Precious Metals Education
Whether you choose gold, silver, or platinum jewelry, you’ll be happiest with your selection if you make an informed decision—one based on a solid understanding of the metals and their characteristics.
Color and karats are the two characteristics to consider when buying gold.
Color is determined by the type of and percentage of metal alloy that is combined with gold. Because pure gold is so soft and malleable, it is typically alloyed with other metals to strengthen it.
- Yellow Gold is alloyed with copper and silver. It has a warm tone that complements any skin tone or gemstone color.
- White Gold, created by alloying gold with a white metal such as palladium or nickel, is an especially striking choice for a diamond setting.
- Rose Gold has a lovely pink tone that results from being alloyed with a relatively large amount of copper.
Karats indicate the relative purity of gold, i.e., how much of the metal is gold and how much is alloy. Karats are measured in 24ths; therefore, 24k gold is pure gold.
- 18k Gold is 75% gold, giving it a more intense yellow color than lower-karat gold.
- 14k Gold is 58.3% gold, making it stronger but less rich in color than 18k gold. It’s especially good for hardware such as clasps and fasteners, where strength is more important than appearance.
- 10k is the lowest level of gold purity sold in the United States; below that, it cannot be sold as gold jewelry.
Bailey Banks & Biddle only carries gold jewelry crafted in 14K or 18K purity.
Silver is typically characterized by its purity. When buying silver, look for a ‘quality’ mark that designates the piece’s precious metal content.
- Pure Silver, or fine silver, is so soft and easily damaged that it is rarely used for jewelry. However, it can be appropriate for designs with extreme detail that require very malleable metal to execute.
- Silver Alloys combine pure silver with other metals to add durability and strength. Sterling silver, which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, is the alloy standard for high-quality silver jewelry.
Platinum & Palladium
Platinum and its derivative palladium are more rare than gold, and prized for their extreme durability. Consider their color, purity, strength, and cost when making a buying decision.
- Color Platinum and palladium are both naturally a brilliant pure white. They will remain white and untarnished over time; however, they may acquire a soft patina from everyday wear. Some people enjoy this look; others prefer occasional professional repolishing to restore the original sheen.
- Purity Pure platinum and palladium are both 95% pure. Unlike gold, they do not need to be alloyed with significant amounts of other metals to attain sufficient durability for daily use.
- Strength Platinum and palladium are among the strongest of metals. However, palladium is 10% stronger than platinum, which allows it to be worn for a longer period of time before showing any signs of wear.
- Cost Because platinum is so rare, it is much more expensive than gold or silver. Palladium, however, is less costly than platinum, because there is little industrial demand for it.