When looking for jewellery, getting the right precious metal is very important. Depending on your needs helps determine the precious metal that would be best for you. First, let us take a look at the different precious metals available:
Sterling Silver: sterling silver is the British standard of silver, there is 925 parts of silver by 1000 parts, which is a lovely high percentage (for more information check out our blog on Hallmarking. Silver is very soft and therefore scratches easily and is not considered very durable. Silver is, generally, the least expensive precious metal.
9ct Yellow Gold: 9ct is the lowest fineness used within the UK. Considered hard and durable. Requires very little upkeep. Generally, more expensive that silver and less than other metals.
9ct White Gold: Gold is yellow, to understand where white gold comes from see our blog on what is white gold, White gold requires re-rhodium plating which can be relatively costly. Generally, more expensive than 9ct yellow gold and silver but less than platinum and palladium and 18ct.
18ct Yellow Gold: 18ct has double the gold content that 9ct, is sometimes considered softer than 9ct, but the difference is certainly small. More expensive than 9ct and silver and potentially similar in cost to Palladium but less than Platinum.
18ct White Gold: With double the gold content it becomes harder to make the gold appear white, so more upkeep required. And more expensive than all above. Durable and hard.
Palladium: A relatively new precious metal, first discovered in 1803, hallmarking only became mandatory for Palladium in the UK in 2010. Hard, durable, silver appearance metal. Different fineness's in the UK: 500, 950, 999. Currently not very common.
Platinum: Generally the most expensive precious metal, extremely hard, silver in colour. There are 4 fineness's in the UK: 850, 900, 950, 999.
Now we have established the most common precious metals in the UK, deciding which is right for you can be established by looking at what you are looking for from the jewellery you are buying.
Personal preference on colour is a big influence, as you may like yellow gold or you may prefer a silver colour. This decision eliminates several options straight away. However, for the purpose of this blog we are going to look at each metal as an option.
Sterling silver is very soft and can be ideal for necklaces and earrings, however when considering jewellery for regular wear, such as wedding rings we would advise a metal which is harder and therefore more suitable to every day wear, such as gold. It is the least expensive precious metals, and therefore, you can see designs in silver which you don't see in gold, such as larger, heavier designs. We have an extensive selection of jewellery with collections of different designs, such as Seaside themes, woodland themes, silver jewellery set with real flowers, all available in our high street shop.
9ct gold is the lowest fineness of gold in the UK, there is 37.5% of gold in each piece of jewellery, the other 62.5% is made up of other metals, this allows for durable metals to be added to the gold, such as platinum and copper, it also makes it easier to have 9ct gold in different colours, such as rose gold or white gold. When we consider yellow gold vs white gold, one of the largest factors is the additional upkeep and cost involved with white gold. White gold is rhodium plated and this process is necessary, generally, between every 1 to 3 years, the more the item of jewellery is worn the more it is required, i.e a white gold engagement ring will need more regular rhodium plating than a white gold necklace. We currently offer rhodium plating as a service for around £45 for a ring, so depending on the value of the item (especially in 9ct), it can be a relatively costly process. This may be worth baring in mind when looking at jewellery. You may also notice that the original purchase price of white gold jewellery is slightly more than the yellow gold version of the same design, again this is generally down to the additional process when making the jewellery of rhodium plating.
When we look to compare 9ct vs 18ct, it is important to remember the largest difference is most likely to be the price, as 18ct has exactly double the gold content of 9ct with 75% gold. Therefore, it is easy to anticipate that the cost of 2 comparable pieces of jewellery, one in 9ct yellow gold and the other in 18ct yellow gold, would see the 9ct piece approximately half the price of the 18ct version. When considering 18ct white gold, we have to remember that there is 75% gold content in a piece of jewellery, which is bright yellow in colour, it becomes much harder to give the finished piece a beautiful white appearance therefore you will notice a strong gold colour comes through when the rhodium plating wears thin. There are many discussions regarding whether 9ct gold or 18ct gold is harder, however, in our experience, the difference is small and the most important thing is wear the same precious metals together, for example, if your engagement ring is 18ct then we advise having an 18ct wedding ring to wear alongside. This ensures that one ring doesn't wear another out.
Yellow and rose gold, in either 9ct or 18ct, don't require any specific upkeep. You may just like to have them polished every now and again to keep the high shine finish, but this is very much personal preference and is not required regularly. We often polish engagement rings in the weeks leading up to the wedding day so the it sparkles next to the wedding ring, for example.
Next up is Palladium, it is strange to consider something which was discovered in 1803 as new, however in terms of precious metals, this is very new indeed. In the UK, hallmarking only become mandatory for Palladium in 2010 and is still a very much emerging metal within the jewellery industry. Palladium is a silver tone metal with very similar qualities to platinum, however, less is known about it, so whilst it is widely considered a durable, hard-wearing metal, time will help us better understand the characteristics of Palladium. From a cost perspective it is generally a similar price to 18ct gold and less than Platinum. As it is so new to the jewellery industry, you may find significantly less designs in Palladium than other precious metals. Also, it is worth considering that many goldsmiths may not have worked extensively with Palladium, therefore any alterations such as ring sizing may be more difficult than in other precious metals.
Finally, we have made it to Platinum, by far the hardest and most durable precious metal and by extension, the most costly. Silver in colour, platinum is a popular choice of precious metal in the UK. It can have a dull silver appearance, which can be polished or rhodium plated to give a high shine finish. It is worth remembering that Platinum is difficult to alter, due to the tools required and the expense of the additional platinum. Whilst there are many bonuses to going for platinum it isn't by any stretch the perfect match for everyone.
Hopefully this blog has helped to compare the most common precious metals used in the UK. We always recommend researching, going to your local jewelers and trying on pieces and seeing which precious metal suits you. If you have any questions you, please feel free to contact us, either through the contact us page on our website, or pop in to our high street shop, and we will always offer advice and help you.