the number 750, 18kt, 18K.
Gold is available in several different colours. The most popular are yellow and white gold, followed rose gold. Other gold colours are sometimes available, such as pink, red and green gold.
Jewellery can also be made using a combination of different gold colours. These jewellery items are sometimes called two-tone, three-tone or multi-coloured gold.
The difference in colour between yellow, white and rose is determined by the metals used in the alloy mix.
As the colour difference is due to the metal components in the alloy mix, the colour of yellow gold and rose gold will not fade or wear off with age.
- Yellow gold is made by mixing pure gold with alloy metals such as copper, silver and zinc.
- Rose gold is made using a mix of pure gold with alloys including copper. The copper provides the rose-reddish colour.
- White gold is an alloy of pure gold and some white metals such as silver, nickel, tin and palladium.
Traditionally, nickel was used in white gold, however, nickel is not used in most white gold made today. Nickel can cause reactions with some people.
When white gold rings are new they are generally plated with another white metal called Rhodium. Rhodium is a white metal in the platinum family. Rhodium shares many of the properties of platinum including its white colour.
The rhodium plating is used to make the white gold look whiter. The natural colour of white gold is actually a light grey colour with undertones of yellow. The yellow colour in white gold comes from the pure gold used to alloy the metal. The rhodium is very white and hard, but it does wear away eventually. To keep a white gold ring looking its best, it should be re-rhodium plated approximately each 6 to 18 months. Most local jewellers are able to rhodium plate jewellery.
There can be a difference in colour between the different karats of gold.
18kt yellow gold is more yellow than 10kt yellow gold with 18kt yellow gold having a richer golden colour.
When comparing the price of the gold colours in the same karat, white gold is normally a little more expensive than yellow gold and rose gold. Yellow gold and rose gold normally have approximately the same price.
Sterling silver is a white-grey coloured metal, which is less expensive than gold, platinum and titanium.Silver is a softer metal than gold, titanium, and platinum, and does not have the hardness of the other metals.
Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver. In this form the metal is beautiful and suffers from minimal tarnish, but it’s generally too soft and malleable for many uses, including making most silver jewellery.
Instead fine silver is alloyed with copper to create sterling silver, which is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. This is why you will sometimes see sterling silver referred to as ‘925 silver’.
The copper makes the silver harder, more durable and therefore much better to work with and use, but without compromising on colour. Most silver jewellery that you buy and wear will be sterling silver.
These percentages are the reason why sterling silver is often hallmarked with the numbers 925.
Silver is a popular metal for use in jewellery such as earrings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces and fashion rings.
It is best used for jewellery that will not be worn every day for an extended period. For that reason it is usually not recommend to be chosen for ladies and men’s wedding rings, and is not suitable for ladies engagement rings.
Silver is also more prone to oxidation, sometimes causing the silver to turn black. The silver jewellery can easily be made to look like new again if you use a silver jewellery cleaner (available from most department or hardware stores) or if you have your jewellery cleaned by a local jeweller.
Gold plated is a form of jewelry plating, but specifically with gold as the layer on the outside.The thickness of the gold layer on the outside of gold plated jewellery can vary greatly; however, the Federal Trade commission labels gold plated items at .5 microns and “heavy gold plated” items at 2.5 microns.
Coatings that are thinner than .5 microns are often mislabeled as gold plated, though these are technically considered “gold electroplate” at .175 microns, or “gold flashed” or “gold washed” if the coating is less than .175 microns. All of the above coatings are technically “electroplated,” but the FTC classifies them with different labels depending on the thickness of the coating.
To gold plate something, the item is dipped into a solution that contains gold or a gold-coloured alloy. The item is then shot with an electric current and the resulting electrochemical reaction deposits a thin layer of gold to the outside of the base metal.
Vermeil is a specific kind of gold plating. The process of creating a vermeil piece of jewellery involves coating sterling silver with a thin layer of gold that is at least 10 karats and 2.5 microns thick. To be legally called “vermeil,” the item must have a gold thickness of 2.5 microns and the coating must be over a sterling silver base. However, it is common for people to call any gold plated jewellery item with a sterling silver base metal as vermeil.
In real vermeil, the gold plated layer can contain different layers of gold fineness. For instance, the gold fineness can be between 10K and 24K, and the choice of gold fineness determines the colour of the gold vermeil piece: a 10K vermeil piece would be a lighter, more subtle yellow tone, whereas a 24K vermeil piece would have an intense, deep yellow colour.
But how do I identify what is vermeil and what isn’t?
To know what is considered vermeil and what isn’t, you have to know the base metal, gold thickness, and gold quality of an item of jewellery. There is a quicker way to identify whether your item of jewellery is vermeil or not: look for a “925” stamp on your item of jewellery. This stamp, or marking, means that the underlying base metal of the jewellery item is 92.5% silver, or sterling silver. So, when you see a gold piece that has this stamp on the outside, you can be sure it is a vermeil piece.
Does gold plated jewellery tarnish ?
The answer is yes, it does! Gold plated jewellery items will definitely tarnish over time, though solid gold items will not tarnish at all. Gold plated items have a base metal underneath the gold plate, like copper or silver, which makes the jewellery piece stronger and less likely to bend, though these jewellery metals tarnish.
In a gold plated jewellery item, the metal beneath the gold plate will eventually come to the surface and become discoloured, so it will need to be polished frequently to keep its shine. The reason that gold plated jewelry tarnishes is because the molecules of the base metals eventually transfer into the thin layer of gold, causing the gold layer to break down.
Silver plated jewellery has an extremely thin layer of silver (measured in microns) covering a base metal, commonly copper, brass, white metal, or nickel.
The layer of silver is very thin, so it will also wear off with time and usage.
As a result, people with nickel allergy may develop itchy skin rash wearing silver-plated nickel.
Unlike sterling silver, the tarnish on silver-plated jewellery is, most of the time, irreversible. Moreover, this type of jewellery has little resale value unless they are rare or collectible items.
Stainless steel is a well-known material used to make everything from cooking utensils to car parts. An alloy that mixes elements like chromium, titanium, and nickel, its silvery finish also makes it a popular commodity in jewellery design. Stainless steel not only mimics the look of fine, precious metal, but baubles made of this material are much more affordable. When it comes to rings, those made of stainless steel are a smart choice for everyday wear since they will be durable and strong.
Is Silver Plated Better Than Stainless Steel?
The answer to this question ultimately comes down to one’s individual preferences. Stainless steel has a number of advantages over the silver. It is hypoallergenic, which means that one runs no risk of skin irritation by wearing it. Stainless steel is also much harder than silver.
The former scores around a 5 on the Moh’s scale, while silver is less than 3. Stainless steel doesn’t tarnish either and will remain good for a hundred years if maintained properly. Plated silver, even with good care, will likely only last for around twenty years.
Other advantages of stainless steel include its price. It is generally much cheaper than silver and is resistant to corrosion. This means that one need not worry about overusing stainless steel jewellery. Daily use does not have the same degrading effect on stainless steel as it does with plated silver. This also means that one need not stress over improperly storing and caring for their stainless steel items since they can take a fair amount of rough and tumble.
The main advantage that silver holds over stainless steel is its shiny, royal appearance. The former has a duller look, and that can often be the deciding factor before making a purchase. Silver also holds a greater trade-in value in case you decide to exchange your valuables, and can make for a good investment for the right person.