In the jewelry business, there is some basic vocabulary that helps make shopping easier. There are different ways that jewelry is measured, and different options for the metals used to create your pieces.
The great thing to know is there is something for every taste, style and budget.
At Peter Franklin, our customer experience professionals help take the stress out of jewelry shopping and can explain all of the options. Of course, it helps to do a little homework on your own.
Only one letter separates “karat” from “carat”, but they mean very different things. Karat is the weight of measurement used for gold, while carat is used to measure diamonds and other precious gemstones.
For measuring metals, K is the commonly used abbreviation. With gold, it represents a fractional measurement of pure gold and any alloys that are added in and is measured out of a possible 24. The higher the number, the higher the proportion of gold. From 24K gold, the percentage of gold goes down to 22K, 18K, 14K and 12K. Anything less than 12K is considered costume jewelry. So, 18k means that the gold has 18 percent gold composition, or karats, while 14k is equal to 14 percent.
While 24K is the purest and most valuable form of gold, it isn’t necessarily the best for jewelry. That’s because pure gold is soft, and it can scratch and dent easily. As more alloy is introduced to gold, the metals become more durable, making it better suited for jewelry wear. It can also change the color of the gold.
With fine jewelry, due to their mixture of quality and durability, 18K and 14K gold are the most common. 18K tends to have richer color, but can be prone to scratching. Thanks to its higher gold content, 18K tends to be more expensive than 14K. However, 14K offers a desirable mix of color and quality, making it a popular choice for everyday items, including rings, bracelets, and necklaces.
When it comes to jewelry, gold and silver are the most frequently used metals, while platinum is occasionally the material of choice. Within each metal, there are different types, and a range of value and style.
When it comes to gold, yellow gold is the most commonly known color, but white and rose gold are other popular choices. White gold has been a favorite in the last two decades, and rose gold and yellow gold are having a trendy moment.
The various hues get their color when other minerals are mixed with pure gold. Their price is based on weight, rather than color, making all three similar in value.
White gold is created by adding metals such as copper, nickel, zinc, or palladium to pure gold. It resembles platinum, but is more reasonably priced, making it a popular choice for wedding and engagement rings, as well as earrings, bracelets and necklaces. White gold is often regarded as a modern twist compared to traditional yellow gold.
Traditionally, yellow gold jewelry and coins were symbols of prosperity, good fortune and wealth. It is created by adding copper or zinc to pure gold, which increases its durability. In the last few years, yellow gold has made a comeback and is now in vogue for engagement rings, stackable bands and layered necklaces, proving what is old really can be new again.
As the newest addition to the gold family, rose gold offers a fresh alternative that glows against many skin tones. Rose gold is a blend of pure gold and copper, which results in a pinkish hue. While rose gold is gorgeous on its own, recent styles have it mixed with yellow or white gold in settings, as well as stackable bands and bangles.
As the most expensive and most durable metal, platinum is often reserved for fine jewelry that gets daily use, including engagement rings and wedding bands. A naturally occurring white metal, platinum is rarer than pure gold and is also hypoallergenic. While platinum closely resembles white gold, it is heavier and stronger.
Pure silver is 99.9% natural silver and 0.1% other trace elements. It is the most valuable form of silver, but it is also soft, which makes it prone to damage with wear and tear. Sterling silver is a mix of 92.5 silver and 7.5% of another metal (7.5%), such as copper, zinc or nickel. That combination retains silver’s color and luster, but strengthens the material. As a result, sterling silver is less expensive than pure silver, but also durable. Sterling silver is the most common type of silver used in rings, earrings, necklaces and other jewelry.
Just when you thought you had a handle on jewelry metals, there’s still a little more to learn.
Jewelry can be made entirely out of gold or silver, or they can be layered with precious and base metals, called filled or plated. Solid gold or silver pieces are the most valuable, while plated or filled items can be more budget-friendly, making them a great option for occasional or trendy jewelry.
Filled jewelry are made by wrapping layers of gold or silver around a base metal, which still gives them a significant portion of the precious metal. In contrast, plated jewelry contains a thin layer of gold or silver on top of a thicker base of a less expensive metal. As a result, plated contains the smallest amount of precious metal. If the piece gets scratched, it will likely reveal the base material.
At Peter Franklin, we’re proud to offer fine jewelry in all of these metal choices. Our customer experience professionals can steer you to the material that best fits your needs, style and budget. Visit our three NE Indiana locations in Angola, New Haven and Fort Wayne to browse our extensive selection of looks of silver, gold, and platinum.