Traditionally, the most popular metals used in the creation of jewellery are gold, silver and platinum. Other metals such as palladium and titanium are now increasingly being used to make items such as wedding rings.
Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper to give strength while preserving the ductility of the silver and a high precious metal content. Fine silver (99.9% pure) is generally too soft for producing large functional objects.
Properly maintained silver jewellery improves with age and develops a beautiful patina. Treat your silver well, care for it properly and it will reward you with a long life and a special look.
Gold jewellery never goes out of style. Gold is a soft, malleable metal that can be worked into nearly any shape, from tiny strands that do not break easily to very thin sheets. One ounce of gold can even be hammered into an ultra thin sheet that's ten feet square.
Pure gold is 24 carat, but pure gold alone is too soft to be used for the creation of practical jewellery for daily wear. 18 carat gold is an alloy comprised of 18 parts gold to 6 parts other metals (75% gold), 14ct gold contains 14 parts gold (58.3%) while 9ct contains 9 parts gold (37.5%).
Gold can also be combined with other metals to create the increasingly popular white gold (mixed with nickel or palladium), as well as green gold (with silver) and rose gold (with copper).
Platinum is naturally a greyish white, very durable and takes a fine polish that is resistant to wear. It requires a higher level of craftsmanship and also being rarer than gold, explains why it is worth the extra expense.
Pure platinum is in fact softer than pure gold, it is the other constituents of the alloy that make it hard wearing. The most common 950 (95% pure) alloy is the hardest of the precious metals used in jewellery.
Rare, pure and a sliver-white, palladium offers some of the same metal working properties as other jewellery metals, and remains tarnish free. Being an extremely lightweight yet durable metal, palladium can be used to create intricate necklaces and bracelets and is an especially good choice for earrings and large pendants.
Titanium is a light, strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant transition metal with a greyish colour. Titanium can be alloyed with other elements to produce strong lightweight alloys for jewellery and in its unalloyed condition, titanium is as strong as some steels, but 45% lighter.
Hallmarking is an ancient method of safeguarding consumers which involves testing articles made of precious metal and marking them to indicate that they are of a minimum standard of purity.
In the UK , the hallmark is made up of several elements including: a mark denoting the type of metal, the maker/sponsor's mark and the year of the marking.
Nowadays hallmarking is carried out in the UK not only by the London Assay Office at Goldsmiths Hall, but also by the Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield Assay Offices.