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Jewelry Information on Precious Metals

What is a Precious Metal?
A precious metal is a rare metallic chemical element with a high monetary value. 

Chemically, the precious metals are less reactive than most elements, have high luster, and have higher melting points than other metals. Historically, precious metals were important as currency, but are now regarded mainly as investment and industrial commodities. Gold, silver, platinum and palladium have the ISO 4217 code. 

The best-known precious metals are gold and silver. While both have industrial uses, they are better known for their uses in art, jewelry and coins. Other precious metals include the Platinum group metals: ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, asmium, iridium and platinum. Platinum is the most widely used and traded. Plutonium and uranium could also be considered precious metals. 

Rarity and Market Price
A given metal is precious if it is rare. If mining or refining processes improve, or new supplies are discovered and exploited, the value of such a metal declines.

An interesting case of a precious metal going common is that of  aluminum. Aluminum was, when it was first discovered, extremely difficult to separate from the ore it was part of and, since the whole of the Earth's aluminum was bound up in the form of compounds, the most difficult metal on earth to get, despite the fact that it is one of the planet's most common.

For a while, aluminum was more valuable than gold; bars of aluminum were exhibited alongside the French crown jewels at the Exposition Universelle (1855).  Napoleon is said to have used aluminum plates for his most honored guests at dinner. However, the price dropped continually and collapsed altogether when an easy extraction method, the Hall-Heroult process, was discovered in 1886.

The rarity of various metals may again be in for a shift, however. Meanwhile, silver is in a structural supply deficit, with 300 million troy ounces (9,000,000 kg) more being consumed each year than is mined--it may currently be more rare than gold.

Some of the precious metals currently used for jewelry include Yellow Gold, White Gold, Silver, Titanium, Platinum and Copper.

GOLD - Pure gold is too soft to withstand normal wear and tear put on jewelry.  Gold needs to be combined with other metals to increase its hardness and therefore, durability for use in jewelry.  Karats are the standard measure of how much gold is contained within an article of jewelry. The range of karats is from 1 to 24. 24 Karat is PURE GOLD and is much too pliable and soft to make hard jewelry. Based on this 24 part measurement system, 14 Karat (14K) gold is 14 parts of gold to 10 parts other metals, and 10 Karat gold is 10 parts gold combined with 14 parts other metals. 

18 Karat gold is 18 parts gold, 6 parts other metals - the BEST and FINEST mixture for all fine jewelry.

14 Karat gold is acceptable for fine jewelry and is the most common level of karats for all jewelry.

10 Karat gold is the minimum legal Karat level for gold jewelry sold in the USA.

Please note that KARAT is not the same as CARAT. KARAT measures gold content while CARAT measure the specific weight of diamonds and various gemstones. (I am not sure why they had to make the names so close? :-)


Most gold used in jewelry is alloyed with silver, copper and small amounts of zinc to produce various shades of yellow gold, or with nickel, copper, zinc and rhodium to produce white gold.  The color of these gold alloys goes from yellow to white as the proportion of nickel in them increases.  Alloying gold with copper creates what is known as rose or pink gold.

Since nickel is the most popular alloy used in white gold, it is important to note that some people may be allergic to nickel. People with this sensitivity can avoid problems by choosing 18-Karat gold, instead of 14-Karat (since there is more pure gold and less alloys in 18 Karat gold), or by choosing platinum settings.  (See additional information on Platinum below.)


Yellow Gold - Yellow gold is one of the most popular precious metals. Yellow gold has a higher cost and therefore, higher status than silver. Commonly used for bridal/wedding, engagement and anniversary rings. 


14K Gold Diamond Tennis Bracelet

14kt Yellow Gold Diamond Ring


White Gold - White gold has gained a lot of popularity in the last ten to twenty years. It is now a staple in the jewelry and diamond circuits - from rings to bracelets to earrings - white gold is available and gorgeous.

14kt White Gold Black Pearl and Diamond Ring

1/4 CT. T.W. Princess Cut Certified Diamond Solitaire 18K White Gold Earrings


Silver - Sterling silver

Silver Select Birthstone Ring by ArtCarved (1 Stone, Name or Date)

Sterling Silver Birthstone Family Tree Pendant


Titanium - Mostly men's jewelry at this time....

Titanium 9 mm Mens Link Titanium Bracelet - 8.5 Inch

Men's 1/10 CT. T.W. Titanium and 18K White Gold Diamond Band

Platinum - Understanding the inherent qualities of Platinum will help when shopping for that perfect Platinum jewelry piece.

During the early years of this century, Platinum was considered the precious metal of choice for discriminating jewelry purchasers. When World War II began, Platinum was declared a strategic metal to be used for military purposes only. During the war, white gold gained popularity to fill the gap left by Platinum's absence. Today, Platinum is regaining its popularity as one of the hottest precious metals on the market.


1. Platinum jewelry is 50 times more rare than gold jewelry.

2. Platinum is pure. It is a hypoallergenic precious metal. One can wear it and not have to worry about an allergic reaction on their skin. They can also wear Platinum if they are allergic to nickel (an alloy frequently used in karat gold) without an allergic reaction to the skin.

3. Platinum is a naturally white metal. When Platinum comes out of the ground, it is white. When gold comes out of the ground, it is yellow and must be bleached or dyed white with other metals such as nickel and rhodium in order to create white gold. Platinum will always stay white. It needs no special maintenance over the years to remain that beautiful white color.

4. Platinum is one of the world's strongest metals. It weighs 60% more than karat gold. Just holding it in your hand, you can feel the difference.

5. Platinum is durable. Not only does Platinum feel heavier than gold, prongs are stronger and therefore more securely hold precious stones in place and require less maintenance than karat gold prongs.

6. Look for markings on Platinum jewelry that tell you it is Platinum. Iridplat, 900 Plat or 900 PT are markings that mean that the alloy mix is 10% iridium (a platinum group metal) and 90% pure Platinum. PLAT, 950 Plat or 950 PT are markings that mean a piece of jewelry is 95% pure Platinum and 5% another metal. The other metals are usually ruthenium or iridium (both Platinum group metals).

7. The newest, exciting additional to the jewelry family is Karat Platinum. Simply put, Karat Platinum is made with the same eye toward affordability while maintaining the beauty and luster of Platinum as is 14K gold.  As 14K gold is marked 14K or 585, Karat Platinum is marked 585Pt/415CoCu. The alloys used in creating Karat Platinum (or 14K Platinum), that give it durability and strength while maintaining the luxurious Platinum luster, are typically cobalt and copper.

8. Not everyone can own Platinum jewelry because there simply isn't enough of it in world. For example: all the Platinum ever mined would fit in an average sized living room.


Like all jewelry, you will want to put your platinum jewelry on as the final touch before your begin your day. While platinum is a much harder metal than gold, it can still show scratches.  Therefore, you should not do any household or rough work while wearing platinum. Soaking your platinum jewelry in a mild solution of warm soapy water and gently scrubbing it with a soft brush (makeup brush) is generally all that is required to keep your platinum looking beautiful for years.

If you are shopping for a different look, try Platinum - nature's most precious of metals.


Platinum 1.00 CTW Channel Set Diamond Anniversary Band


Platinum Solitaire Diamond Ring



Copper - 

Copper Medical Alert Cuff Bracelet (1 Line)
Men's Stainless & Copper Chronograph by Croton


Definitions courtesy of: Thanks for this great information!


Premier Jewelry Items  - Some Suggested Precious Metal Jewelry Chains


Gold Figaro Chain

White Gold Curb Chain


Yellow Gold Box Chain


White Gold Round Snake Chain

Yellow Gold Square Wheat Chain

Yellow Gold Railroad Chain


Yellow Gold Fox Chain

White Gold Milano Rope Cut Chain

Gold Two-Tone Squiggle Chain

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Cubic Zirconia Diamonds