Over the years, I have been asked many questions about jewelry metals so I thought this information would be helpful for my clients. I sell a variety of jewelry. From plated, to sterling and stainless steel. I love selling it all, because I love wearing it all!
What are the pros and cons of different kinds of metals? Often overlooked, but very important to the life and upkeep of your jewelry, You have several options when deciding what kind of metal to choose. You may have an assumption of what you want, but why not entertain the other options?
A classic, warm look. Just needs a quick polish occasionally to keep looking like new. Available in 10, 14 and 18 karat qualities. Gold itself is non-reactive to chemicals, but the alloys mixed with it may be....
To be safe and protect against porosity and minute cracking, do not wear when in chemicals; including hot tub and swimming pools.
All gold is yellow. To make white gold, metallurgists mix in white alloys like nickel, palladium and manganese. Your grandmother’s ring probably had nickel as one of the components. Today’s white gold isn’t quite as white, so it needs a regular polish and dipping in Rhodium (a metal in the Platinum family) to keep it looking white.
How hard you are on your ring? How the metal reacts to the acids in your skin, and your preference for whiteness will influence how often you should get your ring dipped. Most people may go six months to two years. Personally, with my own busy hands, my plating tends to wear down much quicker! Take it to your trusted jeweler and ask them for a cleaning and an inspection of your stone/prongs before they polish and Rhodium dip it for you. When it is returned to you, it should look brand new and you will fall in love with it all over again.
Pink, Rose or Red Gold is yellow gold alloyed with copper and sometimes silver. The more copper, the deeper the red color. This is one of the most popular trends of the year. Feel free to mix with other gold colors. The blush hues of rose gold flatters every skin tone.
10K Gold is a hard, durable and economic choice. In yellow gold it has a light yellow color. It is 417/1000 pure gold. While very hard and durable, can be more prone to pitting if in contact with chemicals such as hot tubs or cleaning solutions. The gold itself is non-reactive to chemicals, but the alloys used to harden the gold may be subject to damage.
The most common choice for engagement rings today and the general standard in the United states. It is 585/1000 pure gold, so it is hard enough to stand up to daily wear and still has a strong yellow color. You will find more options in 14K than any other gold quality metal.
A higher end choice and the standard throughout much of the world, 18K gold has a rich gold look. It is softer than 14K gold and more expensive. It is 750/1000 pure gold.
Commonly seen in Indian and Asian jewelry, 22K may be too soft for everyday wear. The color is a hot yellow and is 916/1000 parts pure gold. It feels heavy for its size, and the color sometimes considered too yellow to be "real gold" by people unfamiliar with gold qualities.
A softer white than white gold. It will never take a shine like other high polished white metals but is loved for its warmer white glow. Platinum is a very rare metal and up to three times as expensive as gold. But you will save in repairs over the life of the ring. It will never need Rhodium plating or dipping and if on average repairs made to a gold ring must be made every ten years, you may go 20 to 30 with platinum because it is so hard and durable. Must be stamped 950, 950 PT or 950/1000 parts are pure Platinum. Heavy for its size.
Sterling Silver (925)
The whitest of white metals but is prone to tarnish. A quick dip in silver cleaner or a bit of rubbing with a polishing cloth will keep it looking good. Storing your sterling silver in special pouches or even little baggies will help retard the tarnish. Regulations state that it must be stamped 925 somewhere on the ring to be validated Sterling Silver. This is your guarantee that there is 925 parts per 1000 of pure silver in the makeup of the ring. Completely pure silver is too soft for jewelry. With the heightening of gold prices in recent years, sterling silver has become a popular metal for cocktail and even wedding rings. Sterling silver rings are also often used as first rings, meant to be upgraded in 5 or 10 years. They are commonly used as vacation rings as well, so more valuable rings are left in a safe place while you are out about in the world.
A very lightweight metal. Titanium is a common choice for men’s wedding rings. It cannot be sized but will have to be exchanged or repurchased if needed. Will have a very soft, almost lead color and will not take a high polish which is perfect for many a non-flashy homegrown guy. It is an inert metal so good for people with allergies or those who are in frequent contact with chemicals like swimmers.
A heavy, very scratch resistant metal. Tungsten is very heavy for it’s size. A popular choice for men’s wedding rings. It is a non-malleable metal with the highest melting point of any element, so it cannot be sized, but will have to be replaced if you change size. It will come with a high polish which will last for years. It is very difficult to scratch. Even Diamonds will have a hard time doing damage to Tungsten, but take our word on it and don’t try it at home. It is also hypoallergenic.
Cobalt is four times harder than platinum, making it very scratch and chip resistant, but it is much less dense, so does not have quite the heft of platinum. Cobalt has a bright white sheen with no rhodium plating needed. Some jewelers may be able to size cobalt up or down one size.
One of the members of the platinum group, palladium is coming back into fashion. It has a bright white color that never needs rhodium plating. It is hypoallergenic.
Gold plated/Gold filled
Though they have different standards for the thickness of the plating, gold filled and gold plating mean similar things and can eventually wear off and show the underlying metal. As such, gold plated/gold filled is a better metal choice for cocktail or special occasion rings than for everyday rings. Gold plated/gold filled items can be replated by some specialists.
A huge trend in jewelry today. Very affordable choice for wedding rings. Stainless steel rings are becoming increasingly popular. There are many who don’t like the idea of an inexpensive metal, technically an alloy, to replace the traditional custom of wearing rings made of precious metal or sporting gemstones. But there are many who love the idea of an inexpensive ring that can mean something and yet stand the test of time. Not everyone can shell out some big bucks to buy jewelry. Stainless steel is made from chromium, nickel and titanium. It is a strange alloy which is inexpensive but very durable, highly utilitarian and yet it looks nice. Unlike some alloys that look bland or cheap, stainless steel doesn’t look cheap despite being affordable. Stainless steel rings are gaining popularity across the world.