There are several different metals used in jewelry today. From the shiny and soft natural metals like gold to the extremely hard Tungsten Carbide compound, there is a metal suitable for every person’s jewelry needs.
When you think of jewelry, the first thing that pops into most people’s mind is gold. Gold is a very traditional precious metal that has been used in jewelry for centuries. Gold is suitable for both men’s and women’s jewelry, and comes in a variety of karats and colors. Gold is one of the softest precious metals and pure gold is not suitable for jewelry. The gold is mixed with a variety of other metals that can change the luster, strength, and color. Here are a few examples of different types of gold used in jewelry:
- Karats: You can usually find gold jewelry with the following level of karats: 24, 18, 14, and 9. 24K is the highest amount of gold available in jewelry. This will be susceptible to scratches but is also easy for a jeweler to adjust or repair. 18K gold contains approximately 75% pure gold.
- Yellow Gold is the standard color but since pure gold cannot be used, metals such as copper and zinc must be used to keep the yellow color.
- White Gold is an alloy of gold mixed with white metals such as silver, palladium, and nickel. Most white gold jewelry has rhodium plating on it that gives it the white color you see. The rhodium is very hard but does wear off and must be re-applied every 12 to 18 months.
- Rose Gold is used for specialized jewelry and is given the “rose” or reddish color by mixing gold with different amounts of copper. A common mix for rose gold is 75% gold and 25% copper.
Recently, the most popular metal for jewelry has become platinum. It is a rare and heavier metal that does not lose its color over time like white gold. The weightier feeling also portrays a higher level of quality. Jewelry uses almost pure platinum (95%), making it much heavier, more durable, and very white in color. Platinum is seen as a metal for the rich and famous because of what it costs. You should expect to pay double what you would pay for gold.
Titanium is the hardest natural metal in the world making it very strong and scratch resistant. It also is more dent-resistant than gold, silver, or platinum. The metal is hypo-allergenic, so it is a good choice for someone shopping for jewelry that has allergies to gold, silver, or the metal that is mixed with them. This is a great metal to choose if it is for a person in constant risk of scratching their ring or in swimming pools all of the time. Unfortunately, if an emergency occurs it is very difficult to cut a titanium ring off of a finger, but it can be done. The metal is still very expensive because of the processes required to make the jewelry, but it is a great value because it will outlast all other jewelry.
A less expensive white metal is sterling silver. Silver is very soft and more prone to oxidization, so wearing it on a daily basis or in humid climates will put a lot of wear and tear on your jewelry. Silver is very easy to clean and bring back to its original luster. Sterling silver is comprised of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper to add density and strength. Silver is not recommended for wedding bands, but is great for jewelry you wear on special occasions.
By far the hardest metal available in jewelry is a compound of Tungsten and Carbon, called Tungsten Carbide. If you are shopping for Tungsten jewelry, be sure that it is not a scam and is in fact “Tungsten Carbide”. This is the most scratch resistant metal on the list and the only thing likely to scratch it is a diamond. The Tungsten has a charcoal grey color to it which is very popular among men for wedding bands. The ring will likely outlast any jewelry you purchase, and will keep its luster without any repairs. This is a perfect metal for an outdoorsman who would frequently damage softer metals like gold or platinum. A Tungsten ring cannot be resized or cut off your finger in case of an emergency, so be sure to take that into consideration when you make your purchase.
Stainless steel is another relatively hard and durable metal resistant to damage and oxidization, although it is not often used in fine jewelry. The appearance is similar to silver but not nearly as easily damaged which is why it is becoming more popular in dress jewelry for men such as bracelets, necklaces, and dress rings. Lacking luster and having a more metallic look is usually why the metal is used for men’s jewelry. 316L is the most common stainless steel used for jewelry because it can be re-finished by all jewelers and will not oxidize or turn black.