Precious Metals in Jewelry

By: Ian Maher

Precious metals are ideal for creating beautiful jewelry due in part to their resistance to corrosion. Since precious metals have an unreactive and oxidation-resistant nature, they fall into the category of noble metals. Such precious metals with which you may be familiar include gold, silver, and platinum, but palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium are other precious metals commonly incorporated into jewelry such as diamond rings, eternity rings, promise rings and right hand rings. The system of measurement for the weight of precious metals is troy weight, in which one troy ounce equates to approximately 1.1 standard ounces and twelve ounces make up one troy pound. Precious metals can be combined to form what are known as alloys, often for the purpose of reducing cost or producing a metal sturdier than any one element alone. Here we examine the major precious metals used in the crafting of fine jewelry:

-Gold: The most malleable and ductile of the precious metals, gold can be readily flattened into thin sheets and stretched into thin wire, which makes it a versatile and popular choice for jewelry creation. Gold is often alloyed with other metals for cost reduction and to increase the strength of the final product. In pure form, gold is measured in troy weight, but as an alloy with other metals its weight is measured in karats. For gold, the karat weight specifies the amount of pure gold present, with 24 karat being pure gold and smaller karat weights designating lower percentages of gold and higher proportions of other metals.

-Silver: Second to gold in malleability and ductility, silver is anther precious metal popular for use in jewelry. Silver is also commonly alloyed with other metals to create jewelry, with the popular sterling silver consisting of a combination of 92.5 percent silver with a relatively small 7.5 percent of another metal, typically copper. Being a superior conductor of heat and electricity, silver has numerous applications beyond jewelry making, such as coins, dentistry tools, silverware, film and electronics.

Platinum: Rarer than silver and gold, platinum is a durable precious metal common for eternity rings, engagement rings and wedding bands due to its resilience even with constant use. Iridium, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium and osmium are other precious metals in the Platinum Group of Metals, which occur together naturally. Palladium is the metal often mixed with yellow gold to make white gold, and rodium is used extensively to plate white gold to give it that extra white brightness. The metals in the Platinum Group of Metals are resilient, tarnish resistant and stable, making them popular for use not only in jewelry but also in numerous industrial processes such as crude oil refining and automobile manufacturing.

The end price of jewelry that can be attributed to precious metals depends not just on the pureness and rarity of the metal, but also the craftsperson's skill level, the intricacy of the piece and labor.

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