CHOOSING THE RIGHT METAL FOR YOUR RING

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There are several metals that are used in the creation of fine jewelry; the most common being Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Titanium and Silver. By knowing your options and comparing their benefits and their unique qualities you will be able to make an informed decision regarding your purchase. At Estenza all of our jewelry is manufactured using 14K and 18K gold.

Gold

GOLD is the oldest precious metal known to man. The reason gold has been considered precious is because of its pleasing physical characteristics and its scarcity. More unbelievable than its physical characteristics is its scarcity. The worlds’ gold supply increases by a mere 2,000 tons per year compared to the U.S. steel production that increases by 10,500 tons per hour.

Since time immemorial the noble metal’s resplendent luster allows it to be designed into the world’s most coveted and exquisite jewelry. Gold is the most malleable (able to be hammered into very thin sheets) and ductile (able to be drawn into a fine wire) of all metals, hence most widely used in making jewelry.

Pure gold – 24 karat (24K) gold – is soft, so it is often mixed with other metals to increase its hardness and durability. The total of pure gold and other metal adds up to 24, so:

  • 18K gold is 18 parts gold mixed throughout with 6 parts other metal
  • 14K gold is 14 parts gold mixed throughout with 10 parts other metal

The higher the proportion of gold used in the final metal, the more valuable and expensive the metal will be. So all other things being the same, an 18K ring will be more expensive than a 14K ring and a 14K ring will be more expensive than a 9K ring.“Solid gold” merely refers to any gold item where the inside of the item is not hollow. The karat mark still will denote the proportion of gold to other metal. 22K and 24K are both too soft to be made into jewelry hence they are not widely used.

The other metals used in the making of gold jewelry are copper and other base metals such as silver or palladium in the alloy. Copper is the most commonly used base metal, yielding a redder color.

18K gold containing 25% copper creates a distinct copper cast more commonly known as rose gold.

White gold is made by mixing gold with metals such as nickel, silver and palladium. White gold is often coated with a metal called Rhodium as the natural color of white gold is actually light grey. Rhodium is very similar to platinum and shares many of the properties of platinum including its white color. Rhodium is a very hard metal, but even then it wears away eventually, so to keep white gold jewelry looking its best it should be re-rhodium plated approximately every 12-18 months depending on the usage. If it is being used less eg. Earrings vs. an engagement ring that is worn every day, you can go longer before you need to re-plate it. However your local jeweler can always recommend when it is time to get it done.

Blue gold can be made by alloying with iron and purple gold can be made by alloying with aluminum, although rarely done except in specialized jewelry. Blue gold is more brittle and therefore more difficult to work with when making jewelry.

14K and 18K gold alloys with silver alone appear greenish –yellow and are referred to green gold.

The most popular types used in jewelry making are Yellow, White and Rose gold and at Estenza our jewelry is available in these three colors and sometimes in a combination of two or three colors. This is also called two-tone or three-tone gold jewelry.

This table shows the various alloys mixed to reach a certain gold grade level.

14k Standard White Gold with Nickel 58.5% gold 12% copper 8% nickel 6% zinc 4.5% silver
18K Standard White Gold with Nickel 75% fine gold 10 % copper 8% nickel 4.5% zinc 2.5% silver
14kt White Gold – Palladium Alloy 58.33% yellow gold 32.17% silver 9.50% palladium
18kt White Gold – Palladium Alloy 75% pure yellow gold 25% palladium or platinum
14K Yellow Gold 58.5% fine gold 29% copper 12.5% fine silver
18K Yellow Gold 75% fine gold 15% copper 10% fine silver

When trying to decide between the gold karat types there are three things to consider.

  • The metals performance with every day wear
  • The difference in color between 14K and 18K gold
  • The difference in price between the gold karats.

Many believe, that the higher the carat of gold the softer the metal i.e. 9K gold, being alloyed with other metals tends to be more resistant to scratching than say 18K gold. This is not necessarily the case as the metals’ hardness is measured by what is called the Vickers scale where harder metals receive a higher Vickers score.

9K has a Vickers hardness of 120 and 18K has a Vickers hardness of 125. This shows 18K as harder, but the difference is so slight that in practical terms 9K and 18K are much the same in terms of hardness.

At Estenza all our jewelry is made in 14K and 18K gold.

 

Platinum

Platinum was discovered by Antonio de Ulloa at 1735 in South America. It originates from the Spanish word “platina” meaning “silver“. The metal was used by pre-Columbian Indians but platinum was “rediscovered” in South America by Ulloa in 1735 and by Wood in 1741.

Platinum even though considered a hard and a dense metal is rarely used in its purest form. It is in fact softer than gold, hence needs to be mixed with other similar metals or other non-precious base metals. The other metals used in the making of Platinum jewelry fall into these categories:

  • Platinum group metals (palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium)
  • Base metal (copper, cobalt for example)

For a piece of jewelry to be called pure platinum it must be at least 50% pure platinum. Most platinum jewelry sold in the US is 85% platinum and 15% other metals.

If You See This on The Label The Piece Is
Platinum At least 95% pure platinum
850 Plat. 85% pure platinum and 15% platinum group or base metals
800 Pt. 200 Pd. 80% pure platinum and 20% palladium; the product contains 100% platinum group metals
75% Platinum 25% Copper 75% pure platinum and 25% copper; the total of pure platinum and other platinum group metals is less than 95%
No platinum label Less than 50% pure platinum

Platinum is very durable and takes a fine polish that is resistant to wear. It is naturally greyish white in color and is often rhodium plated to make it look whiter. Platinum jewelry requires a higher level of craftsmanship and also being rarer than gold, explains why it is worth the extra expense.

 

Palladium

Although Palladium shares similar properties to Platinum it is much less dense – an identical piece of Palladium jewelry will weigh 50% less than in Platinum. The weight of Palladium is very similar to that of 14K gold, so bigger pieces can also be made without the added weight.

Palladium is historically less expensive than Gold per gram, Palladium jewelry is generally more competitively priced and is now becoming a preference for the savvy shoppers who are looking for luxury on a budget.

Its properties and characteristics make it ideal for jewelry. Palladium does not need to be mixed with other base metals so it will never tarnish or change color. Palladium is 95% pure when used in jewelry. It contains 95% palladium and 5% ruthenium and has trace elements proprietary to its designer. It is naturally white so jewelry made from palladium does not have to be Rhodium plated and can be sized just like other precious metal jewelry. Palladium is hypoallergenic so it is ideal for sensitive skin.

 

Titanium

Titanium has become popular as a jewelry material due to its various unique properties. Titanium can be used in its purest form (approximately 99% pure) and titanium jewelry is considered to be hypoallergenic. It is highly resistant to most causes of corrosion, including sea water, chlorine (in water), and some acids therefore practical for those who regularly swim in the ocean or chlorinated pools. This is in contrast to some traditional jewelry materials, such as silver, brass and bronze, which are prone to tarnishing and other manifestations of deterioration.

As an industrial metal, titanium jewelry is produced by sophisticated machines that carefully carve and hone perfectly formed pieces. Although some titanium jewelry can include diamonds and gemstones, the hardness of titanium limits the styles and formations that the metal can hold. The other disadvantage of using titanium in jewelry is that it cannot be soldered. Soldering is used in the manufacture of a majority of jewelry items, for example titanium cannot be used to make a prong setting for an engagement ring. Another factor to keep in mind while buying a titanium ring is that the ring cannot be resized by a local jeweler, especially if it has been set with a diamond and in most instances it is probably easier to make a new ring than to resize it.

For the metal itself titanium is generally less expensive than white gold. However, because titanium is difficult to make jewelry with the labor costs of titanium can make the price of titanium jewelry a little higher.

 

Silver

Silver is one of the first metals to be used by humans. It is also the most reflective of all the metals and can be polished to a higher sheen than platinum. The word silver is derived from the Latin word argentum, meaning ‘white and shining.’ It is extremely malleable and resists oxidation from exposure to the atmosphere. Today, over 90% of the silver mined is not used for jewelry, but is used in industrial applications.

The words ”silver” and ”sterling silver” describe a product that contains 92.5% pure silver. Silver products sometimes may be marked 925, which means that 925 parts per thousand are pure silver. In its pure form silver is almost as soft as gold, and is therefore usually alloyed with copper. Alloys of silver with copper are harder, tougher, and more fusible than pure silver and therefore, are used for jewelry. Silver jewelry is traditionally made from sterling silver an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.

Sterling silver jewelry is often plated with a thin coat of 0.999 fine silver to give the item a shiny finish. This process is called “flashing”. Silver jewelry can also be plated with rhodium (for a bright, shiny look) or gold (to produce silver gilt). Sterling silver can also be found with a vermeil finish.  Pronounced “vermay,” this is a French word which describes sterling silver that has been electroplated with at least 100 millionths of an inch of karat gold. Silver can also be polished, matte, brushed, satin, sandblasted, oxidized (blackened using chemicals) or antiqued. Silver is often said to have a patina, or worn appearance that is achieved through frequent use and handling. The tarnish or darkening of silver jewelry occurs due to the addition of copper. It also increases in humid conditions.

 

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