Although generally, much
more attention is paid to the precious stones that sit atop engagement rings
and other settings in jewelry, the metal that the ring itself or other pieces
of jewelry are made of are also equally important. The particular metal with which
a piece of jewelry is produced can be the determinant of a lot of features
regarding the piece, ranging from its beauty and value to its durability.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE PRECIOUS
Precious metals are a class
of metals that while being rare, also have certain qualities that make them
desirable to people, for a variety of reasons – For instance, their ability to
make beautiful jewelry. There are currently eight metals that are considered
precious: gold, silver, and the six metals of the platinum family (palladium,
platinum, osmium, iridium, ruthenium and rhodium). These precious metals are
also known as “noble” metals because they have exceptionally high surface
lusters and do not rust or corrode, enabling them to last for a very long
period of time, retaining their initial shine and beauty.
Throughout history, gold
has always been one of the most sought-after materials for jewelry and other
purposes. Its luster and color make for exceptionally beautiful and distinctive
pieces of jewelry that do not corrode or tarnish. Over the years, a lot of
distinctive designs have been achieved using gold, either by using it as base
pieces or alongside other metals and elements.
The malleability (or
softness) of gold makes it the easiest metal to work with, but there can be too
much of a good thing. Pure gold is much too soft to be used for most types of
jewelry as it would scratch and bend easily. What is therefore usually done is
to blend it with silver or copper in order to derive an alloy that is more
resilient and suitable for use as jewelry. The term Karat (abbreviated “k” or
“kt”) is used to describe the percentage of pure gold in the alloy, starting
with 24 karats as pure gold and lower karat ratings with proportionally lower
percentages of gold.
Karat: 99.9% Pure
22 Karat: 91.7% Pure
18 Karat: 75% Pure
14 Karat: 58.3% Pure
12 Karat: 50% Pure
10 Karat: 41.7% Pure
Like gold, silver
has been popular as jewelry for a very long time. It’s also versatile, lustrous
and very rare. Like gold again, it is too soft in its pure state to be utilized
as jewelry and is usually alloyed with other metals in order to prevent scratching
and distortion. The purer the silver, the more easily it is scratched, bent or
Silver is not
rated by karats like gold. Instead, jewellers use the terms “fine” and
“sterling” to describe silver that is very pure.
Purities of silver
800 silver — this grade of
silver contains 80 percent silver and 20 percent of copper or another metal.
925 sterling silver —this rating
is for silver with at least 92.5 percent silver and no more than 7.6 percent of
any other metal.
950 sterling silver —this
contains at least 95 percent silver and no more than 5 percent of another
Fine silver — Fine silver contains
92.5 percent silver that is too soft to be used for most jewelry, but is
sometimes applied in a thin coating over sterling silver to make it appear
The six metals in the platinum family are rarer and
pricier than gold, also arguably the finest of the precious metals. The metals
are silver-white in color and are found worldwide. They are usually
strengthened with other metals like iridium, osmium or nickel for use in
jewelry. Like silver, platinum is not measured in karats but rather is stamped
by the manufacturer with a quality mark that has been standardized to indicate
its quality and purity. (Pt1000 denotes pure platinum).
Despite being the most durable, lustrous and
scratch-resistant of all metals, its scarcity means that is an uncommon
material for use in making jewelry. Artisans prefer silver and gold as raw
materials for the flexibility they allow.
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