Metals Used in Jewelry

Metals Used in Jewelry

by Ardamun

The most common types of metals used in jewelry are gold, silver and platinum. Other metals used include titanium, and stainless steel. Gold alloys used in jewelry range from 10K to 21K, whereas platinum alloys are 90% pure to 95% pure. Silver in the form of Sterling Silver is mostly used in jewelry.

To paraphrase Marilyn Monroe – jewelry is women’s best friend. Exquisite jewelry is created using a variety of metals – some well known and some not so well known. The most common types of metals used in jewelry are gold, silver and platinum. Other metals used include titanium, and stainless steel. Gold alloys used in jewelry range from 10K to 21K, whereas platinum alloys are 90% pure to 95% pure. Silver in the form of Sterling Silver is mostly used in jewelry.


Since ancient times, the exquisite beauty of gold has claimed a place of pride as the favorite metal for jewelry. Its intrinsic beauty and warmth has made it the most coveted of all metals. The earliest gold jewelry dates back from the Sumer Civilization around 3000 BC. Over the years, gold has inspired craftsmen to create jewelry that has been unmatched.

Pure gold is 24K gold. Karat (K) is the gold content of the metal. It is the proportion of pure gold to the other metals that make up the final metal. In some countries, Karat is also known as Carat (ct). 24K gold is soft and malleable, and cannot be used for jewelry. An ounce of pure gold can be beaten to make a 300 square feet sheet. A 14K gold has 14 parts out of 24 of pure gold and the rest is some other metal. The higher the proportion of gold in the final metal, the more expensive it will be. An 18K gold is 75% (18/24) pure gold and the balance is made up of different metals that give the final metal its unique appearance and colors.

Gold jewelry is made up of an alloy of gold and other metals, such as silver, copper, nickel and zinc. The metal used in the alloy determines the color of gold. Actually, pure gold is yellow in color. The metal added to make the alloy gives it a different hue:

* Yellow gold is the alloy of pure gold, silver, and copper or zinc. The metals are mixed in a predetermined proportion.
* White gold is the alloy of pure gold and white metals, such as nickel, silver and palladium. It is actually grayish in color and is plated with rhodium to give it a whiter look. Nickel, today, is not preferred as many people are allergic to it.
* Rose gold is the alloy of pure gold and copper in a greater proportion. The reddish hue is due to the increased proportion of copper in the alloy.
* Green gold is obtained by leaving copper out of the alloy and just having pure gold and silver. 18K gold would have 75% pure gold and 25% silver.


For thousands of years Silver has been used for jewelry and ornaments. The first major source of mined silver is the area of Anatolia, modern Turkey. The Chaldeans are considered to have processed silver ore around 2500 BC. Asia Minor and the Greek islands were the center of silver craftsmanship.

Silver is a popular metal for jewelry, but is softer than gold, platinum, and titanium, and does not have the hardness of other metals. Silver, for jewelry, is used in the form of Sterling Silver. Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper and is one of the most popular metals in the jewelry trade. Sterling Silver is durable and long lasting, and so is a popular metal for rings, necklaces, bracelets, cuff links, belt buckles, body jewelry and much more.

Sterling Silver jewelry can be casual and comfortable, and simultaneously display its timeless elegance. Silver’s pure white color suits all skin tones and throws a pleasant glow onto the wearer’s complexion. Silver is best used for jewelry that is not worn every day. It is prone to tarnishing and turns blackish. Of course, it can regain its pristine condition after a good hand polish, using cleaning solutions.

Vermeil and German silver are some other silver alloys used in jewelry. Vermeil is a combination having the inside core of pure sterling silver and the outside is a solid coating of finely crafted 14 karat gold. This combination looks, feels, and lasts exactly like pure gold. Jewelry made with other metals can also be silver-plated. This is a process where the other metal is just coated with a layer of silver.


Platinum has been used by pre-Columbian Indians for a long time. Rings and ornaments more than 2000 years old have been found in South America. It has also been found in objects dating from 700 BC in Egypt. A white metal, platinum can be used in jewelry in its pure form – 95% pure. In most countries the jewelry has a minimum purity of 85%. It is extremely durable and white and does not require rhodium plating, as gold does, to appear white. Platinum is more expensive than gold and costs up to twice as much as gold!

To enhance its characteristics and durability, platinum is alloyed with copper and cobalt along with ‘platinum group’ metals, such as palladium, rhodium and iridium. The main advantage of platinum as a metal for jewelry is its resistance to tarnish and its strength. Pure platinum melts at 1769 degrees Celsius and so is quite demanding as a metal for jewelry.

Ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum together make up the platinum group of metals. Platinum is alloyed with the other metals of this group to be made into jewelry.


Titanium is found in abundance in nature but in conjunction with other elements, such as Ilmenite and Rutile. It was not known to exist until it was discovered in impure form in 1791, and pure titanium was manufactured in 1910. It is the hardest natural metal known to man and is three times as strong as steel and stronger than gold, silver and platinum. Still, it is very light in weight. Its unique factors, such as strength, scratch resistance and light weight lends itself as a good metal for jewelry. Its ability to be colored easily is another factor for its popularity as a metal for jewelry.

Stainless Steel

It is a hard and durable metal, and is not a traditional jewelry metal. It is more popularly used to design dress jewelry and men’s bracelets. Unlike traditional alloys that are poured into molds, stainless steel jewelry is hand-cut from a solid piece of steel leaving no seams, or weak spots. Jewelry made from stainless steel does not tarnish or rust.