Precious Metal Guide

Because metal matters

Gold

Yellow

Gold in its pure form is a bright lustrous yellow – the only metal on this planet that has this appearance. Jewellery is made of different alloys of gold, which are described as different Karats of gold. Read more about purity. The standard alloys of gold in the UK are 9K, 14K, 18K and 22K, whereas in the US, they use 10K too. Cherry Fine Jewellery only tend to use 9K or 18K but can use other purities upon request.
9K yellow gold is a nice bright yellow, especially when polished. 18K yellow gold technically has twice as much gold in than 9K, so you can expect to get an even brighter and lustrous yellow piece of jewellery but the ring mount itself will be almost double in price due to the gold content.

White

White gold is exactly the same as yellow or rose gold but is mixed with other white metals such as nickel, silver or palladium to help give it a whiter colouring. It is then plated with rhodium which gives it a bright white finish. However, you may have heard of people saying their white gold is turning yellow again, especially around the points of wear. This is the rhodium plating being rubbed off and exposing the slightly yellow white gold alloy beneath.
White gold normally needs to be re-plated once or twice a year if you want to keep your white gold jewellery looking bright white. This can cost around £30-50 a time and can soon add up to make the difference between buying white gold or platinum.

Rose

Rose gold is created by mixing pure gold and copper, which gives it a red tone. It does not have a coating like white gold so does not need to be re-plated, it can simply be polished at anytime. Rose gold has become very popular recently due to its warm coppery tone.

Durability

Gold is a very dense metal, which makes a small piece of it feel heavy. However, it is also a very soft metal. When it comes to your jewellery scratching, the rule is that the higher the karat, the softer it is. For example, if you had an 18K gold ring, it will be much more susceptible to scratching than if you had a 9K gold ring.
When gold is scratched, the gold from the scratch is lost. This is why if you look at rings that have been worn for over 20 years, they have thinner bands under the finger due to wear and may need a new shank. Its also good to remember to have your engagement ring and wedding rings made from the same karat of gold or the lower karat ring will wear the higher karat ring as it is slightly softer.

Care

Gold is a very durable material and is un-reactive to almost all substances so will not tarnish if exposed in air or chlorinated water. However, the rhodium plating on white gold is more susceptible to chemicals and wear, which will reveal the yellowish metal beneath. General wear can speed up the process of the plating coming off as well as corrosive chemicals and even your own body chemistry.
Both yellow and rose gold can be polished at anytime to get rid of any light scratches or scuffs to rejuvenate their bright shiny surface. White gold will need to be polished and re-plated with rhodium to return it to its bright white finish.

White Gold or Platinum?

In terms of durability, both gold and platinum are strong metals but platinum does come out on top. For example, the claws holding down a diamond centre stone in a platinum ring are much less likely to break than if it was made from gold.
When both metals get scratched, gold actually loses the metal whereas platinum does not. This means that your platinum jewellery is very unlikely to get thinner or weaker compared to gold.
Platinum is also true white in colour and does not need to be plated with rhodium unlike white gold. Platinum can be polished as many times as you like and it will always have a bright white shiny finish.
Platinum is also a denser metal than gold, meaning for the same size piece of metal it will feel heavier. Some people prefer the heavier weight but some also prefer the lightness of gold as its more comfortable.
In conclusion, here at Cherry Fine Jewellery, we always suggest to choose platinum if you are looking for a white metal as it wins on durability, strength and cost in the long term.

Platinum

What is it?

Platinum is rarer and mined much less than gold which makes it more expensive. It’s also denser which means the same ring will weight significantly more in platinum than in gold, and precious metals are priced by weight.
Platinum is a chemical element that is a dense, malleable, highly un-reactive and precious white metal. It’s name is derived from the Spanish word ‘platino’ which means ‘little silver’.

Pro's

As platinum rings are 95% pure, they don’t contain any nickel which causes some people irritable skin or allergic reactions.
Platinum is incredibly dense which makes it an extremely durable material to craft a ring out of. This durability allows it to resist any scratches or dents that gold would be damaged from. Platinum is the best at retaining its natural beauty you saw when you first bought the ring.
The natural colour of platinum is a bright white, which accentuates any diamond or gemstone that is set in it as it allows natural light to radiate off it.

Con's

The only downside to having platinum is the cost, but with rarity comes a higher price. It is the most expensive precious metal used in jewellery but it does out perform all others, meaning the additional cost can be a worthwhile investment.

Durability

Platinum is extremely durable and will not tarnish, corrode, or even dent and scratch easily. It is the most durable precious metal out of all used in jewellery.

Care

Platinum is a highly un-reactive metal and does not need to be taken off when swimming or using cleaning products. Platinum can be polished to a brilliant shine as many times as you like and will not wear thin.

Platinum or Palladium?

In conclusion, if you have the budget to afford platinum then definitely take that option. Both are precious white metals that both share similar properties and make excellent choices for engagement rings and wedding bands, which require little maintenance to keep them looking brand new.
As mentioned before, platinum is almost twice as heavy as palladium which means platinum jewellery will feel heavy. It’s personal preference if you like heavy or lighter feeling jewellery.
Both metals are extremely strong and can be used in rings that can be worn everyday. Both metals are 95% pure or higher and are not mixed with nickel so do not cause irritation.
Palladium is in fact slightly harder than platinum so is less susceptible to scratching, but both metals do not lose metal when scratched, instead the metal moves to another part of the ring.
In terms of cost, palladium is almost half the cost of the same ring in platinum. This is because platinum is almost twice as dense as palladium, meaning the same ring in platinum will weight twice as much as the same ring in palladium.
Platinum and palladium are both naturally white metals which will keep their colour forever. However, platinum is around 1 shade whiter than palladium. Both can be polished to a high shine.

Palladium

What is it?

Palladium is a chemical element which is part of the Platinum Group Metals. All metals in this group have similar properties but palladium has the lowest melting point and is least dense.
Palladium is a precious metal which was once much cheaper than platinum but as of late 2018, the price has shot above platinum per ounce.

Pro's

Palladium is alloyed with ruthenium and iridium which makes it hypo-allergenic s it contains no nickel which causes some people skin irritation.
It does not tarnish or lose its colour when worn, meaning it does not need to be plated.
Palladium is slightly more harder wearing than platinum.
Palladium is actually rarer than gold and could become even more valuable as it become more sought after if trends in the jewellery market change.

Con's

The cost of palladium has rocketed in late 2018, making it the most expensive precious metal used in jewellery.
It is also one shade darker than platinum, however, this does make white diamonds set in it look more revealing.

Durability

Palladium is extremely durable and resistant to tarnishing, extreme heat and exposure to many chemicals. This level of durability makes it a top choice for using in rings.
Palladium is extremely durable and resistant to tarnishing, extreme heat and exposure to many chemicals. This level of durability makes it a top choice for using in rings.
When palladium is scratched the metal is not removed, it is displaced to another part of the ring, which means it won’t lose its weight over time.

Care

Palladium is a very strong metal and can be polished as many times as you wish and it will always polish to a bright white shine.
As it is resistant to heat or chemicals, it can be worn everyday without having the need to be take off.

Palladium or White Gold?

If you want your ring to be white in colour, its always best to choose a naturally white metal such as palladium or platinum. This way you will not need to have you white gold jewellery rhodium plated once or twice a year.
Overall palladium beats white gold on every front in terms of durability and strength. So in conclusion, if you can afford to choose palladium, it will be a very sensible and worthwhile investment.

Silver

What is it?

Silver is a chemical element that is soft, white, very conductive and has the highest reflectivity of any metal. Silver is used in jewellery but is not suitable for fine jewellery or engagement rings as its softness means the ring would easily bend or break, resulting in the precious stones being lost.

Pro's

Silver is a great material to use for designer and costume jewellery as it is very affordable and readily available.

Con's

Silver is stable in oxygen and water but does react in sulphurous compounds found in water or the air. It oxidises the surface and makes the silver appear dull and tarnished. This however can be polished but as silver is so soft, the piece of jewellery will start to wear away.

Durability

Silver is extremely soft and malleable, especially in its pure form. This is why in the UK we have a standard of silver called Sterling Silver. This alloy of silver is marked as 925 which means there is 92.5% pure silver in the alloy. This makes the alloy somewhat stronger than pure silver but still not strong enough to have diamonds set in it.

Care

We do not recommend the use to cleaning dips or pens, as these chemicals are designed to corrode the surface of the jewellery removing the oxidised layer but also damaging the ring and stones within it.
Silver tarnishes when being worn and will become dull in a matter of months. You can get this layer of oxidised silver off of the surface by taking it to a jewellers to be professionally polished.

Hallmarks

Metal

Each hallmark will have a symbol stating the main metal in that piece of jewellery.

Purity

The older way of measuring metal purity is in karats, which measures the purity of metal in 24 parts.

For example;
18K gold is said to be 18 parts gold out of 24 – making the fraction (18/24) 75% as a percentage.

9K gold would be 9 parts gold, 15 parts other alloy – which makes 9/15 as a percentage 37.5% – or stamped as ‘375’.

Each number will be stamped within a shape and this shape will determine the type of metal in question.

A hallmark will also show the fineness in the metal in question. The numbers are 3 digits and are easily read by placing a decimal after the second number, giving you a percentage.

Assay Office

An assay office is an institution that was set up to test the purity of metals in order to protect customers. There are four currently operating in the UK in Birmingham, Sheffield, London and Edinburgh. Each one has its own mark that can be found on a fully hallmarked piece of jewellery.

Age

Some hallmarks may also have a stamp of a letter, these stamps are used to tell the date the piece was created. The whole alphabet is used but it is the font and the outside border that changes to mark different dates.

Sponsor's mark

A sponsors or makers mark is a stamp that has been chosen by a jewellery manufacturer or designer that has been registered with the assay offices. Their mark is unique and usually is made up of 1 to 3 letters in a specific shaped border. This allows jewellers and consumers to identify the origin of the piece of jewellery.