Know Your Metals

Every beautiful piece of jewelry begins with a heart of beautiful metal, and different pieces call for different metals. 14 and 18-karat gold (yellow or white) platinum, palladium, and silver are some of the options offered at Jay F. Jeweler.

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“Pure” gold – gold not mixed with other metals to increase its hardness – is called 24-karat (24K) gold. The karat quality marking tells you what proportion of gold is mixed with the other (alloy) metals. For example, 14-karat (14K) jewelry contains 14 parts of gold, mixed with 10 parts of an alloy metal. To make white gold, yellow gold is plated with a silvery white alloy such as nickel or rhodium. If not re-plated, white gold can lose its silvery appearance.


A popular choice for engagement and bridal rings, platinum is naturally white, more durable, and heavier than gold. Like gold, platinum is mixed with other metals. However, the quality markings for platinum are based on parts per thousand. For example, the marking “900 Platinum” means that 900 parts out of 1000 are pure platinum, or in other words, the item is 90% platinum and 10% other metals. The abbreviations for platinum — Plat. or Pt. — also can be used in marking jewelry.


Palladium is another naturally white precious metal. Though it is less widely known than gold or platinum, designers have been using it to make jewelry since 1939. Palladium is from the same family of precious metals as platinum and shares its strength, but it is lighter in weight. Those allergic to some other metals appreciate palladium’s purity. It does not have to be mixed with nickel (which can cause allergic reactions) to appear white.


“Silver” or “sterling silver” describes a product that contains 92.5% silver – marked accordingly with the numbers “925.” When an item is referred to as “silver plated,” it features a layer of silver is bonded to a base metal. The designation of “coin silver” is used for compounds that contain 90% silver.