Your Complete Guide to the Precious Metals Used in Jewelry

When it comes to purchasing jewelry, you may think it's fun and exciting. However, if you don't know what type of precious metals is used in a piece, you may not get a bargain. For instance, a white gold necklace could be made with less than perfect materials and you would be paying for cheap metal. Here is your complete guide to the precious metals used in jewelry. Precious Metals Used in Jewellery 

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What Does Precious Mean?

When discussing jewelry, the description of precious means a rare, more desirable type of metal.

There are only eight precious metals in the world:


And the six platinum:

Rhodium - This metal the rarest and most valuable of the precious metals. It has a silver colour and is used for reflective purposes. It can be found inside mirrors, searchlights, automotive parts and some jewelry finishing. It is found in Russia, Canada, Africa and a few other countries.

Platinum - This is a non-corrosive precious metal that is also dense and malleable. It is similar to Palladium and it is used in more jewelry pieces than the other platinum.

Palladium - This is a greyish-white and valuable because it is rare. It is used by jewellers to create white-gold pieces. This is used in the automotive industry as part of catalytic converters which help to reduce emissions. It can also be added to jewelry to create white-gold pieces. Found in the United States, Russia, Canada, South Africa and several other countries. 

Ruthenium - Another rare precious metal with the ability to withstand outside elements. It is popular in the electronics industry. Found in both South and North America, Canada and Russia.

Osmium - This is one of the densest metals on Earth. It has a bluish-silver colour but is hard and brittle with a high melting point. It can be used to harden platinum alloys in filaments and electronics. 

Iridium - Another rare metal produced from zinc-ore, iron-ore, copper-ores and some leads. It is also malleable. It was used in the aircraft industry during WWII. It is found in South Korea, China and Japan.

Precious metals are not like the metals that are easily-oxidized metals such as copper, nickel and/or brass. These metals are often used as the base when jewelry is covered in silver or gold.

Often referred to as "noble" metals, precious metals have a luster and shine that will never corrode, rust or turn your skin green. It will also last for hundreds of thousands of years. Think about the discovery of ancient kings, queens and their offsprings and the beautiful gold and silver they are draped in.  


The amount of purities is what accounts for the price when it comes to the metals. There are many more purities of gold than silver.


Categories of silver include:

Fine Silver - This contains the highest amount of the precious metal at 99.9 percent and is too soft to be used for jewelry. Sometimes it will be applied in a thin layer over sterling silver to give it more of a shine.

950 Sterling Silver - This will contain at least 95 percent and no more than 5 percent of another metal such as nickel or copper.

925 Sterling Silver - This silver will contain no less than 92.5 percent of the precious metal and no more than 7.6 percent nickel or other metals.

800 Silvers - This will contain only 80 percent silver and 20 percent of another metal.

Jewellers will use the terms "fine" and "sterling" when referring to anything created with silver.


Purities of gold include:

         10 Karat: 41.7% Pure
         12 Karat: 50% Pure
         14 Karat: 58.3% Pure
         18 Karat: 75% Pure
         22 Karat: 91.7% Pure
         24 Karat: 99.9% Pure

Gold is denoted to as "Carats" and is used in most jewelry applications. There is a wide difference between trendy gold jewelry which you can wear any time, and the better or heirloom gold pieces you'll want to store away for your children's children.

White Gold - This refers to a combination or "alloy" of nickel and gold but could also be part zinc and palladium. These metals will give the item a platinum hue.  If silver and copper were used, it would enhance the gold's natural colour.

Rose Gold - This is a combination of gold and copper which results in a reddish golden metal.

Blue Gold - This is a gold and an iron-containing metal known as ferrous and in the end, the piece is a bluish colour.

Rolled Gold-plated, Gold Overlay or Gold Filled - These are gold pieces that have 10k or more in gold, but is bonded to the base metal mechanically. This makes it more long-lasting than gold-plated jewelry.

Gold Vermeil - This is a coating of gold over another metal, usually silver and has a purity rating of at least 14k. This layer is much thicker than others of similar type. Gold Vermeil is also more durable than gold-plated jewelry. (Pronounced "Vermay")

Gold-plated - These pieces have been coated in at least 10k gold; however, the coating is rather thin and will rub or chip off with constant wear. The base metal is typically brass or copper.

Solid Gold - This is a piece that contains at least 10k alloy and is solid, not hollow.


This precious metal costs more than gold and is also rarer. The six metals in the platinum family are considered the finest of all the precious metals.

Platinum is a white-silver mixed colour metal and was found throughout the world, although it is much harder to find now. It is usually combined with nickel, osmium or iridium when making jewelry.

Like silver, it is not measured in Karats but rather a purity. PT1000 indicates a 100 percent pure platinum. The manufacturer will stamp the piece with the platinum quality.

Since platinum is rare, not many artisan jewellers like to create with it. Although it is lustrous, scratch resistant and durable, it often makes great one-of-a-kind pieces.

Now that you know more about precious metals, you will have an easier time picking out the perfect piece of jewelry.

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