Perhaps no other substance on earth has captured the hearts and minds of man more than gold. Gold is the most easily worked of all metals and ranges in softness based on its purity. Generally pure gold is too soft for use in jewelry, so it’s commonly mixed with alloy metals such as copper and zinc. It’s important to balance gold purity with durability. Jewelry items like rings and bracelets often take more abuse and are much more likely to become deformed if softer gold is used. The most often used karat qualities of gold are 10K, 14K and18K with the number being the parts of gold in the mixture. To make white gold, yellow gold is mixed with other alloys to arrive at its silvery color then it is plated with rhodium. If not re-plated when needed, white gold can lose its silvery appearance. Rose gold, which has seen a recent surge in popularity, is created by mixing yellow gold with silver and copper.
Platinum is especially popular for engagement and bridal rings. It is naturally white, more durable and heavier than gold; but it is also at the top of the price range for precious metals. Like gold, platinum is mixed with other metals to make jewelry. Platinum is not measured by karats as is gold. It is measured in parts. For example, 900 Platinum means that 900 parts out of 1000 are pure platinum or 90%.
Like platinum, palladium is a naturally white and very durable precious metal. Its use in the jewelry industry dates back to 1939 when designers discovered its beauty and strength. Palladium is from the same family of precious metals as platinum and shares its strength, but is lighter in weight. Those with allergies to other metals will appreciate the purity of palladium which does not need to be mixed with other metals to appear white.
Silver has been used in jewelry nearly as long as gold. Like gold, pure silver is very soft and easily damaged, so it’s commonly mixed with other metals to improve durability for use in jewelry. Silver is normally mixed with copper and there are several levels of purity that indicate the quantity of pure silver contained in the metal. For example, Sterling Silver must contain at least 92.5% pure silver, however it’s also found in varying purity levels including 958 and 999 Sterling Silver. Look for a stamp that indicates the metal’s purity level when purchasing silver jewelry.