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Once you have mastered the four Cs and found your perfect diamond, it is time to choose the precious metal that will enhance and secure your jewelry. From the warm, romantic tones of rose gold to the clean, contemporary finish of platinum, each metal has individual properties that will influence your choice.
Only eight metals in the world are deemed precious, for their scarcity and desirable characteristics: silver, gold, platinum and five metals of the platinum family. Stunningly stylish, these metals can be made into beautiful jewelry in their own right; when choosing which is best for you, it is important to consider purpose and practicality, as well as beauty.
Karat is a unit of measurement that expresses the finesse of gold. The higher the karat, the higher the purity of the metal. ‘Pure gold’ has not been mixed with any other metal or element; this is known as 24K gold.
Often identified by its vivid yellow color, pure gold is incredibly soft. For this reason, many jewelers opt to mix it with more durable metals such as copper or silver to increase the sturdiness of the jewelry.
The typical purities of gold are: 24K, 22K, 18K, 14K, 10K, and 8K. These numbers are determined by the percentage of pure gold versus the percentage of the metals they have been mixed with.
The hallmark for gold is an Octagon, inside which the fineness of the gold is printed. For example, an 18k gold ring would be marked with ‘750’.
Found in the form of nuggets, grains and rocks, gold is extremely malleable, meaning it can be melted and manipulated into unique and varied settings and designs.
As well as increasing durability, introducing other metals to gold can have some spectacular visual effects. Colored golds can truly enhance the beauty of a gemstone, as well as complimenting and flattering different skin tones.
- White Gold: This is created when pure gold is mixed with a white metal such as palladium. As gold is naturally a deep, yellow color, to achieve a true, bright white, the metal is often plated with rhodium. Rhodium is a hypoallergenic white metal that can also prevent scratching to the gold.
- Rose Gold: The addition of copper brings out the beautiful, rosy color in rose gold. The hues range from a deep copper rose to a light pink blush.
- Green Gold: Silver, copper and cadmium meld together to create unusual green tones in gold jewelry.
Where budget allows, I would recommend 18k gold for your jewelry; at this purity, the gold is the perfect balance between rare, intense in color and durable.
Taken from the Spanish word Platina, meaning ‘little silver’, platinum is a gleaming white metal with fantastic properties for jewelry making. Platinum forms in the Earth’s crust and as only limited amounts can be produced annually, it is one of the most precious and valuable metals in the world.
Platinum is the most hard-wearing and stable metal available for jewelry. Around four times stronger than gold, it is highly resistant to damage, scratching and corrosion. It has a beautiful natural luster, and after time develops a unique patina across the surface. Unlike gold, it is not measured by karat, rather it is stamped with a standardized hallmark that expresses the platinum content.
Used for longevity and allure, platinum is sometimes mixed with other metals to make it slightly more malleable and easier to work with. The amounts are usually very small, meaning platinum remains one of the purest metals available.
The Platinum Family
Palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium, and osmium are all part of the platinum group of metals. This means they are chemically similar, while each displaying unique properties.
In jewelry, palladium and rhodium can be used as an alternative to the other precious metals. Rhodium is expensive with an extremely high shine finish, while palladium is a lower cost metal with very similar properties to platinum.
Unlike white gold, their natural white color means these metals do not tarnish or need plating with wear. While deemed precious, the other metals of the platinum family are used for industrial purposes as opposed to jewelry.
The luxury and longevity of platinum make it the natural choice for diamond and gemstone jewelry. When a stone is so hard, it requires a metal that can hold it in place for years to come; jewelry is created to be worn, after all. If you adore the rich appearance of gold, but want the stability of platinum, these requirements can be worked into a design.
Often in solitaires, like the one above, the ‘shank’ (the gold ring part) can be made from a precious metal of your choosing, while the mount, setting and claws (the parts holding the diamond) will be made from platinum. As well as offering the best safety for your diamond, the gleam of white platinum further enhances the sparkle of the stone.
Combining different color metals can also giving a striking appearance to a piece of jewelry and is used as an aesthetic tool by many designers.
There is an array of precious metals to choose from, depending on your tastes, lifestyle and budget. Each one can entirely alter the appearance of your piece of jewelry, but as always it is important to be armed with knowledge before making your choice.