Know Your Metals? 9ct Gold to Platinum
All gold is yellow naturally. However white and rose (also called red) gold have alloys mixed with them to produce their particular colours. Pure gold is measured as 24 carats (24/24 parts, so full gold), and is usually too soft for use in jewellery. It is alloyed with other metals–silver, copper, nickel, and zinc–to increase its strength and durability.
White gold is not a natural colour. The ‘white’ colour is obtained through the addition of alloys and usually plated with a rhodium coating. This coating gives a lustrous and desirable finish, but one that wears over time. It will usually begin to patina as it returns to its natural colour, so the metal may look more yellow with age. This effect is unique to each piece of jewellery and its wear. White gold can be rhodium plated by a jeweller to return to its white colour.
White gold can occasionally cause an allergy through the alloys used to give it’s colour. Traditionally these included zinc and nickel. Often gold, silver, and copper are preferred in white gold alloy mix which creates a hypoallergenic alloy. Palladium also, using modern methods, though this last metal can bring up the price too.
How often will I need the rhodium replated?
This will depend on wear. Items such as rings that withstand more daily wear and tear may need replating as frequently as every 6 – 12 months, to maintain their luster. This could be done at a yearly fine jewellery check and clean with your jeweller. Or you may consider platinum as an alternative- which is a naturally white metal and also hypoallergenic.
9ct Yellow, Rose & White Gold
Probably the most popular carat of gold in the UK. The majority of reasonably priced solid gold items are likely to be 9ct gold. This is around 37.5% pure alloy of gold, silver and copper. The amount of gold is less than 50% so it can be an affordable option for everyday gold items.
14ct Yellow, Rose & White Gold
Another popular choice of gold for jewellery lovers. As with lower carat gold, this is alloyed with other metals such as silver, copper and zinc. Which increase both strength and durability.
14ct white gold is not as white as platinum and many people prefer the slightly warmer white of white gold over platinum’s grayer white. Particularly in modern jewellery.
18ct Yellow, Rose & White Gold
This gold generally has a richer gold colour dye to its higher percentage of pure gold. This can also make it softer than lower carat jewellery. Though modern techniques have increased its durability. However 18ct gold can also be around 3x more expensive than 9ct gold.
Other Popular Metals
A highly durable material, which was once a popular choice for precious gemstone settings due to its strength to keep them in place. It is approximately 35 x rarer than gold and carries a price tag of around 2x more expensive than 18ct gold. Platinum is a natural white metal with a greyish colouration that may lack the warmth of white gold, but instead carries its own cool tone. It can be a popular earring choice, especially for hoops.
Platinum v’s White Gold
- Scratches: Unlike gold, which loses a little of its metal when scratched, the platinum actually moves sideways when scratched, to leave a groove.
- Wearing Down: Unlike gold, platinum will not wear thin with time. Instead it will keep all of its metal, whilst gold will wear down.
- The rhodium plating makes white gold shinier than platinum.
- Platinum jewellery is bio-compatible. It doesn’t tend to cause skin reactions in people with metal sensitivities. Whilst white gold alloys can cause reactions in some people.
- Platinum tends to be more expensive. This is because it must be 80% platinum metal to be sold as platinum. It’s often 95% pure. Whilst gold jewellery can be anything from 58% gold upwards.
- Both will patina over time. With platinum it will gradually darken and take on a more matte texture. It adds character and uniqueness. If the effect is undesirable, it can be repolished professionally to restore its original shine and lustre.
Naturally silver-white , Palladium is lighter and less expensive than Platinum, yet still carries the beauty of a white metal. It has a more expensive look than silver, though is a softer metal so a little less durable than Platinum for instance. It can also be used in the process of making white gold.
This is karat gold (eg 14k gold) bonded by heat to a base metal. For example, our 14k gold and 14k rose-filled jewellery have a brass core. The minimum amount of gold allowed to describe an item as gold filled is 1/20 of the item’s total weight.
A classic alloy with a long history of use in jewellery. Often called 925 silver, due to being 92.5% pure silver mixed with 7.5% other metals, which is usually copper and gives it strength. Pure silver is much softer and usually not suited to jewellery forming.
A more recent addition to the silver metal family, argentium silver is a higher silver alloy. This means it contains more pure silver than sterling. It’s also tarnish resistant, has a brighter white silver colour. It’s nickel free 935 silver, or 93.5% silver (whilst sterling silvr is 92.5%) . It is also lower allergen than sterling silver.