Precious Metals Guide
Gold is a precious metal that has been a symbol of wealth since the beginning of time. In its most expensive, pure form of 24 karats, gold is quite soft and malleable. To gain strength and tenacity, gold is commonly combined with other metals, usually with silver and copper in a process called alloying. Although this may decrease the value of the gold slightly, it increases durability and allows gold to be used for long lasting fine jewelry.
An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals.
Karat (abbreviated kt.) is the measurement of gold used to note the purity and fineness of the metal.
TRADEMARKS AND KARAT MARKS
The karat mark and the manufacturer's trademark are required by US federal law, which designate the percentage and quality of gold you are purchasing. The karat mark (22k, 18k or 14k) states the amount of pure gold in the piece. Trademarks are often called Hallmarks; yet often times Hallmarks provide additional information including the manufacturer's name, the country of origin, and the year of production. Both the Trademark and the Hallmark ensure the quality and pureness of the piece as it is noted on the metal.
Many European countries measure gold in parts per thousand. Therefore, a unit of 500 connotes a measurement of 500/1000 parts gold or, one half pure gold. The equivalent measurement unit used in the United States is called karat.
Yellow gold is the result of combining gold in its purest form with silver and copper to create the yellow tinted metal.
Combining gold in its purest form with varying alloys such as zinc, copper, platinum or palladium, and occasionally tin or nickel creates white gold.
Rose gold which has a pink color, can be created by combining gold in its purest form, with an alloy of copper (90%) and silver (10%).
Green gold is more rare, yet sometimes mistaken for yellow gold in hue. It has an alloy of silver, copper and zinc mixed with pure gold.
Twenty-four karat gold is the purest form of gold. In this state, gold has not been combined or alloyed with any other metals. The symbol, "24k," notes its fineness. The European mark is "100" meaning 100 percent gold.
Eighteen-karat gold is three-quarters pure gold with a ratio of 18/24 parts pure gold. Jewelry of this fineness is marked as "18k". The European designation is "750," meaning 75 percent gold.
Fourteen-karat gold is slightly more than one-half pure gold or 14/24. Jewelry of this fineness is marked as "14k". The European designation is "585," meaning 58.5 percent gold.
Karat gold jewelry pieces make up the majority of many fine jewelry collections. Gold comes in many different styles and colors, but the care and cleaning procedure remains the same.
Remove all gold jewelry before showering or cleaning. Soap can cause a film to form on karat gold jewelry, making it appear dull and dingy. By preventing the formation of this film, you immediately reduce the occasions your pieces will need to be cleaned.
To clean your jewelry at home, you'll find many commercial cleaners available. In addition, you will find a soft chamois cloth an effective and inexpensive way to keep your pieces lustrous and shining.
For certain gold jewelry, especially pieces that do not contain colored gemstones, an ultrasonic cleaning machine may be appropriate.
Be careful of chlorine. Chlorine, especially at high temperatures, can permanently damage or discolor your gold jewelry. Do not wear gold jewelry while using chlorine bleach or while in a pool or hot tub.
You can remove tarnish with a jewelry cleaner, or by using soap and water mixed with a few drops of ammonia. Carefully brush with a soft bristle brush. An old toothbrush can also be used. After the brushing, simply rinse with lukewarm water and allow to dry. Karat gold jewelry set with colored gemstones may require special cleaning procedures.
Grease can be removed from karat gold jewelry by dipping the jewelry into plain rubbing alcohol.
Gold care information provided in cooperation with Jewelers of America.
Platinum is one of the most rare and pure precious metals. Used for jewelry, platinum is usually 90-95% pure but can also be alloyed with other metals at 58.5%. It rarely causes allergic reactions and resists tarnishing. Platinum is considerably denser than gold or silver and is extremely strong and durable.
Like 14k gold which is 58.5% pure gold combined with other metals, 585 platinum is a unique alloy of 58.5% pure platinum combined with 41.5% of cobalt and copper. It gives the platinum lover the same look, feel, luster and durability of 950 platinum, but at half the cost. All the hypoallergenic properties of pure platinum are also present in 585 platinum, which makes it the perfect choice for those with sensitive skin.
Platinum jewelry containing at least 95 percent pure platinum is marked "Platinum," "Plat," or "PT." Jewelry marked "950 Plat." or "950 Pt." is made with 95 percent pure platinum, and jewelry marked "850 Plat." or "850 Pt." is 85 percent pure. Jewelry marked "585Pt.415Co.Cu" is 58.5 percent pure platinum and 41.5 percent cobalt and copper.
Platinum is one of the rarest and most durable precious metals. It is resistant to tarnishing and discoloration due to chlorine and other chemicals. These factors, along with its strength and white luster, have made platinum an increasingly popular choice for jewelry, either on its own or as the setting for diamonds and other precious gemstones. However, despite its durability, platinum jewelry needs to be properly cared for.
Platinum jewelry can be cleaned the same way you can other fine jewelry. A professional cleaning every six months will keep your platinum jewelry in great shape.
Store your platinum jewelry separately and with care, not allowing pieces to touch each other because even platinum can be scratched.
Signs of wear such as scratches can eventually appear on platinum. However, due to the metal's durability there is usually little metal loss from the scratch. If visible scratches do appear, have the piece professionally repolished.
If your platinum is set with diamonds or other precious stones, be especially careful, as these materials can be more susceptible to damage. Some fine jewelry pieces combine platinum with karat gold jewelry. Care for these pieces as you would your gold jewelry.
Platinum care information provided in cooperation with Jewelers of America.
Fine Silver is a precious metal that is 999/1000 pure in its natural form and quite soft and malleable. To gain strength and tenacity in order to be useful for jewelry, silver is commonly combined with other metals, such as copper, in a process called alloying.
Sterling Silver is a mixture of 92.5 % pure silver (925 parts) with 7.5 % metal alloy. Sterling Silver is marked as "sterling" or "925."
Silver plating is when a base metal, such as brass, is coated with a layer of pure silver by a bonding process called electroplating.
Vermeil is sterling silver that has been electroplated with at least 100 millionths of an inch of karat gold.
Sterling silver, like other precious metals, can oxidize with time. But properly maintained silver jewelry improves with age and develops a lush patina. Treat your silver well, care for it properly and it will reward you with a long life and a lustrous look.
Clean your silver jewelry with a mild soap and water solution, allowing the water to bead up, and then patting dry with a soft cloth. For more stubborn dirt, use a jewelry cleaner designed for silver use.
Store your silver in a cool, dry place, preferably in a tarnish-preventive bag or wrapped in a soft piece of felt or cloth. Store pieces individually so that they don't knock together and scratch.
Do not rub silver with anything other than a polishing cloth or a fine piece of felt. Tissue paper or paper towels can cause scratches because of the fibers in these products.
Make sure your silver is not exposed to air and light during storage as this can cause silver to tarnish. And don't wear sterling silver in chlorinated water or when working with household chemicals.
Silver care information provided in cooperation with Jewelers of America.
Titanium is one of today's most popular metals used in jewelry. It rarely causes allergic reactions and resists tarnishing. Titanium is extremely strong and durable, but is still very lightweight; commercial grade titanium is just as strong as steel, but is 45% lighter in weight. Today, titanium rings &emdash; including engagement rings and wedding bands &emdash; are one of the fastest growing segments of the titanium jewelry market, in part due to the ability of the metal to be grooved, inlaid, and carved without losing strength
Titanium is one of the most durable metals. It is resistant to tarnishing and discoloration due to chlorine and other chemicals. These factors, along with its strength and rich metallic-white luster, have made titanium an increasingly popular choice for jewelry, either on its own or as the setting for diamonds and other precious gemstones. However, despite its durability, titanium jewelry needs to be properly cared for.
Titanium jewelry is easily cleaned with water and a non abrasive soap or cleaner. Dry completely with a soft cloth.
Store your titanium jewelry separately and with care, not allowing pieces to touch each other because even titanium can be scratched.
Signs of wear such as scratches can eventually appear on titanium. However, due to the metal's durability there is usually little metal loss from the scratch. If visible scratches do appear, have the piece professionally re-polished.
If your titanium is set with diamonds or other precious stones, be especially careful, as these materials can be more susceptible to damage. Some fine jewelry pieces combine titanium with karat gold jewelry. Care for these pieces as you would your gold jewelry.
Titanium care information provided in cooperation with Edward Mirell and Wikipedia.
Tungsten Carbide is made through a sintering process by firing tungsten combined with carbon powder at 6,200 degrees Fahrenheit. It is tough & rugged; in fact, it is the world's hardest metallic substance, nearly ten times harder than 18k gold, making it the hardest metal used in commercial jewelry. Tungsten carbide jewelry is unique in that it is scratch & tarnish resistant and has a forever polished luster, making it a distinctive metal that epitomizes today's man or woman more than any other metal.
Tungsten jewelry is incredibly durable and will typically not scratch, tarnish or need polish. However it is still advisable to remove it when in engaging in any heavy activity such as construction.
Tungsten jewelry can be cleaned with mild cleansers and soft cloth. Dry with a soft cloth.
Tungsten jewelry should be stored separately from other jewelry, particularly diamonds, which can still scratch this metal. If your piece is set with diamonds or other precious stones, be especially careful, as these materials can be more susceptible to damage.