Precious Metals


22ct gold In order to bear a 22ct gold (916) hallmark a piece of jewellery must be made of an alloy containing a minimum pure gold content of 916 parts per 1000. Only a very small percentage of jewellery sold in the UK is made of this alloy. Because it is very close to pure 24 ct gold, these alloys are popular in Asian countries where gold jewellery is purchased or given as a store of wealth.

18ct gold In order to bear an 18ct gold (750) hallmark a piece of jewellery must be made of an alloy which contains a minimum pure gold content of 750 parts per 1000. Most 18ct gold will contain 75% gold, 16% silver and 9% copper a combination which allows it to be easily formed into jewellery, whilst ensuring its durability. This alloy is the choice for discerning customers seeking high quality, luxury jewellery designs.

14ct gold In order to bear a 14ct gold (585) hallmark a piece of jewellery must be made of an alloy containing a minimum pure gold content of 585 parts per 1000. This standard is much used in the USA but is not so common in Britain.

9ct gold 9ct gold alloys must contain a minimum fine gold content of 375 parts per 1000 which means that the major part of a 9ct gold alloy comprises base rather than precious metal. 9ct gold is widely used in the UK for the production of less expensive jewellery designs but it is very popular and durable.

White gold and Rhodium Plating
Pure gold is, of course yellow in colour but to satisfy demand for white precious metals, ?white? gold alloys can be produced by alloying yellow gold with naturally white precious metals such as palladium or silver, or non precious ?white? metals to reduce the yellowness of the resulting alloy. Gold bullion suppliers now sell a range of graded white gold alloys which can be compared against a published scale of ?whiteness?. However, white gold is routinely electroplated with Rhodium, a precious white metal which imparts a bright white finish. Depending on the level of wear, this finish can, and does, wear off and white gold thus requires more care and maintenance to keep it bright. If the underlying white gold is a yellower grade then it will start to show through as the rhodium wears. Consumers should bear in mind that their white gold jewellery may require re-plating at variable intervals depending on the amount of wear and the thickness of rhodium plating which can be applied to the jewellery. Some designs, particularly those with sharp edges and corners, may only be suitable for a thin plating of rhodium.

Red and other colours of gold
Red or rose gold is created by increasing the amount of copper in the alloy. Introducing other metals, or removing them completely, can make other colours of gold, including unusual tones such as green and blue but these are not generally available.

Durability of gold
Many people believe that due to its higher purity and the inherent relative softness of the pure metal, that 18ct gold is less durable than 9ct alloys. In fact, with modern alloy technology, there is little to support this belief. Today?s 18ct alloys are equally as durable as their 9ct equivalents and offer the additional benefits of tarnish and corrosion resistance, to say nothing of appealing to the consumer?s desire for a more pure and natural product.

Silver, like its more precious sister gold, comes in a range of different alloys. Hallmarks are currently applied to silver at the following standards: 800, 925, 958 and 999 parts per 1000. There is no obligation on jewellery producers to hallmark silver items that weigh less than 7.78 grams.

Some silver alloys such as ?Lustre? a Sterling silver alloy from Carrs of Sheffield and ?Brilliante? -which available from a range of manufacturers - have been developed to be tarnish resistant and are thus a popular choice for cutlery and homewares.

Sterling Silver ?Sterling? is the name given to silver that contains 925 parts of silver per 1000.
Britannia Silver ?Britannia? is the name given to silver that silver contains 958 parts per 1000.

Platinum is one of the ?noble? metals and is the most precious of all the metals used for jewellery making. Platinum standards in the UK are 850, 900, 950 and 999 ? making platinum alloys the purest and most hypo-allergenic available. Platinum is naturally ?white? and its, strength, durability, rarity and cost makes it much sought after by those who demand the best. It has seen strongly increasing sales at the luxury end of the jewellery market over the past ten years. All platinum jewellery being sold in the UK over 0.5 grams must bear a hallmark.

Another precious metal which is being increasingly used by UK jewellery companies is palladium. This metal cannot at present be hallmarked but it is hoped that the law will be changed to allow this. Palladium is a platinum group metal which is normally used at a fineness of 950, or 95% pure. It is strong and durable, but has approximately half the density of platinum and weighs around 33% less than gold. Being light it lends itself well to the creation of larger, more dramatic designer items that are currently fashionable, especially earrings, cufflinks, necklace, bracelets and bangles where weight is important. Palladium is a very bright almost blue ?white? and unlike 18ct white gold alloys does not need to be rhodium plated. It wears in much the same way as platinum does and like platinum it can be highly polished but also works well with a matt finish.

Mixed metals
Until very recently jewellery made using a combination of different precious metals, or of precious metals mixed with non precious metals could not carry a hallmark on the precious metal element. The law has now been changed and consumers should look out for innovative designs incorporating a variety of materials such as gold mixed with stainless steel, titanium or bronze.

E.H. Warford Jewellers 73 Devonshire Road Bexhill on Sea East Sussex TN40 1BD

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