Know Your Metals
Mind Your Metals
Just as important as the gems in your piece of jewelry is the metal used to create it. Every beautiful type of precious metal has its own characteristics, including its durability, price, and the care required to maintain it. We’ve included some important information about the precious metals we use in our jewelry, but before you choose your jewelry, speak with one of the experts at W.R. Chance to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
“Pure” gold – gold not mixed with other metals to increase its hardness – is called 24 karat (24K) gold.
The karat quality marking tells you what proportion of gold is mixed with the other (alloy) metals. For example, 14 karat (14K) jewelry contains 14 parts of gold, mixed with 10 parts of an alloy metal. To make white gold, yellow gold is plated with a silvery-white alloy such as nickel or rhodium. If not re-plated, white gold can lose its silvery appearance.
A popular choice for engagement and bridal rings, platinum is naturally white, more durable, and heavier than gold. Like gold, platinum is mixed with other metals. However, the quality markings for platinum are based on parts per thousand. For example, the marking “900 Platinum” means that 900 parts out of 1000 are pure platinum, or in other words, the item is 90% platinum and 10% other metals. Due to its purity and the fact that it is often alloyed with iridium, platinum is also hypoallergenic. The abbreviations for platinum — Plat. or Pt. — also can be used in marking jewelry.
Palladium is another naturally white precious metal. Though it is less widely known than gold or platinum, designers have been using it to make jewelry since 1939. Palladium is from the same family of precious metals as platinum and shares its strength, but is lighter in weight. Those allergic to some other metals appreciate palladium’s purity. It does not have to be mixed with nickel (which can cause allergic reactions) to appear white.
“Silver” or “sterling silver” describes a product that contains 92.5% silver – marked accordingly with the numbers “925.” When an item is referred to as “silver plated,” it features a layer of silver that is bonded to a base metal. The designation of “coin silver” is used for compounds that contain 90% silver.
Damascus steel was a type of steel used in Middle Eastern swordmaking. “Modern Damascus” – the kind used by today’s metalsmiths – is created from several types of steel and iron slices welded together. Damascus steel has a beautiful, distinct appearance that is becoming increasingly popular in its use in jewelry. The Damascus steel jewelry sold at W.R. Chance is stainless Damascus steel. This metal is extremely durable and corrosion resistant. No special care is needed for “naked steel” pieces (i.e. jewelry composed strictly of Damascus steel); however, pieces incorporating gold should be treated with the same care as you’d treat gold jewelry.