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  • Writer's picturePaola Paley

Do you know what the jewelry you wear is really made of?

As the holiday season approaches, I thought it would be helpful to clarify some terms regarding the precious metals gold and silver. The majority of the jewelry you will find in the world today is made of an alloy of precious metals. Alloy means a mixture of different metals combined together.

The vast majority of jewelry is not made of pure precious metals!

There are 2 main disadvantages when working with pure gold or pure silver that are important to know. For me as a jeweler and for you as customers.

The first disadvantage is the malleability of precious metals. i.e pure gold and pure silver are considered to be very soft metals (Not quite like Plasticine... but still very soft!).

If we wear jewelry that is made of pure gold or silver, it will bend, twist or warp much more easily than an alloy.

The second disadvantage, and it is mainly regarding gold, is the price. Pure gold is very expensive as I’m sure you already guessed…

So what's in the alloys?

What is 14 carat? 18 carat?

And what is 925 sterling silver?

These alloys are a mixture of precious and semi-precious metals:

A piece of gold jewelry will be made from an alloy of gold, copper and silver.

In the case of a sterling silver piece it will be an alloy of silver and copper.

How come the alloys were made out of these specific metals? Because after thousands of years of experiments throughout human history, the conclusion has been reached that these alloys, in certain percentages, will create the perfect result for what we need, and that is to produce durable jewelry.

(Also to produce silverware for the house like utensils and cutlery, but that’s for another time).

What exactly is the difference between 14 carat and 18 carat gold?

14ct gold is required to be, by standard, an alloy that is made out of 58.5% pure gold and the remaining 41.5% will be an alloy of pure copper and pure silver.

18ct gold is required to be, by standard, an alloy that has 75% pure gold And the remaining 25% will be an alloy of pure copper and pure silver

There is also 9 carat, which is about 37.5% pure gold in the alloy, and

22 carat which has 91.6% pure gold in the alloy.

And now for something cool:

If we play with those remaining percentages, and I add to the alloy more copper than silver then I will get pink gold, or prone to pink.

And if I add more silver than copper I will have white gold, or tend to white.

One more thing about white gold:

The shade of gold that we would get from adding more silver to the alloy would be more grayish than white. Therefore zinc and silver are added to the alloy, metals which will strengthen the white tone, in addition to adding a rhodium plating at the end of the jewel making process.

Can you guess what percentage of pure silver there is in the alloy of 925 Sterling silver?

The answer is in the question! It’s made of 92.5% pure silver and the remaining 7.5% is copper.

So if someone tells you that their jewelry is made out of pure gold or silver, they are probably not familiar with the subject so much.

I tend to believe it comes from lack of information, not trying to fool you.

No matter what the reason is, it is important that you as customers understand the subject.

As a customer you can request to see stamps of the jeweler or of the brand and stamps of the fineness of the jewel.

In expensive gold jewelry you can ask to see the Standards Institute stamp.

Where do I personally use pure gold or silver?

Because these metals are soft when they are pure I enjoy utilizing them for specific jobs when needed.

For example, when inlaying gems that have a tendency to break.

The sliced gemstone in the photo, Agate Dandrite is quite fragile and the power of the inlay can break it, so I used pure silver and the inlay process was as smooth as butter.

it was so much fun !!

I also use a technique called KEUM BOO in which I combine pure gold with sterling silver. I roll the pure gold into thin gold leaves of about 0.02 mm and connect them to the silver.

So now that you know and understand the alloys of metals and the composition of jewelry, have you thought already about special presents for your loved ones this holiday season?

Go to the store, look around, shop or contact me if you wish to make a personal, one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry for you or for someone special.

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