Silver, Gold, Platinum... What's the Difference?

What metal should you choose for your jewelry and why?

The answer will depend on what type of jewelry and the kind of wear it will get. Sterling silver is perfectly fine for occasional wear, as long as it is stored and cleaned correctly to prevent tarnish. For a piece you will wear daily, especially if it will take a lot of contact like a ring or bracelet, ideally you should choose gold or platinum.

Before we talk about why, though, let's look at what the differences are between all of these metals.

sterling silver casting grain

Silver is a soft, white-colored metal. Though it can be used at 99% pure, it is more often found in jewelry as 925 sterling silver. This means that it is an alloy of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, most commonly copper. Since copper is soft too, sterling needs to be thicker than other metals to resist bending, though this quality can make it good for things like cuff or bangle bracelets, that may need to bend a little bit.

Silver is typically stamped 925 and/or STERLING.

gold colors rose white yellow

Pure gold, or 24k, is a very soft and ductile metal with a bright yellow color. It's so malleable, it can be hammered or rolled out into paper thin sheets called leaf. This does mean that it's not good for jewelry as-is, though, so it is alloyed with other metals. The karat of gold is a measurement of purity, so for example 22k (meaning 22 out of 24 parts) is 91.7% pure gold and 8.3% alloyed metals. This is a common karat for bridal jewelry in the Eastern hemisphere, but not a good idea for frequent wear. A more common alloy in the Western world is 18k, though 14k is more typically seen in the U.S. 18k is 75% pure, and 14k is 58.5% pure. One can also find 10k in some places including the U.S., which is 41.7% pure. At 18k and lower, the color of the metal can be changed by altering the content of the alloyed metals, allowing for white or rose gold, as well as other shades of yellow.

Because gold is soft and the alloys are harder, the lower the karat, the harder the metal gets. 10k and 14k white gold used to contain a lot of nickel, which is quite hard and bright white, but now the nickel content is typically lower as it is a relatively common allergen. This is compensated for by plating white gold jewelry in rhodium, a relative of platinum that is very bright white.

Gold is stamped to indicate the purity either by carat or percentage, so 14k for example will either be stamped "14k" or "14KT" or "585".

platinum crystals, pure platinum

Platinum enjoyed a boom of popularity in the early part of the 20th century. It is a dense but ductile grayish-white metal and lends itself well to very delicate-looking filigree. Platinum is also hypoallergenic, even in its alloyed form. It is commonly alloyed at either 95% or 90% pure with cobalt, ruthenium, or iridium. The metal has a luxurious feel due to its weight and polishes to a fairly white sheen, though it patinas overtime to a softer gray. This patina can be very desirable as it gives an heirloom feel. Platinum also tends to require less frequent repairs than gold.

Platinum's lesser-known and less-expensive cousin palladium is sometimes used in jewelry. It is a bit more brittle and slightly lighter, but has a very similar color. As such, it can be alloyed into white gold, though it is more of a specialty metal than common practice.

Platinum is stamped a number of ways, either "950" or "900" for purity, or simply "Plat" or "Pt".

diamond wedding set

For most jewelry, you should go with what you like and can afford. And this applies to your engagement and/or wedding ring, if you choose to wear them, but here are some important things to consider:

Silver is very soft and may not hold up as well as you like to daily wear, especially if you do anything much with your hands. But it is relatively inexpensive, so it can be easily repaired or replaced as necessary.

Gold is pretty good for daily wear, though you should keep it out of chlorine or related chemicals, which includes the pool or hot tub. Rose gold is softer than yellow or white, so if you want a rose gold solitaire, it would be wise to have the main stone in a white gold or platinum head for durability. 18k or 14k should hold up well with annual checks by your jeweler, and 10k is particularly good for wedding bands that will be worn during heavy lifting or hard work.

Platinum is wonderfully durable and wearable, though a bit more expensive compared to karat gold. It requires less frequent maintenance though you should always have your fine jewelry checked regularly.

Most of our designs can be made in your choice of metal upon request.

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