Know Your Metals

Know Your Metals

You've had a design in your head for years and are finally going to get it made! You sit down with one of our designers and talk about all the details. You settle on the curve of the bands, the size of the sapphire in the center, the diamond accents...and then you get asked a question you have no idea how to answer: "What metal would you like it made in?"

But not to worry.  Our designers, who are also goldsmiths, have a thorough understanding of precious metals and are happy to explain your options.  Each metal has it's pros and cons and just because one metal is good for one person, doesn't mean it's the right one for you and your new item.  Gold, Platinum, Palladium and Silver all have their place in the jewelry world, but each is best suited for certain applications and lifestyles. Read up on your options but also know we are here to help you choose the right metal for you're new piece.

Gold

“Pure” gold – gold not mixed with other metals to increase its hardness – is called 24-karat (24K) gold. The karat quality marking tells you what proportion of gold is mixed with the other (alloy) metals. For example, 14-karat (14K) jewelry contains 14 parts of gold, mixed with 10 parts of an alloy metal. To make white gold, alloys such as nickel are melted into the gold giving it a white appearance.  There is still a slight yellow tint to the metal so white gold is then plated with a silvery white platinum alloy called rhodium. Over time the rhodium can wear off and the slight yellow tint will appear. Bring it in to be re-plated and the metal will look as good as new. Rose gold is another popular option and contains copper to give it that "rosy" color.

Platinum

A popular choice for engagement and bridal rings, platinum is naturally white, more durable, and heavier than gold. Like gold, platinum is mixed with other metals. However, the quality markings for platinum are based on parts per thousand. For example, the marking “900 Platinum” means that 900 parts out of 1000 are pure platinum, or in other words, the item is 90% platinum and 10% other metals. The abbreviations for platinum — Plat. or Pt. — also can be used in marking jewelry.

Palladium

Palladium is another naturally white precious metal. Though it is less widely known than gold or platinum, designers have been using it to make jewelry since 1939. Palladium is from the same family of precious metals as platinum and shares its strength, but it is lighter in weight. Those allergic to some other metals appreciate palladium’s purity. It does not have to be mixed with nickel (which can cause allergic reactions) to appear white.

Silver

“Silver” or “sterling silver” describes a product that contains 92.5% silver – marked accordingly with the numbers “925.” When an item is referred to as “silver plated,” it features a layer of silver is bonded to a base metal. The designation of “coin silver” is used for compounds that contain 90% silver.

Continuum Silver is the silver alloy we use at Jay F. Jeweler. Click here for information on what it is and why we love it.