Advice & Guides
- Birthstones and their meaning
- Diamond buying guide
- Choosing bridal jewellery
- Ethical conflict-free diamonds
- Cushion cut vs Princess cut
- Diamond Certification
- Engagement ring budgets
- Engagement ring guides
- Gemstones and their meanings
- How To Clean And Care For Jewellery
- Diamond Ring And Jewellery Care
- Precious Metals in Jewellery Guide
- Necklace Length Guide
- How to Propose
- Ring Size Guide And Chart
- 3 Stone Vs Solitaire Engagement Rings
- Platinum Vs Tungsten Rings
- Watch Buying Guide
- Watch Repairs and Servicing
- Wedding Ring Guide
- Yellow Gold Vs White Gold Engagement Rings
Types of precious metals in jewellery
When it comes to choosing jewellery, many turn their attention to learning all about diamonds and precious gemstones, including how to select and care for them. However, there’s lots to learn about in terms of metal types too. From yellow, white and rose gold, to silver or platinum, there are plenty of different precious metals to choose from. Aside from their unique beauty, each metal has its own characteristics - affecting affordability, durability, hypoallergenic properties, and, of course, appearance. This guide walks through the unique makeup of each metal, helping you decide which one is best for yourself or the special person you’re choosing jewellery for.
Yellow gold has been loved for centuries and is the most traditional choice when it comes to jewellery, being deemed the most popular throughout history. This type of metal is considered to be ‘pure’ gold, however, like any other gold colour, it’s actually mixed with other metals.
Copper and zinc are important components in yellow gold’s makeup, providing strength, as on its own it wouldn’t be hardy enough to survive as a wearable piece of everlasting jewellery. Yellow gold metal is softer compared to its peers, such as white gold, particularly if you choose a karat. This makes yellow gold a more versatile metal to engrave a sentimental message into, ideal for a wedding or eternity ring. However, if not cared for properly, over time this metal can dent and scratch easily, so it’s best worn by those who do not work with their hands or are happy to take their jewellery off in active working conditions. Yellow gold jewellery naturally shines bright but still needs regular cleaning to keep it dazzling and looking its very best.
Aside from silver, and rose gold, yellow gold is usually one of the lower-cost options, making it a precious metal of choice for those with a slightly smaller budget in mind.
Hypoallergenic jewellery pieces are made out of purer metals that do not cause any allergy or irritation to the wearer's skin. Yellow gold is the most hypoallergenic of all the gold colours, and more so the higher the karat.
When it comes to yellow gold, traditional and vintage styles spring to mind. In fact, many younger generations will associate yellow gold with their parent’s wedding rings and special family heirlooms. Those who love vintage jewellery will forever cherish a yellow gold piece, old or new, for its traditional colour, that can be accented with a rich ruby, bold green emerald or a glistening diamond for extra vintage glamour. Yellow gold looks classic and wonderful on everyone, but the colour works particularly well with those who have a darker or olive skin tone. This allows the yellow gold colour to truly shine and stand out, making the statement that it deserves.
Deriving from the 1920s, white gold is a renowned choice for special jewellery pieces like an engagement ring, due to its timeless, classic and simple style.
Manganese, nickel and palladium are the three metal components mixed in with white gold; making it a stronger metal than yellow gold and often chosen as an alternative for platinum, being similar in strength. Someone with an active lifestyle or job can wear a white gold piece more confidently than yellow gold, as it will take longer to tarnish or wear.
Though white gold is a little more expensive than yellow gold, it is a great budget alternative to platinum, being slightly more affordable.
White gold often contains lots of nickel, therefore, isn’t a hypoallergenic metal.
The colouring of white gold jewellery effortlessly complements the sparkle of any dazzling diamond. This metal, to the eye, is close to silver in colour and works with just about anything, making it the perfect option for those who don’t like to limit their style. White gold especially suits those with fair skin tones, complementing cooler colours beautifully. This metal is a modern choice and its neutral appearance means it can be worn with any jewellery style.
Rose gold’s growing popularity has made it the perfect romantic choice for a piece of jewellery, due to its charming rose colour. Rose gold was also popular during the Victorian era, used in engagement rings as the ultimate symbol of love, making this metal both a classic favourite and a contemporary one.
Rose gold is made from a careful mixture of copper and gold and is more durable than yellow and white gold, however not as strong as platinum.
Rose gold is known to be one of the most affordable of the precious metals, aside from silver. This is due to the copper alloy that is present in rose gold, which is a lower value compared to other alloys like those in white gold.
Due to the copper alloy within rose gold’s mixture, this metal is not hypoallergenic. Occasionally 18k rose gold will contain palladium or silver, and 14k rose gold might have silver or zinc in, which should be kept in mind when buying jewellery if the wearer has allergies. It would be beneficial to seek advice from one of our experts at Browns if this is a concern.
The colouring of rose gold can range from more pink tones to redder tones, depending on the copper content in the mix. This wonderful colour suits and complements all skin tones beautifully and adds a truly romantic, vintage touch to any style. Many different gemstones work well with rose gold, from rich amethyst and emerald to cool topaz and rose quartz.
Considered the very best, platinum is the highest quality precious metal you can opt for. The everlasting popularity of platinum is due to its dazzling white colour, strength, purity and prestige. It is a luscious rare metal that’s one of the strongest elements created naturally.
Many choose platinum for its hardiness and resistance to tarnishing, bringing practicality and glamour together and making it perfect for everyday jewellery. Its durability and strength also make it the perfect material to set precious gemstones securely. This precious metal is denser than gold and twice as dense as silver, meaning it can be heavy. Despite its durability, like many metals it can still wear over time, however, indents can be easily polished out.
Platinum, being rarer and denser than gold, is often considerably more expensive than other metals, however, its rarity means it stands the test of time. Platinum is often seen as an investment, and pieces containing this precious metal are passed down through the family as timeless heirlooms.
Because of platinum’s purity, it is naturally hypoallergenic and non-reactive, the perfect choice if the wearer has sensitive skin.
Naturally white in colour, platinum develops a bright silvery patina as it ages, looking incredible with a dazzling diamond, complementing each other beautifully. For this reason, brides and grooms often veer towards this metal for engagement rings and wedding bands, and its strength also symbolises the stuff that marriage is made of.
Silver is one of the most popular precious metals and never falters in its widespread appeal. Known for its brilliant white shine, silver is simply stylish and timeless.
As pure silver itself is fairly soft, sterling silver is slightly harder containing 92.5% fine silver and 7.5% other metals, making it the most popular and durable alloy used in jewellery and silverware. Over time, sterling silver can tarnish, adopting a dark hue, which means extra care needs to be taken to care for this metal.
Silver is the most affordable of all the precious metals, yet brings lasting value, making it an attractive option to many.
Sterling silver is mostly pure and does not contain nickel, therefore allergies to silver are more rare.
Silver is a good metal for fashion designs and works well as a plain, engraved or a stone-set piece of jewellery, harmonising perfectly with all coloured gemstones and diamonds. The bright silver hue will stand out beautifully against those with neutral skin tones.
In the UK it’s mandatory, for all jewellery that is made from gold, silver, palladium or platinum to have a hallmark by the Hallmarking Act of 1973. Golds that are white and yellow must be further classified into 9K, 14K, 18K and 22K standards. Platinum and palladium must also have a percentage of purity on them in order to meet the UK hallmarking requirements.
It’s important to be able to identify one of these trusty marks as it proves the purity of the metal, guaranteeing the standard of the piece you’re purchasing. However, there is just one exception. Jewellery doesn't have to be marked if it’s under any of the following weights:
1g for gold
0.5g for platinum and palladium
7.78g for silver
This means that jewellery pieces like stud earrings or pendants are occasionally an exception when it comes to hallmarking.
At Brown,, we’re proud to offer a wonderful selection of jewellery made from this range of metals, fit for every occasion. Don’t forget, we’re here to help you choose the perfect piece of jewellery, so don’t hesitate to get in touch or pop into your nearest store.