A Guide to Different Jewellery Metals

A Guide to Different Jewellery Metals

Most of us are able to recognise gold and silver, but are you uncertain about the difference between golds of different strengths and strengths or platinum? We often find that our customers have a lot of questions about these, so we thought that it would be useful to provide a brief summary of the different metals that you will come across when choosing your jewellery.

You will see gold jewellery made from different purity levels mixed with an alloy of metals. This alloy is not standardised, but may contain a mixture of metals such as copper, silver and nickel. Gold doesn’t tarnish and is widely used for all sorts of jewellery.

●  24ct gold is the maximum purity as it contains 99.9% pure gold. Naturally, it’s very yellow in colour and is a soft metal. For this reason, it’s not used for intricate or fine jewellery in the UK, as it’s not deemed strong enough to hold stones securely and withstand much wear and tear.

●  22ct gold is 91.6% pure gold, and is still relatively soft, so is more likely to be used for plain wedding bands than anything holding stones.

●  18ct gold is 75% pure gold, combined with an alloy. It’s hard enough to use for stone set jewellery, and is enjoyed for its brighter yellow appearance than lower gold purities. You will see the piece stamped ‘750’, indicating that it is 18ct gold.

●  15ct gold is 61.2% pure gold and was most commonly used during the Victorian period and earlier part of the twentieth century. This purity of gold was discontinued from the 1930’s in the UK, so if you come across a piece of gold jewellery with english hallmarks and a 15ct stamp, you can assume that it is an older piece. These pieces will be stamped ‘612’, to indicate that it is 15ct.

●  14ct gold is 58.5% pure gold, and more popular for jewellery manufacture in the USA than in the UK. These pieces will be stamped ‘585’ to indicate that it is 14ct gold.

●  9ct gold is 37.5% pure gold, and has a darker, slightly orange tinted yellow tone than 18ct, due to the higher percentage of metal alloy. This is the most affordable gold, and the strongest and most durable. 9ct gold will be stamped ‘375’.


Rose gold
The same rules above, regarding gold purities and characteristics, apply for a rose coloured gold, however there will be a higher percentage of copper in the alloy to create a more pinkish appearance.

White gold
Again, the same rules apply for white gold as yellow gold regarding the gold purity and characteristics, however the alloy contains a higher percentage of white metal such as nickel, zinc, silver and palladium. At this stage, the gold still has a slight yellow tint. The metal will most likely be plated in rhodium, a metal from the same family as platinum, to give it a whiter appearance whilst also giving it additional strength and durability. Over time, this can wear and will inevitably need replating. It’s not an expensive process and doesn’t take very long.  

Platinum is a naturally occurring white metal, usually used at 95% purity with the remaining 5% made up of a metal alloy. It’s dense and malleable, which is great for intricate jewellery work. It only started being widely used at the end of the nineteenth century, most famously by Cartier who pioneered its use, once they had the technology to heat platinum to its melting point. Over time, it develops a satin like, sometimes gunmetal patina, which many people love. It is also hypoallergenic, so is kind to the skin.
Silver is a very soft metal, not used for setting precious stones, as the settings may not be secure and the overall shape of the ring can bend and warp - further jeopardising stone settings. It scratches easily and tarnishes, requiring cleaning using a silver polish, polishing cloth, or silver dip. It is common in antique jewellery for diamonds to be set in silver, but the reverse of the jewellery item to be yellow gold - this is due to the item either predating the development of technologies to melt platinum, or simply that platinum was not yet a widely used and available metal yet.
You will most likely find that a diamond will be set in a white coloured metal, as if it was set in a yellow or rose gold some of the colour may be reflected into the stone, making it appear less colourless than it truly is. And, generally speaking, the goal is to make your diamond look as bright, white and sparkling as possible!

Can you mix and match metals?

Some customers tend to be drawn to one metal in particular, and will want all of their jewellery to look uniform. This will generally either be a yellow gold, rose gold, or white metal such as white gold or platinum. But this is not a rule! If you like one ring in one colour, and another ring in a different metal, then that’s absolutely fine. We have recently found that mixing metals is becoming increasingly popular and more of our customers seem to be choosing what they fancy, rather than what matches their preexisting jewels. It is entirely up to you! Some metals may wear faster against a different metal, but you’re talking about a visible difference over decades of wear, rather than a year or two.


What if I have seen something I like but I want it in a different metal?

At Michael Rose London, we are fortunate enough to have our own workshop, which enables us to offer the flexibility of creating a piece of jewellery for you in whatever metal you choose. For example, perhaps you have seen a ring you like, but it’s in a white gold and you would rather have a yellow gold or platinum - that’s not a problem. We are dedicated to working with you to get your new jewellery purchase just right!

Back to blog