What are the different metal types used in jewelry?
Platinum | An array of properties make platinum one of the most valuable precious metals in jewelry craft. It is the hardest precious metal used in jewelry, and the scratches that do occur over time blend together to form a patina that is cherished by its wearer. It is generally alloyed with only 5% of another white metal (usually ruthenium) to make it more malleable. Unlike sterling silver, platinum does not have a black tarnish. Nor will it have hues of any other color, like white gold.
Palladium | Belonging to the same elemental family, palladium exhibits properties very similar to platinum. It is very rare, and therefore also very expensive. Like platinum, its patina is a desirable attribute. As palladium ages, it maintains a silver-steel shine with no non-white tarnish or hues. Although more malleable than platinum, it is still alloyed with 5% ruthenium to make it more easily crafted.
Gold | Considered the most traditional metal used in wedding and engagement rings, gold typically comes in three alloys: yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold.
Yellow Gold: The standard composition of yellow gold is gold, copper, and silver. Since gold is extremely malleable in its pure form, copper is added for structural integrity. Silver is added to balance the color of copper. And all three elements blend together to give yellow gold its unmistakably warm glow.
White Gold: The alloy known as white gold can be achieved by various combinations of pure gold and white metals (such as silver, zinc, palladium, and platinum). When combined with gold, the white metals act as bleaching agents, and result in a white alloy with ever-so-subtle hues of yellow, rose, or tan. For an added level of protection and radiance, it is common practice to plate white gold jewelry with a layer of rhodium. Over time, however, the rhodium plating will wear off, along with its ephemeral shine, only to reveal the inner beauty of the white gold ring itself, with its own sublime hue.
Rose Gold: Originally popular in Russia at the beginning of the 19th century, rose gold is making a comeback. A result of combining gold and copper, this alloy can be produced in a range of reddish hues. Its signature pink tone adds a particularly dainty and feminine effect to any piece of jewelry.
Gold-Filled | Due to its appealing durability and cost, gold-filled jewelry has seen a renewed popularity in recent years. Gold-filled jewelry consists of a hard metal core overlaid with a thick layer of 14K gold (20% of the total weight of the piece). For this reason, it will maintain its beauty typically for 10-20 years, sometimes even longer. Yet since the core of gold-filled jewelry is not pure gold, it is also possible to maintain a much lower price. However, the inability to craft gold-filled jewelry in particularly significant detail limits the design options.
Sterling Silver | Considered a precious metal, sterling silver is an alloy composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% base metal, such as copper. The base metal lends rigid structure to the precious silver. When polished regularly (typically about once a week) and properly cared for, sterling silver will maintain a shine similar to white gold. At the same time, the cost of sterling silver is much lower than the cost of gold, which also makes it a more affordable option.
Gold Plating | By electroplating a thin layer of gold over a metal core, gold-plated jewelry offers its wearer a fine jewelry appearance at the lowest possible price. With proper care, the longevity of the gold plating will range from about 6 to 18 months.
Rhodium Plating | Rhodium is a member of the platinum family. Because of its durability and highly reflective quality, rhodium is often plated over jewelry as an extremely thin and shiny protective layer. Rhodium plating typically lasts 2-6 months until it begins to wear off.
Titanium | Much stronger than platinum, titanium is one of the hardest metals used in jewelry craft. It is hypoallergenic, highly resistant to corrosion, and has a silver-gray color (though it can also be produced in black). In its basic form, it is considerably less expensive than the precious metals, even silver. It often costs more, however, due to the difficulty involved in crafting it into a piece of jewelry. The hardness of titanium prevents it from being rolled or soldered like precious metals. Rather, like stainless steel, it is machined, engraved, and/or inlayed. Since the resulting form is less detailed and more bold, titanium is most commonly used to produce men’s rings.
Tungsten Carbide | Though it is the hardest material used in jewelry craft, tungsten carbide is also somewhat brittle. Tungsten Carbide is a chemical compound of the tungsten (a metal) and carbon. It is different from an alloy, which is a blending of two or more metals. Tungsten carbide generally exhibits a gunmetal gray color, similar to titanium. It can also be produced in black, like titanium, or white, like stainless steel. And like titanium and stainless steel, tungsten carbide is crafted in simpler, bolder shapes, making it an increasingly popular choice for men’s rings.
Stainless Steel | One of the most affordable and durable metals used in jewelry craft is stainless steel. Though only surgical-grade stainless steel is hypoallergenic, all stainless steel is antibacterial and will rarely cause an allergic reaction. Due to its hardness, stainless steel is only crafted by machining and engraving, resulting in its signature bold designs used in both men’s and women’s jewelry.