Gold is the world's most coveted metal. It has been used for jewelry for thousands of years. Because of it's excellent malleability and alluring glow, it remains the most popular metal for jewelry.
Pure gold is called "24 karat," meaning that 24 out of 24 parts are gold. 24 karat gold is rarely used for jewelry because it is too soft and easily damaged. Alloys such as copper and nickel are added to harden and increase the durability of gold. This lowers the purity of the gold, creating 18 karat, 14 karat, and 10 karat gold.
24k 24 / 24 100% gold
18k 18 / 24 75.0% gold
14k 14 / 24 58.5% gold
10k 10 / 24 41.7% gold
Gold's natural color is the rich yellow it is known for. It's color can be changed depending on the alloys that it is mixed with.
Yellow Gold - The color of yellow gold is affected by its karat. The higher the percent of pure gold, the richer the color will be. Copper and silver are the metals added to gold to maintain a yellow color.
White Gold - White gold is created by mixing gold with white colored metals such as palladium or nickel. Even with white metals added, white gold still has a slight yellowish tint. To achieve a bright white appearance, white gold jewelry is often plated with rhodium (a bright white metal of the platinum family). The rhodium plating can eventually wear away, allowing the off-white color to become visible. If this happens, the jewelry can be re-plated with rhodium.
Platinum is a white metal that is rarer than gold. It is the most durable of the precious metals. Compared to gold, platinum requires very little alloy to make jewelry. Most platinum jewelry is 90-95% pure platinum. Platinum does not need additives or rhodium plating to enhance the color, since it is naturally white. Platinum is a heavy metal and is significantly more expensive than gold. Due to platinum's strength and color, it is a perfect choice for setting diamonds.
Silver is the brightest and whitest of the precious metals due its reflectiveness. Silver is the most abundant precious metal, which makes is much less costly. Silver is most commonly alloyed with 7.5% copper for durability. This ratio is known as Sterling Silver. Sterling silver is usually marked "925" meaning 92.5% pure silver. Silver naturally darkens or tarnishs as it is exposed to air, and requires polishing with a cloth or solution to maintain it's beautiful luster.
Alternative metals offer a variety of color and finishes. They have several advantages and cost a fraction of the price of precious metals. These metals are increasing in popularity, especially in men's rings.
Titanium - Titanium has the strength of steel, but with a weight comparable to aluminum. It is extremely comfortable to wear because it is so light weight. Titanium jewelry will last a lifetime with very little maintenance. It is a great option for those who have active lifestyles, because there is no worry of wear and tear as there would be with gold or platinum. Titanium can be polished but not sized.
Tungsten - Tungsten is the hardest metal in the world - four times harder than titanium. Tungsten is extremely durable. It will not bend, it is very scratch resistant, and it holds a permanent polish. Because of its hardness, tungsten cannot be sized.