A Guide to metals used in Jewelry

Jewelry is now constructed from a wide variety of metals which vary greatly in price, strength and a number of other attributes. Each of these metals requires differing amounts of maintenance will vary in weight and may even cause allergic reactions. With a quick overview of each metal you can determine if the metal is suitable for your application and ensure you’re paying a reasonable price.

Buying Gold Jewelry

Gold is available in a number of colors and carats. Pure gold is not suitable for use in jewelry, it is simply too soft to safely hold your precious stones. The carat rating of gold refers to its purity. The higher the carat rating the more pure the gold is. The other metals are added to improve strength and luster of the gold. By changing the other metals mixed into the gold we can change the color of the resulting mix. Gold is available in white, rose, lime, red and bronze colors as well as various combinations of colors. For the moment yellow and white gold are the most popular colors. Gold is relatively easy to keep clean, it doesn’t tarnish like silver. It is usually the metals added to gold which cause the loss of shine and subsequent need for cleaning. The higher the carat rating of gold the less often your jewelry will require cleaning.

When to buy gold jewelry

Higher carat Gold jewelry is suitable in just about every application because it retains is shine and appearance with relatively little maintenance. Gold jewelry will also fade in color over time.

Buying Silver Jewelry

Pure silver is too soft to be used in jewelry. Pure silver will also tarnish very quickly requiring a lot of maintenance. Silver is usually available as 92.5% pure silver alloy referred to as sterling silver. Other metals are added to improve strength, luster and reduce tarnishing.

When to buy silver jewelry

The oils in your skin, moisture in the air and other factors contribute to tarnish. If you live in a particularly humid climate you may be wise to purchase other metals like gold. Sterling silver jewelry is best purchased for occasional use. Sterling silver will also fade over time although some prefer the aged and vintage appearance of older sterling silver pieces.

Titanium Jewelry

Easily the strongest of all metals used in jewelry. Titanium is available in a number of colors dependent upon the anodizing process used to create the piece. Titanium is very low maintenance and robust and will outlast all other types of jewelry. Titanium is also extremely light. These reasons combine to make it very popular among new types of jewelry. Unfortunately it is still quite expensive due mostly to the processes required to produce titanium jewelry.

When to buy titanium jewelry

Providing your budget affords it just about any time. Titanium contains no nickel, the metal responsible for jewelry allergies and is available in a number of finishes. Titanium jewelry will not fade in color.

Platinum Jewelry

Platinum is white in appearance and compliments diamonds particularly well. Platinum is a very dense and strong metal. Platinum jewelry will easily outlast gold and silver pieces but it will be much heavier than titanium jewelry. Platinum jewelry is usually 95% pure platinum with other metals added to improve the shine and luster of the final piece. Platinum jewelry is usually marked with a number between 800 and 1000. This number correlates to the percentage of platinum used in the metal with 800 being 80% and 1000 being 100%. Pieces with a rating of 95% and higher are often simply referred to as ‘platinum’.

When to buy Platinum Jewelry

Platinum is a precious metal and very rare which is why it is considered a prestige option. Providing your budget can afford it and you like its color it is more desirable than gold and silver and will also require less maintenance. It is heavier than other metals but some prefer the weightier feeling. Platinum jewelry will not fade in color.

Stainless Steel Jewelry

Stainless steel jewelry is slightly similar in appearance to silver. It is harder than silver and will not tarnish which is why it is increasingly used in jewelry. White gold and sterling silver pieces often contain a metal called ‘nickel’ which can cause allergic reactions in some people. Stainless jewelry can be (but is not always) made without nickel making it suitable for those allergic to nickel. Depending upon the shape and type of jewelry stainless steel may be more difficult and hence more expensive than a corresponding piece of silver jewelry. Stainless jewelry does not have the same luster or shine as other metals but some prefer its slightly more metallic appearance and it is particularly popular amongst men. Stainless steel jewelry is more jewelry than gold and silver pieces and will not tarnish or rust as easily.

When to buy Stainless Steel Jewelry

If you like the metallic finish and require a robust piece of jewelry capable of withstanding moisture without tarnish or corrosion then stainless steel is a very affordable and wise option. It is not used in finer pieces with more precious gemstones simply because it is not considered as desirable as platinum, gold and other precious metals.

Tungsten Jewelry

Tungsten jewelry is also often referred to as ‘Tungsten Carbide’ but you should pay special attention to ensure the tungsten jewelry you are purchasing is actually ‘Tungsten Carbide’. Tungsten Carbide is compound of Tungsten and Carbon which results in a metal which is significantly hard than just Tungsten. How hard is Tungsten Carbide? Well just about the only thing capable of scratching Tungsten Carbide is Diamond. Tungsten which has been polished will never need to be polished again and will be next to impossible to scratch. Tungsten is 4 times hard than any other metal currently used to manufacture jewelry and so it will outlast jest about everything. Tungsten is quite heavy and only available in a grey ‘carbon like’ color which is popular amongst men. Due to the expensive manufacturing processes there is currently very little Tungsten jewelry to choose from. The majority of Tungsten jewelry available today is designed for men and usually only available as wedding rings.

When to buy Tungsten Jewelry

Looking for something which will look new and won’t scratch for the remainder of your lifetime? If you like its color, have found something in the limited range available and your budget permits Tungsten is a great choice. A number of pendants and charms and even bracelets are now available in Tungsten with more styles and designs entering the market daily.

Rhodium Jewelry

Rhodium is the rarest and most expensive of all metals used in jewelry. Less than 3 tonnes of Rhodium is mined each year. 24 carat gold jewelry is considered expensive by most people. A Rhodium piece constructed in exactly the same manner would cost approximately 10 times as much. Rhodium is still commonly used in jewelry but almost entirely as protective plating on gold and silver pieces. Rhodium is extremely hard, has a beautiful luster and will virtually eliminate tarnish. Silver jewelry which is plated in Rhodium is often referred to as ‘anti-tarnish’ silver. Jewelry which has Rhodium plating will appear brighter and last longer in a better condition than an equivalent piece. Rhodium finishing is relatively common and now quite affordable. The only downside to Rhodium plating is that is usually only available on White Gold and Silver pieces due to its white appearance.

Which metal to buy?

If you’re simply looking for a casual costume piece which will not be worn very often you can choose almost entirely on appearance. If you’re looking for something which can be worn every day and will retain is shine and luster the more expensive platinum and tungsten and titanium options will suit you. Choose between these metals depending upon the weight and color you prefer. If you simply can’t resist the shine and luster of gold and silver just ensure you properly store and clean your jewelry as soon as it loses its shine or begins to tarnish. If the option is available and you don’t mind the whiter appearance always go for a Rhodium finish.