Jewelry metals are much diversified. For thousands of years, people have used rare metals such as gold and silver to create stunning pieces of jewelry. Due to their beauty and rarity, these jewelry metals have remained to this day essential to the industry. However, jewelers started using other materials, including stainless steel and bras. In this article, you will learn more about jewelry metals to help you improve your jewelry shopping experience. Learn how to buy fine jewelry and pay the right price for it. If you want to know more about fine gemstone jewelry, read this article.

Jewelry Metals – Gold

Gold is one of the most popular choices for exclusive jewelry. Due to its sun-looking color, the Egyptians fell in love with gold and started using it more and more. In fact, the Egyptians were the biggest users of gold in ancient times. Gold was reserved exclusively for the pharaohs and their family. Tutankhamen’s tomb was build out of solid gold. All because few metals can capture the heart like gold does.

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Because gold is naturally malleable and soft, it is one of the perfect metals to craft jewelry. To increase the resistance of jewelry and to make it stronger and more durable, jewelers combine gold with other metals like zinc and copper. Pure gold is called 24k (karat) gold, but you can’t fine pure gold jewelry in a jewelry boutique. You can determine the karat quality of gold jewelry by reading the marking on it. Check out the following “Karat Gold Hallmark Table” to learn more.

Karat Measure Traditional Hallmark Modern Hallmark Gold Purity
24 karat 100%
22 karat 916 22K 91.6%
18 karat 750 18K 75.0%
14 karat 585 14K 58.8%
10 karat 417 10K 41.7%


Types of gold alloys

There are more types of gold to use in jewelry making. Depending on the alloys used to increase the durability of the hold, you can have yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold. You can buy fine jewelry of any color, but you should know that the color of natural gold is yellow.  Gold is alloyed with copper and silver. This way it becomes less soft and maintains its natural warmth. White gold is created by combining the gold with silver and palladium or with copper, nickel, and zinc. Rose gold gets its rosy pink color by adding more copper to its combination. To find out more about rose gold jewelry, read this article.

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There are more methods of creating jewelry out of gold.  This jewelry metal is ideal to create gold plated jewelry, solid gold jewelry, and gold filled jewelry. These jewelry manufacturing (crafting) methods differ from one another and use different quantities of gold to make it more affordable on the market.

Gold plated jewelry

If solid gold jewelry uses at least 41.7% gold, gold filled jewelry has at least 5% gold, and gold plated uses 0.05%. This makes the jewelry more affordable and the gold plated jewelry can look just as good as the gold filled or solid gold jewelry. Another type of gold plating which you will find in a jewelry boutique is vermeil. Vermeil means that you have a piece of silver jewelry with a thin layer of gold plating. Jewelry makers can also use sterling silver as a base for gold plated jewelry. If the thickness of the plated gold is of at least 100 millionths of an inch, jewelers call it Vermeil (which is pronounced vermay). Discover more about gold plated jewelry by reading this article.

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Jewelry metals – Sterling silver

Silver has been another jewelry metal for millennia. In fact, at one point, people considered silver to be more valuable than gold. However, due to its abundance silver is now one of the most affordable precious jewelry metals on the market. You can buy fine jewelry made of silver at very affordable prices.

Just like gold, natural silver is way too soft for jewelry making. Because of this, jewelry makers mix it with copper and other metals to increase its durability. This is called sterling silver and it must be at least 92.5% pure silver. That is why you can find engraved on silver jewelry the 925 hallmark. It is usually on the inside shanks of a ring and on the back of a pendant. Sterling silver color can vary from grayish white to bright white and it can have a shiny or matte finish.  Just like gold, silver jewelry can be solid or plated.

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Silver is a jewelry metal that can tarnish. That is why you should always store silver jewelry in special tarnish preventative bags, in cool and dry places. You can clean sterling silver by using a soft lint-free cloth. You can also buy a silver polishing cloth from the jewelry boutique. Find out more about sterling silver jewelry from this article.

Jewelry Metals – Platinum

Platinum was an extremely popular jewelry metal until the first part of the 20th century. That’s when they started to use it in the military industry during wartime. This jewelry metal is very durable, shiny and beautiful. A piece of platinum jewelry can last for a generation. Ever since the beginning of 1990, platinum has started to return as one of the top choices for engagement rings. You can also find other types of platinum jewelry, such as necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc. To buy fine jewelry made of platinum means to spend a little more than for other jewelry metals. However, you can find exquisite platinum pieces in a jewelry boutique.

Jewelers mix platinum with other metals (part of the platinum metal group) such as palladium, iridium, rhodium, ruthenium, and osmium. However, a piece of jewelry has to have at least 90% pure (solid) platinum in order to be labeled as platinum. If the platinum level falls under 90%, the piece will be platinum alloy. You can recognize platinum jewelry by their “PLAT” hallmark”.  Usually, this hallmark is on the inside of rings and on the back of other types of jewelry. When you buy fine jewelry, look for this marking to make sure you don’t confuse platinum with white gold.

The color of platinum is a soft white hue, and because it is 30 times rarer than gold and 40% heavier, it is also more expensive. One of the advantages of platinum is that it will not oxidize or tarnish. Due to its bright whiteness, this jewelry metal is perfect for showing off gemstones and diamonds. Learn more about platinum jewelry from this article.

Jewelry metals – Stainless steel

This everlasting jewelry metal has many uses. One of the most common uses of stainless steel is in kitchenware, hardware, and appliances. However, stainless steel is also great in making expensive watches and jewelry pieces. Stainless steel has a silvery-white color and it maintains its color very well. This jewelry metal is resistant to tarnish. In addition to this, this metal is very easy to clean and it is strong enough to be worn every day.

The jewelry industry uses stainless steel to craft bracelets, bangles, rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, cuffs body jewelry, but also other minimal jewelry and watches.

Jewelry Metals – Brass

Brass has had a very important role throughout history. With a warm yellowish color which resembles gold, brass is a versatile metal. You can use it to craft numerous items, including decorative items, musical instruments, household items, machinery, and jewelry. Designers use brass in jewelry mostly because of its resemblance to gold and because it helps create textured jewelry. This jewelry metal is also great as a base for gold plated jewelry and silver plated jewelry. Jewelry makers craft brass into all forms, including bracelets, rings, necklaces, bangles, and earrings.

For more jewelry education, read out other articles as well. To view our unique fine jewelry collections, visit our jewelry boutique.

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Ruxandra is a fashion blogger who teaches fashion stumped twenty to thirty somethings how to shop their jewelry boxes for polished new ensembles. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Fashionista, Nylon, and Refinery29.