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The most prevalent metals used in jewelry are gold, silver and platinum.
These metals are all malleable (easy to mould) and the reason for this is that they retain the shiny luster for long. All these metals are rare, which makes them more expensive.
Gold's beauty has inspired men for thousands of years, and they have regularly used it to create symbols of wealth and power. Greek poet Pindar wrote, 'Gold is the child of Zeus, neither moth nor rust devoureth it.' Today, gold is still treasured as a basic form of saving in many countries, but there's no doubt it exists primarily as a decorative metal.
Measure of Purity
Purity of gold is measured in Karats (k). 24k gold is the purest. However, it is very soft and malleable and lacks hardness; hence it is rarely used in jewelry. Pure gold is usually mixed with other metals, usually copper or silver, to make a stronger alloy which is used for the purpose of jewelry.
|Purity||Metal Content||% Pure Gold|
|24k||Pure Gold||100% Gold|
|18k||18 parts gold, 6 parts another metal(s)||75% Gold|
|14k||14 parts gold, 10 parts another metal(s)||58.3% Gold|
|10k||10 parts gold, 14 parts another metal(s)||41.66% Gold|
When mined, pure gold is warm, sunny yellow in color. As the percentage of alloy increases, gold becomes more durable but less yellow. For those who prefer a brighter yellow, lower karat gold is plated in higher karat gold to enhance the color. This is acceptable as long as you are aware and pay a fair price.
In early 20th century, white gold was created as a substitute for platinum. White gold is an alloy of gold mixed with metals such as silver, palladium, or nickel. White gold is coated with either rhodium or a palladium and platinum mixture, both of which add luster to the jewelry's surface. This alloy hides the natural color of white gold, which is a combination of grey and slight yellow. White gold is increasingly popular in jewelry due to its cost comparison with platinum.
Besides white gold, yellow gold can be mixed with other metals to create alloys which result in rose gold, black gold and purple gold, to name a few.
With the passage of time, gold develops a film of oils from lotions, powders, soaps, and natural skin oils which somewhat diminish the luster. Gold jewelry should be taken off to prevent contact with chlorine, bleach or other chemicals when you are doing household chores.
Use a mild soapy liquid and a soft cloth to clean your jewelry. Store gold jewelry wrapped in soft cloth to retain its luster for a long time.
A soft white, lustrous metal, silver has been used in jewelry for ages. In its pure form, silver is a lustrous metal, which turns dark easily due to oxidization. However, when the surface is gently cleaned, the silver underneath regains its luster. Like gold, silver in its pure form is malleable, too soft for use in jewelry, giftware or flatware. Alloys are made with pure silver for jewelry purposes. Adding alloys also curbs silver's tendency to tarnish easily.
For purposes of jewelry, the most popular silver alloy is Sterling Silver. Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Sterling Silver is durable, long lasting and does not tarnish easily. The presence of copper in the alloy does not diminish the value of silver. The price of silver is determined by its weight, the labor and skill involved, and the jewelry's design. Sterling silver jewelry is extremely affordable as compared to white gold or platinum.
As with all fine jewelry, each piece of sterling silver should be stored individually, either in its own soft pouch or separately in plastic bags to prevent tarnishing. Store your silver in a cool, dry place preferably wrapped in tarnish-proof cloth or in drawers lined with tarnish-resistant strips. If sterling does become tarnished, it is easily restored to its original luster by using a paste, liquid polish, or a treated polishing cloth intended for use on silver.
Platinum is rare and found in only a few places around the world, including Africa, Russia and the USA.
Pure platinum is harder than pure gold or pure silver, yet is too soft for use in jewelry and must be alloyed with other metals to increase its hardness. Most platinum jewelry comprises 85 to 95% platinum combined with other metals. Platinum's rich, white luster enhances the brilliance of diamonds and therefore it is preferred for engagement rings. Platinum makes for perfect daily wear jewelry as it shows less wear and tear. In fine jewelry, diamonds are sometimes set in platinum prongs irrespective of the metal used in the jewelry because of its durability. It is hypoallergenic and resists tarnish.
When used in jewelry, platinum is either 95% or 90% pure as compared to 18K gold, which is only 75% pure. And because it is pure, it is hypoallergenic.
Platinum jewelry should be cleaned the same way as other fine jewelry. Avoid platinum's contact with chlorine, bleach or other chemicals when you are doing household chores because it can damage jewelry. Use a mild soapy liquid and a soft cloth to clean your jewelry. Store jewelry wrapped in soft cloth to retain its luster for a longer time.
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