Gold ranks high in physical properties that matter in jewelry. It will not tarnish or rust, and it is the most corrosion-proof and oxidation-resistant metal. Although it is very strong, gold is the most malleable of all metals. Pure gold is too soft to withstand the stresses of everyday wear, so it is combined with different alloys to give it strength and durability. These alloys include metals like silver, copper, nickel, and zinc. The karat weight of gold is noted by a number, followed by a “k” or “kt,” that indicates how much of the metal in a piece of jewelry is gold. The minimum legal standard of karatage in the U.S. is 10kt. Even though 24kt is pure gold, it is extremely soft and not recommended for jewelry. 18kt and 14kt are the most popular and most recommended.
The scale below shows the purity of each type of gold.
24kt = (24 parts gold, no alloy) 24/24 = 100% pure gold
18kt = (18 parts gold, 6 parts alloy) 18/24 = 75% purity
14kt = (14 parts gold, 10 parts alloy) 14/24 = 58.3% purity
10kt = (10 parts gold, 14 parts alloy) 10/24 = 41.7% purity
The various combinations of these alloys and gold create different shades of gold.
At Ciccarelli Jewelers we carry only the finest in 18 and 14 karat yellow gold. 18kt gold contains more precious metal than 14kt gold. It consists of 75% gold, and is alloyed with 25% other metals, making it durable enough to withstand everyday wear. 14kt gold does not have the rich color of 18kt gold due to the fact that it contains only 58.3% gold and 41.7% other metals. It is, however, stronger and more durable in the long run than 18kt gold, and is highly recommended for everyday wear. Gold will scratch, but a good polishing will remove most all shallow, and some deep, scratches.
By adding white metals such as nickel, zinc or palladium to yellow gold, the deep yellow of pure gold begins to whiten. To enhance the whiteness, almost all white gold is rhodium plated. Rhodium is an extremely hard white metal used to make your white gold jewelry look brand new. Because white gold is a product of yellow gold alloy, over time this rhodium plating will wear away revealing the original yellow tint. To keep that white elegance and flare, we recommend that you re-rhodium plate your ring once or twice a year, depending on the wear.
A rose gold color is achieved by raising the copper ratio when combining the gold with other alloys. For example, 18kt rose gold is 75% fine gold, but the other 25% of alloys has a greater copper content than a yellow or white gold piece. This color of gold has become popular because it flatters pale skin and certain colors of gemstones, especially the newly popular pink diamonds. The higher copper content makes the alloy more durable than its yellow or white alternatives.
To many people, platinum is the top metal for fine jewelry. Even though it is more costly than gold, its distinctive non-tarnishing, grayish-white color makes it a preferred setting for diamonds. It is ideal for stone-set jewelry due to its unsurpassed holding power and durability. Like all precious metals, platinum does scratch. This holds especially true when it has a high-polish finish, because of the high contrast between the polish and the scratch. Platinum, however, does not lose metal when it scratches like other precious metals do. Instead, its surface actually separates and makes room for the scratch. This prevents the need to rhodium plate a platinum piece. Even though platinum is softer than gold, it is much denser (heavier) and more pure. In its pure form it is approximately 95% platinum and 5% other metals. A stamp of “950pt” inside the jewelry piece will signify this. Because platinum pieces are very likely to get scratched more frequently then gold, we recommend polishing them regularly to keep their original shimmer. A person definitely gets their money’s worth with platinum. It wears longer, needs less maintenance over the years, and it shows a diamond’s brilliance like no other precious metal can.
Pure silver is relatively soft, very malleable, and easily damaged, so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, zinc, and sometimes silicon. Copper has been shown to be its best companion because it improves the metal’s hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color. However, even with the addition of alloys, silver is not especially strong. It scratches easily, can be misshapen, and after bending too many times it can become brittle and break. The mark “.925” or “sterling” are stamped on a piece of silver jewelry to meet the U.S. government standard for solid silver.
Titanium is the only element that offers the unique combination of beauty, strength, and bio-compatibility. It is stronger than steel, but as light as aluminum. It is also 99% pure. But unlike 24kt gold, titanium is very hard and strong it’s pure form. These rings provide the stylish rich gray tones of platinum at a much more attractive price. Titanium rings possess a one-of-a-kind mystique that will last a lifetime.
Tungsten Carbide is created by firing tungsten with carbon powder in an oxygen-free oven at 6,200oF. This process is called sintering, and it creates the hardest metal used in making jewelry. Like titanium, tungsten carbide is tough and rugged, perfect for a man’s active lifestyle. Being ten times harder than 18kt gold and scratch resistant, tungsten carbide rings posses qualities that no other gentlemen’s jewelry can. Even though they are tough, these rings need to be treated as a precious piece of jewelry, and should not be abused.