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Guide to Choosing Jewellery

Gold, silver & other metals commonly used in jewellery

Gold is a very popular choice for all forms of jewellery. The two things to consider with gold are the carat and colour. Gold is mixed with other metals to make it more hardy, which is especially important in jewellery that is worn everyday. This gives you the carat, or amount of pure gold in the final product. The higher the amount of gold, the more valuable the item will be but a lower amount will allow a good appearance without as much risk of denting or scratching the jewellery. 9 carat (ct or K) gold is 37.5% pure gold, 14ct is 58.8% pure and 18ct is 75% pure. Anything higher than this is usually considered unsuitable for rings as it is too soft and prone to marking or being bent out of shape. When people think of gold, they most commonly think of yellow gold but gold may also be white or rose in colour. Some items of jewellery combine two or three different gold types in their pattern.

Silver is a softer and less expensive metal than gold jewellery but is still a very popular choice. It is not recommended for items worn everyday (such as wedding rings), but because it is less expensive can be popular for larger items. Silver can take on a black appearance over time, which is caused by oxidisation but can easily be cleaned by a jeweller or at home with a silver cleaning product.

Platinum is a white metal and in jewellery is used in almost totally pure form (about 95%). It is heavier and more durable than gold. It is more expensive than gold and is therefore used less often but is a very good choice for items that are worn all the time.

Titanium is much stronger than platinum (and even steel) but it is very lightweight. Pure titanium is hypoallergenic, so will not cause a reaction when in contact with skin. In its natural state, titanium is silver-grey in colour but many jewellers can create a coloured appearance on the surface. This is not a coating but a process that changes the surface colour of the titanium itself. The downside of titanium is that because it is so hard, rings cannot be resized (although they can still be engraved).

Palladium is very similar in properties and cost to Platinum and is another popular choice for rings.

Tungsten (tungsten carbide) is a very hard silver-white metal that is quite heavy. Although not as hard as titanium, it is far more scratch resistant than any other metal used in jewellery. It is currently normally only used for men’s rings and is an excellent choice of wedding ring for men who do a lot of manual work or work with machines that could dent or scratch other metals. It doesn’t need to be polished to maintain its appearance, as all other metal rings eventually do. Like titanium, however, it cannot be cut and soldered, so rings cannot be resized.

Stainless steel has a pleasant silver colour and is far less expensive than other jewellery metals. It is relatively hard-wearing. For these reasons, it is a popular choice for men’s bracelets and necklaces. Many earrings have stainless steel posts but the decorative part will be made of another material. Some stainless steel pendants are available, again because of their silver appearance and lower cost.

Do keep in mind when buying jewellery made from precious metals that a large percentage of the overall cost will be for the design and workmanship, rather than the value by weight of the materials used.

We hope you've found this guide useful.

Be sure to check out our other jewellery guides for more information.