Precious Metals Education

Precious metals are metals that are rare or difficult to obtain, and as a result are very valuable.

The three most common precious metals are gold, silver, platinum and palladium. These metals are very popular and have a wide range of uses, from jewelry to cars to medical instruments. The demand also exceeds the supply so these precious metals are typically expensive.

Precious Metal Descriptions


Wearing gold not only enhances strong emotional feelings for its wearer but also completes a woman's appearance - it makes women feel indulgent, beautiful, successful, confident and sexy. Women who wear gold jewelry consider it to be an integral part of their appearance, and consider it as a necessary item rather than just an accessory. There are also traditional reasons for wearing gold, such as for marriage, religion, and family gifting.

Gold also has a lasting financial value, which supports consumers' decision when buying gold jewelry, and can often be the reason why women prefer gold to other jewelry or luxury products.

The proportion of gold in jewelry is measured on the carat (or karat) scale. the word carat comes from the carob seed, which was originally used to balance scales in Oriental bazaars. Pure gold is designated 24 carat, which compares with the "fineness" by which gold is defined; 18 carat gold is defined as 75% pure gold, containing 18 parts gold and 6 parts of one or more additional metals; 14K gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 58.3% gold.

In the United States, jewelry is primarily made form either 18k gold or 14k gold (there is a small percentage of 10k gold as well). While yellow gold is still probably the most popular color of gold, white gold, pink gold and rose gold have become increasingly more common in recent years.

The color of gold is determined by two factors:
  • The type of metal alloys included
  • The percentage of each metal alloy


Silver jewelry is highly prized for its brilliant luster and its ease of fabrication, properties that it shares with gold. Pure silver is quite tarnish resistant, but it is too soft for use in jewelry. Silversmiths often alloy it with other metals, such as copper, to harden it.

Sterling silver, for example, is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Sterling silver is a standard in many countries for silver jewelry and has been since the 14th century.

Although silver is relatively scarce, it is the most plentiful and least expensive of the precious metals. Precious metals are valued for their beauty and relative scarcity in the Earth's crust, and their superior properties. The are very malleable, highly resistant to corrosion, superior reflectors of light and are unsurpassed as conductors of heat and electricity.

Besides signifying status and wealth, silver has been one of the most romantic and sought after of all the precious metals. From the beginning of time people have been enthralled by its beauty and drawn to remote areas of the world in search of this white, reflective metal.

Silver has often been surrounded by mystery. The Incas of Peru called it "the tears of the moon" because they were awed by silver's strange gleam, and the Chinese believed that a silver locket hung around a child's neck would ward off evil spirits.

Over the years, most countries in the world have developed their own systems of hallmarking silver. The purpose of hallmark application is:
  • To indicate the purity of the silver alloy used in the manufacture or hand-crafting of the piece.
  • To identify the silversmith or company that made the piece
  • To note the date and/or location of the manufacture.

Recently, silver has benefited from demand for the 'white' look in jewelry which mirrors fashionable design of white gold - alloy of gold and platinum and palladium - but at a lower price point.

Because pure silver is so soft, it should only be used when malleability is required, such as in handcrafted jewelry featuring weaving and other intricate designs.

Sterling silver is most often used for jewelry and household accessories because of its combination of beauty and durability. Acceptable quality marks for sterling silver include:
  • sterling
  • sterling silver
  • ster
  • .925


Platinum is pure, an expression of integrity, a reflection of inner truth. Platinum's purity endows it with a brilliant white luster. This helps to reflect the true radiance of diamonds. Because it is generally 95% pure (18 karat gold is 75% pure), platinum jewelry does not fade or tarnish and keeps its looks for a lifetime. Platinum's purity makes it hypoallergenic and ideal for those with sensitive skin.

Platinum jewelry is the perfect choice for a lifetime of everyday wear. Its density and weight make it more durable than other jewelry metals. Platinum does not wear away and holds precious tones firmly and securely. Like all precious metals, platinum scratches. however, the scratch on a platinum piece is merely a displacement of the metal and none of its volume is lost. So, even though wearing it each and every day may leave an impression on the surface, it remains what it was - symbol for all things eternal.

For guaranteed quality in platinum, look for the marks 950 Plat or Plat.


From the Greek name "Pallas", goddess of wisdom, Palladium was discovered by the British chemist William Hyde Wollaston in 1803. Far from new, Palladium is a Platinum Group Metal mined naturally white - directly from the earth - and is slated as the last major development in precious metals. A beautiful, durable, light element that is truly rare, Palladium currently trades for roughly half the price of gold. There are few differences between Platinum and Palladium beyond price and weight, and unlike unnatural "white gold", 950 Palladium shines naturally white forever without rhodium plating.

Alternative Metals

Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten is a hard and dense metal known on the periodic table of elements as Wolfram. Tungsten Carbide is the combination of Tungsten with Carbon. It melts at an extraordinary 6,100 degrees Fahrenheit - the highest melting point of all metals. Tungsten is predominately used in high tech machinery, aerospace and high temperature applications. Once combined with carbon, the resulting material, tungsten carbide, is ten times harder than gold and has a hardness between 8.5 and 9.5 on the Mohs(1) hardness scale. In addition, TC850 is four times harder than titanium, twice as hard as steel, virtually scratch resistant and hypoallergenic.

When used as the primary material in a wedding band, the ring appears with a lustrous dark grey hue often buffed to a mirror finish. The finish is highly resistant to scratches and scuffs, holding its mirror-like shine for years. It is possible to inlay other materials such as precious metals and woods.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a popular metal used for jewelry and watches. Stainless steel can be re-finished by any jeweler and will not oxidize or turn color.

Stainless steel's resistance to corrosion and staining, low maintenance, relatively low cost, and familiar luster make it an ideal base material for a host of applications.


Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. Sometimes called the "space age metal," it has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant with a silver color.

Titanium can be combined with other elements to produce strong lightweight alloys for aerospace, military, medical, sporting goods and jewelry.

Benefits of Titanium include its corrosion resistance and extremely high strength-to-weight ratio. Titanium is as strong as some steels, but 45% lighter in weight.

Care of Precious Metals


Since gold is a natural element, it is affected by harsh chemicals such as chlorine or other cleaning products. We recommend that you remove your jewelry when using chemicals to reduce daily abrasions and prolong the luster. To clean gold jewelry, use a solution of warm water and detergent-free soap with a soft-bristled brush. When not worn, store your gold pieces in soft cloth bags or the original box to protect them from the elements of daily exposure.


With proper care, your fine quality silver will last a lifetime. To minimize scratches and other damage, store your silver jewelry either in a cloth pouch or in a separate compartment in your jewelry box. Avoid exposing your silver to household chemicals when cleaning with bleach or ammonia, or when swimming in chlorinated water, as these chemicals can damage silver.

Care should also be taken to prevent silver tarnish build-up, a dulling that naturally occurs when silver reacts with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the ambient air. To clean your silver, use polishes formulated specifically to remove tarnish. You can find fine silver polishes, solutions, or cloths appropriate to remove tarnish at most hardware stores or specialty craft stores. Tarnish is most easily removed when it first becomes visible.

Although wearing your silver jewelry often is the best way to prevent tarnish from building up, regular cleanings of all your silver items will prevent tarnish and keep your silver bright and sparkling.


Soaking platinum in a mild solution of soap and warm water and gently scrubbing it with a soft-bristled brush is usually all that is required to maintain the metal's luster.


Soak your palladium jewelry in a commercial jewelry cleaner to remove dirt and restore luster. Leave the jewelry in the solution for approximately 5 minutes before gently scrubbing it with a soft-bristled brush, which is usually included with most commercial jewelry cleaners. Rinse your jewelry with warm water, then dry it with a paper towel.

Take your palladium pieces to a jeweler once every six months for a professional cleaning. The jeweler will deep clean your jewelry and will also check for any potential problems, such as loose stones.

Store your palladium jewelry in a soft, fabric-lined jewelry box when not in use. Make sure that the jewelry is stored in individual compartments and that the pieces aren't resting against each other. If you don't have a jewelry box, plastic storage bags and lint-free fabric pouches are also good for storing palladium jewelry. Simply wrap the pieces individually in tissue paper and store them flat.