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Jewelry Gift Guide: Know Your Metals

Gift Guide All About Jewelry Metals and How to Choose the Right OneIt’s easy to immediately gravitate to the prettiest gemstones, intricate ring settings and necklaces that catch the light just right, but when shopping for jewelry gifts, paying attention to the metals used to make a piece can help you choose valuable, unique, long-lasting, and in some cases, low-maintenance jewelry pieces to fit the personality and habits of a gift recipient. Below is our gift guide for navigating the different metals used to make jewelry:

Gold

One of the most popular metals used to make rings, necklaces and bracelets is the alluring and ever-so-versatile gold option – the most classic setting for most jewelry. Why? For one thing, it’s pretty good at retaining its attractive luster. Additionally, the material is used to create jewelry that fall within a wide range of styles, shapes, and price points.

Different Jewelry made from 12K 14K 18K Gold

The standard measurement for gold is the karat, which is divided into 24 increments to identify the amount of gold used to make jewelry. Therefore, 14K gold is 14 parts gold and 10 parts other alloys. There’s a trade-off to note. Gold with a higher ‘K’ is more pure and expensive, yet the more affordable pieces, such as 10K gold jewelry, are more durable.

Various shades and strengths of gold are achieved when using certain alloys. For example, yellow gold contains copper and silver; pink gold is made with large amounts of copper; and white gold combines pure gold with copper, zinc and nickel (or palladium).

For a lovely two-tone look, consider buying a piece where white and yellow gold have been paired, like the Love Knot Yellow Gold and White Gold Bracelet from Blue Nile shown below.

Love Knot Yellow Gold and White Gold Bracelet from Blue Nile

When shopping for the environmentally conscious, consider eco-gold,’ which either comes from recycled old jewelry (or scrap from jewelry manufacturers), or was sourced by mining companies that follow stricter-than-normal safety and environmental standards.

Shown above are the 12K Gold Filled Stack Ring Set sold by Forkwhisperer; 14K Half Ball Earrings from Kay Jewelers; and the Byzantine Bracelet in 18K Yellow Gold from Blue Nile.

Maintenance Level: Gentle care is needed for gold jewelry, as it’s susceptible to developing an unattractive film due to our everyday activities, such as washing our hair or cleaning the house. To bring back its shine, dip gold jewelry in a solution made from a couple drops of ammonia, mild detergent and warm water. To remove grease and body oil from gold pieces, use rubbing alcohol. Also, it’s a good idea to take off your gold jewelry before hitting a swimming pool, as chlorine has a habit of weakening the metal, which increases its chances of breaking.

Platinum

Platinum Ring from ZalesConsidered the most precious of all jewelry metals, platinum is rare (five times rarer than gold), strong, and valued for its level of purity. With an eye-catching elegance, it’s a true winner in the wedding or anniversary ring department. A platinum ring is more durable than gold, as well as heavier. When you lift a jewelry piece, it feels more substantial. The material’s high density also means that more platinum must be used to create jewelry pieces.

And, because of all of the above, platinum jewelry also costs much more than 18K gold.

Additional advantages to purchasing platinum are: (1) it doesn’t expand or distort when exposed to heat, (2) it never tarnishes, and (3) it’s a hypoallergenic metal. Also, because it is heavier than most metals, platinum creates one of the most secure settings for diamonds.

White Gold verses Platinum: White gold is sometimes mistaken for platinum because of similarities in color. However, platinum is stronger, and also actually whiter than white gold. Why? White gold originally comes from yellow gold, and platinum is already white.

Maintenance Level: Although platinum is a strong metal, jewelry made from it is susceptible to scratches. It is suggested to get your platinum buffed every six months. Jewelry cleaner (or mild soap and water) can help remove pesky build-up.

Palladium

Palladium Rings from Palladium Ring CoPalladium is a member of the platinum family of metals, and is often used as a substitute for platinum. The metal shines brilliantly, as it is also whiter in color than platinum and white gold. Sometimes, palladium is alloyed with gold to create high-quality white gold jewelry.

This hypoallergenic metal is light in weight, slightly softer than platinum, and more cost efficient. On average, you’ll find a pair of palladium wedding rings priced one thousand dollars less than ones made from platinum. Because of this, the metal makes an appealing option for engaged couples on a tighter budget.

Maintenance Level: To avoid scratches, store palladium pieces in a jewelry box or chamois bag. Periodic cleaning of the jewelry using a designated cleaner is suggested. You can also soak in a mild solution of soap and warm water, followed by a gentle rub with a soft cloth. It is also suggested to remove palladium pieces when doing manual work.

Sterling Silver

Catching the light beautifully, silver is a popular metal in jewelry-making. In its purest form, it is soft and flexible, which means that it requires metal alloys to make it strong enough to become a stunning piece of jewelry. Pure silver mixed with less than 7.5% alloy is called sterling silver, which significantly increases its level of durability. When shopping for sterling silver gifts, you will find jewelry is stamped with ‘sterling’ or ‘925’ as an indicator.

Sterling Silver Bracelet sold by Old Pueblo Silverworks

Shown here is the Art Deco Lilies Sterling Silver Bracelet sold by Old Pueblo Silverworks.

Maintenance Level: Sterling silver is prone to tarnishing, especially if you don’t wear a piece often. Routine polishing using a silver cleaner will help, but it’s important to address the issue before build-up occurs, as long-term damage can take place.

Titanium

Titanium Wedding Band for Men from Jareds Jewelers copyThe silver-white color of titanium leads to some pretty unique-looking jewelry pieces, especially when different finishes are used, such as high-polish, frost or satin. Since this is a hypoallergenic metal (when in its pure form), you don’t have to worry about your gift corroding over time.

The metal is also quite strong (considered the hardest natural metal in the world), and is highly resistant to bending and dents. A drawback to note when choosing this metal is that titanium rings cannot be resized.

Shown here are Men’s Titanium Wedding Bands from Jared’s Jewelers.

Stainless Steel

Admired for its strength, stainless steel has become increasingly popular amongst jewelry wearers, especially with men. From large-sized chains to hand-crafted skull rings, stainless steel adds what some might describe as a more ‘industrial’ or ‘street’ look to jewelry. It’s also easier to maintain.

Stainless Steel Jewelry

When compared to regular steel and other metals, the material is less likely to rust and corrode – thanks to the chromium found in stainless steel, which is resistant to the process of oxidation. This is why rust or ‘staining’ does not take place on the surface of the steel.

Maintenance Level: Low;  the metal does not rust, corrode or ‘stain.’

Tungsten

If you haven’t heard of tungsten, don’t fret…it’s one of the newer metals to hit the jewelry scene. Offering a handful of attractive features, this steel-gray metal is four times harder than titanium and a very solid material for jewelry. Its high level of strength translates into a metal that does not bend. Unfortunately, that means that a ring made from tungsten cannot be resized.

Metallic tungsten is harder than gold alloys and also hypoallergenic. Rings made from the material are resistant to scratches, especially when the design you choose has a brushed finish.

Tungsten Rings by Apt E Jewelry

Shown here is the Supernova Tungsten Men’s Engagement Ring made by apt E Jewelry.

Maintenance Level: Since the polish used for tungsten jewelry can have a permanent effect, very little maintenance is required with tungsten and tungsten carbide rings.

Mixed Metal Jewelry – like Mokume Gane

You’ve probably heard of most of the metals mentioned in this post, but the Mokume Gane style might be a new option for you to consider. This artisan technique dates back to 17th century Japan, where one-of-a-kind pieces are formed by fusing together layers of precious metals, which can be twisted and molded to create dazzling patterns.

You can blend white gold with sterling silver, or yellow gold with palladium…the possibilities are endless, and so are the designs that follow. The cost of such jewelry pieces tends to be more than gold pieces, due to the high level of craftsmanship and materials used.

DE Mokume Mokume Rings

A few examples above come by way of DE Mokume, which illustrates just some of the profiles and patterns associated with this style of jewelry-making.

What’s your favorite jewelry metal, and why?

 

About Yona Williams

In addition to being a freelance writer, foodie, art lover and book hoarder, Yona also enjoys researching and sharing the many different ways one can surprise or amaze loved ones with unique and unexpected gift ideas.

43 comments on “Jewelry Gift Guide: Know Your Metals

  1. very informative. i’m a fan of gold, but silver isn’t half bad!

  2. my 20th anniversary is coming up…..interesting pieces.

  3. I have to be very careful that my jewelry doesn’t contain any nickel in it as I have a severe allergy to it.

  4. A lot of my better jewelry is sterling silver (mostly because of preference). Thanks for all the info about the different metals – very interesting!

  5. This is awesome! Thank you soo much for sharing. My favorites are white gold and platinum. I was as familiar with some of the other metals.

  6. I am a sterling silver lover. Cool Silver looks the best on me.

  7. I am a platinum girl myself, I love the look of it much better than the gold :)

  8. It is always nice to know them and not just be satisfied with how they look – they are are lovely though.

  9. I didn’t know all this about jewelry! I love white gold myself! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Thanks for this post – it has a ton of valuable info. I am a yellow gold girl … always have been and probably always will be.

  11. What an informative post! I love the cooler toned metals, white gold, platinum.

  12. Ahhhh I’m totally a platinum/white gold/silver kinda gal!!! Love the look of it so much more than actual gold!!! My wedding ring is platinum and I just love it :)

  13. My husband’s wedding ring was made of Tungsten and mine was white gold. He lost his wedding ring and got him a new one made of stainless steel.

  14. My mom used to invest in gold pieces during her younger years. She has accumulated lots of gold bracelets and necklace which she sold now for a higher value.

  15. I use white gold. I’d do platinum, but it really isn’t as rare, just like diamonds aren’t rare either. I know people hear it a lot, but it really isn’t rare. I’ve been to cities in other countries where they mine it like crazy. I’ll buy it when they stop marketing it as that.. and keep to my white gold. I’ve got a lot of jewelry in that metal.

  16. My wedding bands are rose gold and I simply love them! I would love to add some yellow gold stack rings to the mix as well!

  17. Absolutely love the jewelery. Very beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  18. What a great gift guide. I love how all the jewelry looks. I’m a big fan of gold. =)

  19. I have never been able to keep all of the metals straight. I didn’t even know there was such at thing as Palladium! Thanks for the great guide.

  20. I love platinum and rose gold!

  21. What a great guide. I have a lot of my grandmothers old gold jewelry, but I prefer platinum. That is what my wedding ring is. My husbands is titanium.

  22. This is a great guide – I always have a hard time figuring out which metals would work best in a piece. thanks for the info.

  23. I used to be able to wear so much silver without a problem, but lately it gives me terrible hives. I have to stick to buying white gold now since I don’t like the yellow gold color for jewelry.

  24. I love the look of white gold and platinum though much of my jewelry is silver. I just prefer the tone of it more than gold.

  25. I love Jewelry and I know how to appraise if it is real or not. For me, Platinum is the best.

  26. I like titanium and silver for regular use. I have gold jewelry but I only use them in occasion.

  27. All these are great information! I don’t know much about all these metals. The Palladium rings are looking awesome. I prefer silver and platinum and I always like to gift the same.

  28. I like platinum jewelry for me! Just too bad it’s really an expensive precious metal!

  29. This is a really informative post. I kinda don’t like gold so much because of the color – but I’ll have to see if I can appreciate it better this time now that I know that the color can be tweaked. I love white metals though because while they look simple, they still appear to be very elegant and don’t call so much attention vs. wearing gold.

  30. This was a very informative and interesting post. I actually love both yellow and white gold.

  31. This is a really interesting post! My husband has a titanium wedding ring and we hate that he can’t get it resized now that we are starting to lose weight. This post will help us pick out the perfect replacement!

  32. The platinum medal is my favorite!! I used to love 14k gold but now I prefer the other medals.

  33. Now this is a great post. Would love all of these pieced myself! I don’t have any Platinum jewelry, all white gold but Platinum is lovely!

  34. Is it bad that I didn’t know there were so many different metals?? I’m so bad!!

  35. I have gold wedding and engagement rings. Gold is my favorite with my skin tone, but I do have some silver necklaces and bracelets and would love to try a platinum ring!

  36. Those are some really neat rings and metals used!

  37. This is great information. I have really bad allergies and the only jewelry I can wear is gold. If I could I would wear Titanium.

  38. What an interesting article! I had no idea there was so much to know about jewelry. Thanks so much!

  39. Wow- such a great article! I never thought about all those different metals! Platinum looks the most beautiful to me :)

  40. I love sterling silver because it’s affordable and that cool color looks better on me than gold. However, I do have many pieces that have tarnished. Oops.

  41. I am not a gold person, but I love the silver wedding ring.

  42. I love how 18k gold looks and I also love the white metals

  43. My wedding and engagement rings are platinum. I love the look of platinum much better than regular gold.

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