Magnificent Metals: Buying Metal Jewelry

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Choices for metal in your jewelry collection go far beyond the usual.

A luxurious sofa looks out of place on a threadbare carpet. A burger is just a salad and some meat without the bun to hold everything together. And a database is a confusing mess of information without software to give it structure.

In much the same way, the metal in a piece of jewelry provides an elegant base, holds gemstones in place and creates structure that makes the whole design work. In fact, the metal has a special beauty all its own. And, in many designs, metal is the only element in the jewelry.

Metals used in fine jewelry typically are called precious metals. Historically, they comprise platinum, gold and silver. Today, fine jewelry is also made of sterling silver, cobalt, palladium, titanium, tungsten carbide (titanium and tungsten carbide are more likely used in men’s jewelry) and even space-age ceramic. With all these options available, making a choice can get a little complicated. Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of each metal.

Platinum

APPEARANCE:

This naturally white metal has a lustrous appearance.

PROS:

Platinum’s rarity, purity and strength make it popular for jewelry, symbolizing pure and everlasting love. Platinum doesn’t expand when exposed to heat, never tarnishes and is hypoallergenic, so it’s a good choice for those with sensitive skin or a nickel allergy.

CONS:

Despite their strength, platinum rings will develop a patina over time, though a trip to the jeweler for polishing will return the original shine. It’s a dense, heavy metal so it’s most popular in rings and smaller-scale pendants and earrings for women.

Yellow gold

APPEARANCE:

Gold is naturally yellow. In its purest form (24 karat), it’s too soft for everyday use in jewelry so it’s alloyed with other metals that increase its strength and alter its color. Gold is available in 18K, 14K and 10K, with the higher numbers indicating more pure gold and fewer alloys. As used in jewelry, yellow gold is typically pure gold mixed with silver and copper.

PROS:

It resists tarnish and corrosion and is strong, yet malleable enough to be used in intricate jewelry designs.

CONS:

Gold can scratch (the scratches can be polished away, though you lose minute amounts of the metal with each polishing). Its volatile pricing in the commodities market means frequent and significant shifts in value, which affects retail prices and the amount for which you should insure gold jewelry.

White gold

APPEARANCE:

Bright, shiny white. White gold is mixed with palladium and silver or nickel, copper and zinc to attain its color. It’s usually plated with rhodium, making it safe to wear for those with a nickel allergy.

PROS:

Resists tarnish, is strong but still pliable enough to be used in detailed jewelry designs.

CONS:

The rhodium plating can wear off over time. Jewelry can be re-plated.

Rose and green gold

APPEARANCE:

Not surprisingly, rose gold is a warm pink and green gold is a mellow greenish yellow. Golds known as pink, rose and red are yellow gold mixed with copper and silver; green gold is yellow gold mixed with silver.

PROS:

As with the other colors, rose and green gold won’t tarnish and can be made into beautiful jewelry.

CONS:

It can scratch, which can be polished out. …read more at jewelrywise.com

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