What metals are jewellery made from? An introduction to 925 Sterling Silver and base metals and what it means for your skin. Click through to read the full post or save the pin and read later!

What metals are jewellery made from?

What metals are jewellery made from? An introduction to 925 Sterling Silver and base metals and what it means for your skin. Click through to read the full post or save the pin and read later!

Since the beginnings of early man on earth, we’ve been adorning ourselves with jewellery made from metal and non-metal resources. With so much choice available these days, it can be confusing or difficult to decide what is best suited for you. Here’s an introduction to precious and base metals to demystify some jewellery jargon for you on your next jewellery shopping adventure.

PART 1

PRECIOUS METALS
Sterling silver

Sterling silver has been mined and prized for its beauty and durability for at least 6000 years. Sterling silver has an extraordinary shine and brightness – 90% of light is reflected off its surface. Sterling silver is an alloy containing 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Silver by itself is generally too soft to be used practically, so a small proportion of copper is typically added to increase the strength yet still preserving the appearance of the precious metal.

What does 925 Sterling Silver mean?

As you may have guessed, 925 refers to the proportion of silver within the alloy. So for example, for every 1000 parts, 92.5% consists of fine silver and the remaining 7.5% consists of copper. As 92.5% of 1000 is 925, that’s what the naming of 925 Sterling Silver means.

Yellow Gold
David Neale: Yellow gold wedding band
Credit: David Neale

Humans have been adorning themselves with gold since the beginning of civilisation. From the Middle East, to Eastern Europe and to the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs, gold appears throughout the ancient world.  Also because of its rarity and luster and the ability to resist corrosion, it is considered to be one of the most prized of Earth’s natural resources. As fine gold is too soft for most uses, it is alloyed with other metals to achieve a desired hardness. Silver and copper are the most common additives but many other metals can be used too.

What does 18k, 14k gold etc mean?

The relative amount of gold in an alloy is called the karat. This word signifies proportion and should not be confused with carat, which is a unit of weight. Depending on the karat, this refers to the proportion of gold within the alloy. For example, a ring is 18k gold and weighs 7g. This means that 75% of 7g is the proportion of gold inside the alloy. The remaining 25% would usually consist of 12.5% silver and 12.5% copper.

Common yellow gold alloys

Karat Fine gold (%) Silver (%) Copper (%)
24k 100
18k 75 12.5 12.5
14k 58.5 21
20.5
9k 37.5 42.5 20
White and rose gold
White gold is an alloy commonly containing gold and some white metal(s) such as silver, manganese and/or palladium. White gold is more affordable comparatively to platinum and has become a popular choice for wedding bands and other jewellery in recent years. Sometimes white gold is plated in a layer of rhodium, to give the item a brighter, more shiny luster. To keep the same appearance, the piece may need to be be re-plated, but this is usually inexpensive (depending on the size of the piece) and many jewellers offer this service.
Mary Ordorcic: White gold blue sapphire ring
Credit: Mary Ordorcic

Rose gold is alloyed with copper to produce the rosy golden colour. Pink, pink and rose gold all refer to various shades in this family of fold. The more copper present in the alloy, the redder or more pink in colour the gold looks. A common alloy for 18k rose gold is 75% gold and 25% copper. Rose gold is considered to be the most “romantic” metal in the gold family, due to its pinkish-red colour and has grown in popularity in recent years.

Melanie Katsalidis: Rose gold black diamond halo ring
Credit: Melanie Katsalidis
BASE METALS
Copper

Copper as a warm orange-red colour when polished however, when it is exposed to air it darkens to a brown colour and if exposed to air and water, it becomes a blue-green colour. Copper is not commonly worn as jewellery in its pure form, as it can leave skin green. This oxidation reaction is the reason the copper-plated Statue of Liberty is green rather than orange-red. It is often used to strengthen gold and silver.

Brass

Brass is an alloy of copper (65%) and zinc (35%), a combination that yields a yellow metal that is tougher than either of its components. The gold color and hardness of brass can be manipulated by changing the mixture of zinc and copper. Because of this, and the fact that brass can be polished to a mirror like shine, it is used to manufacture countless items.

The gold color and hardness of brass can be manipulated by changing the mixture of zinc and copper. Because of this, and the fact that brass can be polished to a mirror like shine, it is used to manufacture countless items. The gold colour and hardness of brass can be altered by changing the proportions of copper and zinc within the alloy. Because of this, and the fact that brass can be polished to have a high mirror finish.

Most brass is not alloyed by jewellers and come from industrial sources where they may alloy the brass with small amounts of other metals such as nickel, which can serve as a skin irritant to some. These additives serve an industrial purpose; rust proof, spark resistant, heat dispersion and insulation and are not for close skin contact.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 – an introduction to what jewellery is made from. If you found this blog post interesting and informative, I would be so happy if you shared this with your friends! Thanks for being so awesome!

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