Jewellery Metals Guide
Buying Different Metal Types
When purchasing a piece of jewellery, deciding on the right type of metal can be tricky. To ensure the ring bracelet or necklace will continue to look its very best for years to come, you’ll need to consider where, when, and how the piece will be worn. Will the recipient wear the item everyday, and so will need something durable and resilient, or will it be a piece for only the most special occasions, and so need to resist tarnish whilst in storage? Are their tastes more traditional, or contemporary? Do they prefer delicate and fine pieces, or something more chunky to make a statement?
This may all seem like a lot to consider, and might even seem a little daunting if you don’t know where to begin! If you’d like a little more guidance and advice, please do drop us a message or visit us in store - our expert jewellers have a wealth of knowledge to be able to assist you in finding the perfect piece.
What is Metal Carat?
Firstly, let’s cover what we mean by the different carat of metals. Not to be confused with the carat weight of a diamond, the carat is actually the quantity of pure gold contained in the metal. You’ll often see this abbreviated to ‘ct’ in the UK, or ‘K’ in the US. The level of purity is required to be stamped on the piece of jewellery (most often in an inconspicuous place, such as the inside of a ring band).
- 9ct - gold is hallmarked 375, so has 375 parts of pure gold (37.5%), with the rest comprising of other metal alloys. 9ct gold is a very durable metal, so is perfect for everyday wear. As it has the lowest volume of pure gold it is also the most cost effective option for gold jewellery.
- 14ct - gold is hallmarked 585 and therefore has 585 parts per thousand of pure gold. It is the preferred metal in America and mainland Europe. Its higher gold content puts it in the middle of the most popular gold qualities (durability, cost, colour) but as it is not commonly used in the UK, it can actually work out slightly more expensive as items usually need to be custom made or imported.
- 18ct - gold has the highest content of pure gold that you will find on the high street. There are 750 parts per 1000 and it is hallmarked 750. This provides a rich yellow or rose colour due to its high gold content. It is also very durable and ideal for pieces such as engagement rings or wedding bands, which will be worn daily.
- 22ct - gold is hallmarked 916 (91.6% gold content), so is the purest form of gold available in jewellery. The small percentage left over is usually mixed with copper or silver. Due to its high gold content it is very yellow in colour and is quite popular in Indian jewellery.
Precious metals - what’s the difference?
We’ve outlined the main metals used for jewellery below, and their suitability for different situations. The most common are gold, platinum, silver, and palladium. There are also a few non-precious options for those who don’t fancy the price tag or look of the precious options, however be aware these are not always commonly available in jewellery stores.