Jewelry metal guide - a quick overview

Posted in Jewelry 101 on July 26, 2020

In this jewelry metal guide we cover the most common materials there are compare them in the end. There are many materials to choose from when buying jewelry and making smart consumer choices, this is for your own satisfaction and meeting your expectations. Imagine buying a golden ring just to later discover that it’s not what you like and it’s not as scratch-proof as you thought. This is why gold is often combined with other metal to make it more durable. 

A better example, my own experience, about ten years ago I got a golden ring which I loved at the time but later on, I decided to plate it, only to discover that the plating does not last for long. It cost me a lot and I learned that I need to refresh it from time to time. Hence this jewelry metal guide, to help my fellow jewelers, clients or soon to be clients.

jewelry metals guide showing jewelry in jewelry store

Jewelry metal guide - contents

  1. Platinum
  2. Gold
  3. Silver
  4. Titanium
  5. Stainless steel
  6. Tungsten carbide
  7. Cobalt
  8. Tantalum
  9. Comparison table
  10. Outro

Platinum

Some may believe that gold is the most popular metal choice for jewelry however this is wrong, platinum is the most popular one. It’s actually rarer than gold, in fact, 30x times more. Other than its rarity it has pure color and its strong, this makes it common metal for engagement rings and wedding rings.

Platinum’s natural white color will never fade or change color, which makes it ideal to combine with diamonds. Its natural color can lead to confusion from time to time with white gold, but the platinum is actually whiter than white gold.

For jewelry to be deemed “platinum” it has to contain at least 95% platinum. There are other more affordable choices too, such as 585 platinum which contains 58.5% platinum. Platinum is a strong material, it does not tarnish or wear out, it’s even heatproof. 

Gold

Gold is one of the oldest jewelry metals used, it has extraordinary heritage and multiple great properties. It is the classic material for most jewelry, it is an enduring material, has a yellow color, its resistant to rust, tarnish, and corrosion. 

Measurement unit for gold is karat, not carat which is a diamond weight measurement unit. Purest of gold is 24 karats which means that 24 out of 24 elements are gold. To make gold stronger it’s often combined with other metals alloys. See the table below to understand the karat measurement. 

Gold karat table

KaratsAlloysGold percentage
18675% 
141058.3% 
101441.7% 

Gold can come in different colors as well, the most common one is white gold which is pure gold combined with copper, zinc, and nickel/palladium. Rose gold is created using a large amount of copper with gold, green gold made be mixing copper, silver, zinc, and gold.

When I plated my golden ring it was done by using rhodium, it’s shiny like silver and it strengthens the gold. White gold is more often plated with rhodium but it can be used to transform gold into a white gold look. Sometimes jewelry is combined with gold and white gold which gives the jewelry piece a unique and beautiful look.

Aftercare

Cleaning a gold piece is easy just use warm water and detergent-free soap with a soft cloth. Be aware that prolonged exposure to chlorine or other harsh chemicals can do permanent damage to your gold jewelry.

Silver

Silver has been in use since ancient times as well, their main usage back then was silver coins. It is quite soft and easily damaged, to use it in jewelry, silver is combined with other metals. For silver jewelry to have “925” or “sterling” marking on it, it must be at least 92.5% pure silver, but the other 7.5% can be any metal.

If you’ve bought silver jewelry you know it will tarnish, thus you shouldn’t wear it often. Tarnish happens due to sulfur or hydrogen sulfide which are in the ambient air, silver reacts to those elements, and tarnish will slowly buildup on the surface of the jewelry. You will notice that your jewelry piece will look duller. 

Aftercare

To clean your silver, you should use a piece of soft cloth and specific polish made for removing tarnish. There are even different jewelry cleaning machines. Note that when silver gets too tarnished then it can cause permanent damage.

Titanium

Know for its incredible strength and gray or black color. Titanium is more durable than any other material, it won’t corrode, it’s resistant to dents, and it cant be bent, thus titanium ring cannot be resized. Not only it’s stronger than other jewelry metals it is lighter as well.

Aftercare

To clean titanium use warm water and detergent-free soap along with a soft piece of cloth. Store your titanium jewelry in the soft cloth bag or in the original box. It may be a strong metal but over time it can show signs of wear.

Stainless steel

Due to the chromium mix in steel, we get stainless steel which won’t rust and corrode easily. It is durable because it resists oxidation. 

Aftercare

To clean stainless steel use warm water and detergent-free soap along with a soft piece of cloth. Store your stainless steel jewelry in the soft cloth bag or in the original box. It may be a strong metal but over time it can show signs of wear.

Tungsten carbide

What’s stronger than titanium? The answer is tungsten carbide. It cant be bent, thus it cant be resized. Forged with qualities that will last a lifetime. Tungsten carbide is created by smelting 80% tungsten and 20% carbon.

Aftercare

To clean carbide use warm water and detergent-free soap along with a soft piece of cloth. Tungsten carbide consists of natural elements that make them react to harsh chemicals such as chlorine. Store them in the soft cloth bag or in the original box. It may be a strong metal but over time it can show signs of wear.

Cobalt

Cobalt is harder than platinum and less dense. It’s highly scratch resistant and corrosion-resistant. Cobalt has the same look as white gold which makes it a cost-effective choice. The greatest attribute is its hypoallergenic property, this makes it an ideal choice for people with sensitive skin.

Aftercare

A natural wear pattern can occur if scratched cobalt pieces can be reconditioned.

Tantalum

Another great hypoallergenic choice, tantalum has a blue-grayish color. It has many great characteristics its strong, shatterproof, and malleable. Tantalum is finished with a ceramic glaze which gives it a matte black look and improves its scratch resistance. It does not react to most chemicals and its heat resistant, in fact, it is used extensively in surgical and dental equipment.

Aftercare

Tantalum cleaning is simple, use a soft cloth and wash in warm water if you’d like to use soap use detergent-free. To prevent the elements of daily exposure store your tantalum jewelry in the original box or soft cloth bags. Tantalum can develop natural wear patterns over time even while it’s scratch resistant, and it does not tarnish.

Jewelry metal guide - Comparison table

Whew! That was a lot to cover, now then let’s compare all of the metals that I covered. Having things lined in comparison chart is always a great idea when mankind informed decisions. 

PlatinumGold &SilverTitanium Stainless steelTungsten carbideCobaltTantalum
Range$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
StrengthHighMediumHighVery HighHighestHighVery High
DurabilityVery HighHighHighMediumHighestHighVery High
HypoallergenicYesNoYesYesYesYesYes
TarnishNoYesNoNoNoNoNo

Outro

And this covers our jewelry metal guide, we will update and improve this guide from time to time thus be sure to check back once in a while. Hopefully, you’ll have a better and clearer idea when choosing the right material for your next jewelry.

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