METAL & HALLMARK GUIDE
Choosing the right metal for your piece of jewellery is crucial to the design, feel, finish and price of each piece. With so many metals now on the market it can be a little overwhelming. At Pugata we have several different grades of metal all suited to fit any style of budget.
Often referred to as a hard metal, this can be misleading. Pure platinum is softer than pure gold and it is the other constituents of the alloy that make it hard wearing. The most common 950 (95% pure) alloy is the hardest of the precious metals used in jewellery. What mustn't be forgotten is that even so, it is far softer than other common metals like steel and chrome. Platinum is very durable and takes a fine polish that is resistant to wear. It is naturally a greyish white and is often rhodium plated to make it even whiter. It requires a higher level of craftsmanship and also being rarer than gold, explains why it is worth more.
Many believe, including some jewellers, that the higher the carat of gold the softer the metal (gold is a soft metal). Therefore 9 carat gold, being alloyed with other metals tends to be more resistant to scratching than say 22 carat gold. This is not necessarily the case. Many manufacturers producing 18 carat gold jewellery ensure that, as the jewellery is higher quality, the alloy is harder wearing. This way when you have bought a piece of fine jewellery it will last a long time.
White gold and rhodium plating
Pure gold is yellow in colour but to satisfy the demand for white precious metals ‘white’ gold alloys can be produced by alloying yellow gold with naturally white precious metals such as palladium or silver, or non-precious ‘white’ metals to reduce the yellowness of the resulting alloy. Gold bullion suppliers now sell a range of graded white gold alloys which can be compared against a published scale of “whiteness”. However, white gold is routinely electroplated with Rhodium, a precious white metal which imparts a bright white finish. Depending on the level of wear, this finish wears off and white gold thus requires more care and maintenance to keep it bright.
If the underlying white gold is a yellower grade then it will start to show through as the rhodium wears. Consumers should bear in mind that their white gold jewellery may require re-plating at variable intervals depending on the amount of wear and the thickness of rhodium plating which can be applied to the jewellery. Some designs, particularly those with sharp edges and corners, may only be suitable for a thin plating of rhodium.
Red and other colours of gold
Red or rose gold is created by increasing the amount of copper in the alloy. Introducing other metals (or removing them completely) can make other colours of gold, including unusual tones such as green and blue but these are not generally available.
Durability of gold
Many people believe that due to its higher purity and the inherent relative softness of the pure metal, that 18ct gold is less durable than 9ct alloys. In fact, with modern alloy technology, there is little to support this belief. Today’s 18ct alloys are equally as durable as their 9ct equivalents and offer the additional benefits of tarnish and corrosion resistance, to say nothing of appealing to the consumer’s desire for a more pure and natural product.
Another precious metal which is being increasingly used by UK jewellery companies is palladium. Palladium, a platinum group metal, is normally used at a fineness of 950, or 95% pure. It is strong and durable, but has approximately half the density of platinum and weighs around a third less than gold. Being light means it lends itself well to the creation of larger, more dramatic designer items that are currently fashionable, especially earrings, cufflinks, necklace, bracelets and bangles where weight is important. Palladium is a very bright almost blue ‘white’ and unlike 18ct white gold alloys does not need to be rhodium plated. It wears in much the same way as platinum does and can be highly polished or presented in a matt finish.