The month of November is Real Jewelry Month, and to celebrate we’re breaking out the knowledge and know-how that will help pretty much anybody make a solid jewelry choice. First up: the goods on real precious metals.
You’ve probably at least heard of all the standard jewelry materials, such as sterling silver, white or yellow gold, and platinum. What you might not know though is exactly what the difference is between these major metals, and what divides their sub-groups from eachother to determine karat weight.
We’ll start with sterling silver. When you’re buying silver items, what you really want to see is some type of labeling saying “.925 Sterling Silver.” This means that item is true sterling silver, which as you may have guessed is composed of at least 92.5% pure silver. Other metals are added, such as copper or zinc, for the purpose of reducing porosity and adding strength. Fine silver (an alloy that contains over 99% pure silver) is very rarely used for jewelry as it’s simply too soft.
Next we have gold, both yellow and white. For gold jewelry things get a little bit trickier, because there are several subcategories depending on karat weight. 24 karat gold, for example, contains 99.9% actual gold, which makes it too soft to use for most types of body jewelry. Alternatively, it can be used as a plating, which basically means that it forms a thin layer over the outside of a stronger metal, which provides the look of gold without any of the disadvantages. Below is a list of the percentage of gold that you’ll find in different items, based upon the karat of the gold alloy material. For jewelry the most common will be 14kt or 18kt gold, due to the strength and durability they provide. Rose gold will also operate on these percentages, getting it’s unique color from the trace metals in its blend (usually copper).
Our final real jewelry metal is the shining star called platinum. A dense and highly durable heavy metal, platinum is the rarest of the jewelry metals, and as such tends to be a little bit pricier. It’s definitely well worth the investment though, because when properly cared for, a platinum item can last for decades or even centuries. Platinum is the least reactive of all metals, and also is naturally higher shine, which makes it a perfect material for jewelry. Most jewelry made with it will contain an alloy composed of at least 90 percent pure platinum.
That about wraps it up for the precious metals, but don’t forget to join us next time for a crash course in precious and semi-precious stones. And remember in the mean time to keep it real.