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Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

Jewellery Advice and Knowledge Jewellery Advice and Knowledge

Jewellery metals: what's the difference? Jewellery metals: what's the difference?

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 are unsure as to the different properties and uses of metals. So, we thought that it would be useful to provide a brief summary of the metals that you will come across when choosing your new piece of jewellery. 


Gold

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.
22ct yellow gold and platinum wedding band

 22ct yellow gold and platinum floral engraved wedding band

  • 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. It's generally seen as the perfect balance between quality and durability. You will see the piece stamped ‘750’, indicating that it is 18ct gold.

18ct yellow gold coral ring by Cartier
    18ct yellow gold coral ring by Cartier

      • 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.

       15ct yellow gold and enamel cufflinks 15ct yellow gold and enamel cufflinks

        • 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.

      14ct yellow gold aquamarine and diamond ring by Tiffany & Co.
        • 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 hardest, however the higher percentage of alloys does mean that 9ct gold can be more brittle than 18ct. 9ct gold will be stamped ‘375’. 

      9ct yellow gold horse shoe and riding crop tie pin

       

      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.

       

      9ct rose gold antique albert chain

      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.

      18ct white gold sapphire and diamond ring

       

      Platinum

      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. 

      Platinum 3.18ct diamond line bracelet by Cartier

       

      Silver

      Silver is a very soft metal, no longer 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 to find antique jewellery with diamonds set in silver, but the reverse of the jewellery item to be yellow gold. If this is the case, this is likely 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. Silver was the only alternative white metal. 

      Victorian silver and 9ct gold diamond lizard brooch
      Silver mother of pearl dress studs

       

      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 to wear one ring in one colour, and another ring in another, then that’s absolutely fine. We have 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 collection. It is entirely up to you! Customers are often concerned that some metals will wear others faster, if they are sat side by side (for example: wedding and engagement rings). Whilst this may be technically true, the difference is minimal (you're talking about a noticeable difference after decades of wear!) and any metal sat next to another will rub, scratch and wear. 


      What if I have seen something I like but I would like 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! Drop us an email at info@michaelrose.com for any enquiries. 

      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 are unsure as to the different properties and uses of metals. So, we thought that it would be useful to provide a brief summary of the metals that you will come across when choosing your new piece of jewellery. 


      Gold

      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.
      22ct yellow gold and platinum wedding band

       22ct yellow gold and platinum floral engraved wedding band

      • 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. It's generally seen as the perfect balance between quality and durability. You will see the piece stamped ‘750’, indicating that it is 18ct gold.

      18ct yellow gold coral ring by Cartier
        18ct yellow gold coral ring by Cartier

          • 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.

           15ct yellow gold and enamel cufflinks 15ct yellow gold and enamel cufflinks

            • 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.

          14ct yellow gold aquamarine and diamond ring by Tiffany & Co.
            • 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 hardest, however the higher percentage of alloys does mean that 9ct gold can be more brittle than 18ct. 9ct gold will be stamped ‘375’. 

          9ct yellow gold horse shoe and riding crop tie pin

           

          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.

           

          9ct rose gold antique albert chain

          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.

          18ct white gold sapphire and diamond ring

           

          Platinum

          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. 

          Platinum 3.18ct diamond line bracelet by Cartier

           

          Silver

          Silver is a very soft metal, no longer 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 to find antique jewellery with diamonds set in silver, but the reverse of the jewellery item to be yellow gold. If this is the case, this is likely 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. Silver was the only alternative white metal. 

          Victorian silver and 9ct gold diamond lizard brooch
          Silver mother of pearl dress studs

           

          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 to wear one ring in one colour, and another ring in another, then that’s absolutely fine. We have 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 collection. It is entirely up to you! Customers are often concerned that some metals will wear others faster, if they are sat side by side (for example: wedding and engagement rings). Whilst this may be technically true, the difference is minimal (you're talking about a noticeable difference after decades of wear!) and any metal sat next to another will rub, scratch and wear. 


          What if I have seen something I like but I would like 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! Drop us an email at info@michaelrose.com for any enquiries. 

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