Explaining Precious Metals
What are the differences when it comes to precious metals? Which precious metal should you choose? Which is better, gold or platinum? Our guide should help you decide on which metal works best for you.
Gold, beauty, and power have always gone together. Gold in ancient times was made into plates, cups, vases and vessels of all kinds, and of course, jewellery for personal adornment.
Gold is a dense and soft metal with a rich, lustrous, bright yellow colour. In it’s purest form it is too soft for everyday wear, so it is alloyed with a mixture of metals such as silver, copper and zinc to give it strength and durability.
The higher the proportion of gold used in the final metal, the more valuable and expensive the metal will be. For example, an 18ct ring will be more expensive than a 14ct ring and a 14ct ring will be more expensive than a 9ct ring. Below is a table of gold carats and their percentages of pure gold.
- 9ct gold contains 37.5% pure gold
- 14ct gold contains 58.5% pure gold
- 18ct gold contains 75% pure gold
- 24ct gold contains 100% pure gold
All gold starts out yellow, before being mixed with other alloys to alter it’s tone (as with rose and green gold). Traditionally nickel was added to white gold but nickel is no longer used today as it can cause skin reactions. Other alloys used to make the gold ‘white‘ include, platinum, palladium, silver and manganese.
White gold as it is, is actually a light gray/yellowish colour so it is coated in rhodium to make it appear whiter. It is common practice to rhodium plate all white gold jewellery.
Rhodium is in the same family as platinum and shares many of the same properties, including its colour. It’s a very white metal and is very hard, although it does wear with time. How long the rhodium plating lasts depends on the thickness of the plating, the conditions under which it was applied and the general day to day wear of the item.
Platinum is the rarest and the heaviest of all the precious metals. A ring made in platinum would be much heavier than the same ring in gold, as it is a much denser element. Unlike gold and silver, there are no large above-ground platinum bullion stockpiles to protect against significant supply disruptions. Yearly, only about 133 tons of Platinum are mined, compared to about 1,782 tons of Gold. Platinum is the finest precious metal used in jewellery making. There is very little platinum on this earth and it’s found in very few places around the world. The rarity of platinum means that its price is invariably higher than gold.
What are the differences between White Gold and Platinum?
Platinum is naturally white, whereas white gold has to be rhodium plated to make it whiter (white gold is naturally a light grey/yellowish colour)
Platinum is approximately 40% heavier than gold
Platinum is 30 times rarer than gold, so its price is invariably that much higher
Platinum is generally 95% pure platinum, compared with gold which is 75% pure gold.
Platinum is harder wearing than gold due to its density and weight. It does scratch like all other precious metals, but a scratch is merely a displacement of metal and none of its volume is lost
If white gold has been rhodium plated, the colour difference between white gold and platinum is not noticeable. The two will look almost identical when new, however the rhodium plating will wear off over time leaving the metal looking slightly yellow in colour.
Palladium has been used in jewellery since 1939 and is quickly becoming the most popular metal used for wedding rings in the UK. Palladium has an almost identical appearance to platinum, is tarnish resistant and easy to maintain.
It is in the same family as platinum and rhodium, which means it possesses the same brilliant white elegance.
The main difference between palladium and platinum, is that palladium is much less dense.This results in it being much lighter in weight and therefore less expensive per gram than platinum.
Silver is a beautiful metal with a brilliant white lustre which has been used in jewellery making for centuries. In ancient Egypt and Medieval Europe, silver was often more valuable than gold.
Silver has very similar working to gold but can achieve the most brilliant polish of any metal. Pure silver is often alloyed with small quantities of copper to make it durable for jewellery purposes. In many countries, Sterling Silver (92.5% silver, 7.5% copper) is the standard for Jewellery and has been since the 14th century.
Silver is approximately 17 times more abundant than gold, which, as we all know, is indicated in it’s value and price.
Here at Nude Jewellery we specialise in bespoke jewellery service, so if you're looking for a piece of jewellery for a special occasion, an engagement ring or wedding rings, take a look at our bespoke jewellery page or our engagement rings page, or simply get in touch. [email protected]
(this page was orignainlly published on 14th Nov 2013 and updated on the 30th Dec 2018)