When we think of jewelry, the first image that comes to mind is a shimmering gold ring with a sparkling diamond or a classy gold necklace or earrings studded with precious stones or diamonds. Gold seems to be a prominent metal in all jewelry items across cultures and countries. However, not all jewelry items are made of gold. There are several other metals and metal alloys that go into the making of jewelry as well.
Ever since humans learnt how to forge metals, they have been using different metals to make jewelry items. At different times iron, copper, brass, silver, gold and more recently, platinum have been in vogue for creating jewelry.
Interesting Trivia: The purest form of gold that has been achieved till date is 999.999, refined in 1957 by the Perth Mint. This is higher than the normally accepted purity standard of 24K gold, which is actually 999.
The three metals that are mainly used in precious jewelry today are silver, gold and platinum. As we go from Silver to Gold and from Gold to Platinum, their value increases due to their rarity.
Among these, silver, which has been around for more than 5000 years, is the most abundant, and also perhaps, the most widely used. In its purest form, this white metal is marked to be at 999 purity. However, the best jewelry in silver is usually considered to be in Sterling Silver, or 92.5 purity. This effectively means that there is 92.5 percent of silver in the jewelry, while the remaining 7.5 percent is other alloy added to increase the durability and hardness of silver.
Similar to silver, different metals such as copper or palladium are commonly added to gold to create rose or white gold. Copper tends to give gold a slightly reddish tinge. Silver and palladium are also used for making white gold jewelry. Silver is mainly in the form of Sterling Silver or 92.5 when casted into jewelry. However, gold is used in more than one purity percentage for making of jewelry as it is far more precious than silver.
Here are some of the most commonly used purity levels:
- 22 K or 916 gold – This is a combination of 91.7% gold and 8.3% other alloys. It is mainly used for making jewelry without any diamonds or stones.
- 18 K or 750 gold – When the mixture contains 75% gold and 25% other metals, the alloy is called 18 K gold. It is the most commonly used purity for making gold jewelry
- 14 K or 585 gold – A comparatively harder form of gold, ideal for studding of diamonds and precious stones. It has 58.5% gold and 41.5% other alloy metals.
- 12 K or 500 gold – A 50% – 50% ratio of gold and other metals. The natural yellow hue of gold is highly subdued in this combinations.
- 10 K or 417 gold – Generally considered the lowest purity of gold. It has only 41.7% gold, with 58.3% of alloy metals making up the rest. It is generally used for non-jewelry applications such as artificial teeth.
The best way to assess the purity of gold is to look for the “hallmark” on the gold bar or a jewelry item made with gold. For every karat purity level listed above, the gold would be marked accordingly.
Although solid gold jewelry and gold plated jewelry look almost identical in terms of their appearance, there is a significant difference both in their price and value. The gold plating usually utilizes a liquid form of gold to create a thin layer of gold on a piece of jewelry made of any other metal to give the jewelry item the look of gold. Once again, it is 18 K gold plating that is most commonly used.
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