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The Basics of Precious Metals

Each precious metal has it’s own unique features and can be used in many different ways. This article will help you differentiate between each metal and learn which metals are best for certain jewelry pieces.

Gold

Gold is the ultimate mark of wealth and remains the hallmark precious metal. The purity of gold is most often measured in fineness, but in the United States the karat (k) is used to measure gold in fine and designer jewelry.

There are multiple grades of gold to consider when purchasing jewelry. Pure gold is 24k gold, and is too soft to use in most jewelry. The most common grades of gold used in fine jewelry, are 18k and 14k. This means that if a ring is 18k gold it is 75% pure. Similarly, if a ring is made of 14k gold it has a purity of 58.5%. These grades of gold are much stronger and will weather daily wear and tear far better than pure, 24k gold.

Silver

Silver is the most plentiful of the precious metals. So much so, at one time it was used in standard U.S. currency.

Silver must be alloyed to create hardness; the best silver used to make jewelry is sterling silver. Sterling silver, like gold, has a base-metal to silver ratio. Meaning, in order for silver to be considered sterling silver, and used in jewelry, it must consist of 92.5% silver and 7.5% base metal. This allows the sliver to become slightly harder and create more durable pieces of jewelry.

Sterling silver jewelry is a growing fashion trend, mainly because it is often the most affordable precious metal.

Platinum

Platinum, compared to it’s softer counterparts, is fairly new to the precious metal scene. Until the 19th century, the chemical properties of platinum made the metal hard and difficult to work with.

Platinum is a heavier, more dense metal, which makes it great for securing gemstones. But one of it’s lesser known features is that it’s hypoallergenic, making it a great option for those with skin allergies to certain metals.

Platinum that is at least 95 percent pure may be sold as platinum. Anything lower must be marked as platinum alloy. Platinum jewelry stays white, and it also develops a patina that many think gives it a vintage jewelry feel and makes a great background for diamonds.

At Brinker’s Jewelers we sell nothing but the highest quality precious metal and gemstones. Stop by our store to see our selection of quality jewelry pieces, or contact us by phone 812.476.0651 or email with any questions you may have.

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