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The purity of gold is measured in karats. Pure gold is very soft, so gold jewellery is generally alloyed, or mixed, with metals such as silver, copper, nickel or zinc.
24 karats (24k) is considered pure gold and is very soft and malleable. Jewellery pieces are not often made with 24 karat gold because they would misshape easily. However, 24k gold is sometimes used in plating other metals to create a radiant finish.
18 karats (18k) is 75% gold and 25% other alloys. This is an excellent purity of gold for creating jewellery because it combined pure gold with enough alloys to provide it with durability.
14 karats (14k) is approximately 58% gold and 42% other alloys. This is the most popular purity of gold due to its balance of beauty and affordabilty.
Gold is naturally yellow. The two most popular alternate colours are white gold and rose gold, both measured in the same karat weights as yellow gold.
White gold is comprised of gold that has been alloyed with white metals—usually nickel or palladium—to create its colour.
Rose gold is created by mixing gold with copper and lesser amounts of white-coloured metal alloys. Because rose gold contains copper, it will develop a deeper, more intense colour over time.
Many jewellers use gold as a final, radiant finish to pieces made with other precious or non-precious metals. The most common finishes are gold plating, gold vermeil and gold filling.
Silver is very soft and malleable in its purest form, so it is often alloyed with copperto create stronger pieces.
Sterling silver is a mix of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals. The most common metal used in sterling silver jewellery is copper.
Fine silver has the highest concentration of silver: 99.9%. Although its shine is remarkable, its strength is limited. Jewellery made with this purity of silver should not be worn daily.
Silver can also be used in plating jewellery.
Platinum is an extremely dense and strong precious metal, which makes it the best choice for durability, longevity, and beauty. Moreover, it is hypoallergenic, so even people with very sensitive skin can wear it. For jewellery to be labelled platinum without any additional qualification, it must be made of at least of 95% platinum metal. Any piece of jewellery containing less than 95% platinum must include a label describing the parts per thousand of platinum present in a piece. For instance, a piece containing 90% platinum, which is the equivalent to 900 parts per thousand of platinum, will be labelled 900 platinum (900 plat or 900 pt).