There are a variety of metals choices available for jewelry. Whether you like the allure of platinum or the range of options with the classic gold, you will find a number of stylish pieces, sometimes even combining the two metals. Today, alternative metals like sterling silver, titanium, and stainless steel give you additional options in look, strength, price, etc. Each choice has its own qualities, so base your choice on the ones that you value most.
Platinum is generally 95% pure and does not tarnish or lose its rich white luster. Platinum is the heaviest of all the precious metals weighing approximately twice as much as karat gold. Its purity makes it hypoallergenic, perfect for people who are sensitive to the alloys used in gold. Platinum is also known for its strength and pliability, just one gram of platinum can be drawn into a fine wire over one mile long.
Platinum has become popular again in recent years. It is a hard, bright and silvery-white metal. Be prepared to spend more on a platinum piece compared to gold because platinum has a higher specific gravity. Identical designs in gold and platinum will render the platinum piece heavier and more expensive. Not every goldsmith is skilled in platinum work so trained and experienced people should only work on your platinum items. Specialized tools are often used so labour is more costly as well.
Pure 24 karat gold is rarely used in jewelry because it is too soft for frequent wear. Gold is mixed with alloys like copper, silver, nickel, and zinc to give different colors, strength, and durability. Gold's purity is measured in karats, which indicate out of 24 parts how many parts are gold. For example, 18kt gold contains 18/24 gold and 6/24 alloy, while 14kt gold contains 14/24 gold and 10/24 alloy. Gold is traditionally seen in yellow and white colours, but can also be available in rose or green on occasion.
In Canada our regular, industry standards are 10K, 14K and 18K but you are not limited to these because goldsmiths are able to offer you other gold quality values.
‘White’ gold has reached another round of popularity and that is probably due to the jewellery designs which are popular today. They reflect many of the designs popular to the early 1900’s in which the favoured jewellery designers primarily used Platinum, a durable and expensive white metal.
Originally, gold is yellow and can be changed to another colour when alloying, using various formulas. People often ask us why there seems to be different types of white gold because some appear to have a yellowish tint after wearing it for a while and other white gold keeps its bright tone. One explanation is that jewellery is being imported from many countries which have different formulas for gold alloying. Everyone’s chemistry reacts in varying ways to alloys and we must understand that some people, by wearing jewellery, are more likely than others to react to metal. This contributes to some gold changing its outside appearance as time goes by.
Today, we have ultra-white gold which contains nickel. If you know that you are not going to react to nickel in your white gold, this is a hard, bright choice for jewellery which is not known to discolour. In some cases of manufacture, it is harder to work with, so this is why some manufacturers chose not to use it.
Sterling silver is usually 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Silver is much more plentiful than platinum or gold and is much less expensive. It takes on a much higher polish than any other metal, but it does tarnish. The tarnish can be removed, but silver requires much more care than other metals.
Silver is also becoming a popular choice for people because of the high market prices of our precious metals. Sometimes couples ask for sterling silver rings for engagement and as wedding rings. They still have diamonds set into their selections. If this is a choice for you, be aware that sterling silver wears faster than gold and platinum and you should make it a habit to have the security of your stones checked frequently.
Titanium is a light, strong, and corrosion-resistant metal. Titanium offers you seven times the strength of platinum at about 1/3 of the weight. It is the hardest natural metal on earth and therefore offers more scratch resistance than gold or silver. In addition, titanium is also hypoallergenic. When ordering titanium rings, be extra sure about your ring size. The biggest drawback of titanium rings is that they cannot be sized by traditional ring sizing methods. If you have a wedding ring in this metal, a jeweler will not size it but rather exchange it for another ring of the requested size. There is usually a cost involved with this exchange.
Stainless steel is a low cost alternative to traditional metals. It is naturally hypoallergenic and will not rust or tarnish. Stainless Steel will not break or bend under normal usage and is stronger than any other alloy.
Cobalt has a similar look to platinum, with great strength and light weight. Because of its temperature stability, cobalt alloys are often used in engine turbines and surgical implants.