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Metals 101:
A Guide to Precious and Semi-Precious Metals



Gold

 

 

Rare, versatile and highly desirable, gold makes beautiful jewelry of all kinds. However, pure gold is too soft to be used by itself in jewelry, so it must be combined with an alloy (base metal). At ShaneCo.com, you'll only find gold jewelry of 14k and above. That's because 10k gold jewelry contains less than 50% actual gold - too little to meet our standards for quality.

Caring for Gold

• Clean your gold jewelry with a mild detergent or ammonia solution (one part ammonia to six parts water). Avoid ammonia solution when cleaning pieces that contain pearls
• Use a soft brush to gently clean intricate filigree designs and under gemstones
• Do not use any kind of abrasive material that might scratch the gold
• Rinse and wipe jewelry after cleaning

 

Gold - A distinctive choice

The appeal of gold is universal and timeless. The most malleable metal, gold can be bent, twisted, stretched, hammered and milled, lending itself to a wide spectrum of jewelry shapes and textures. This precious metal enhances everything from big, bold fashionable designs to intricately detailed treasures. The styles available for chains, necklaces, pendants, earrings, bracelets and rings are only limited by the designer's imagination.

 

Ancient allure

Gold's radiance has captivated both men and women for thousands of years. The first recorded gold finds can be traced to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Since ancient times, it has served as both currency and decoration. As early as 3000 BC, gold rings were used as payment for debts. Throughout history, gold has been extensively used as decoration, in jewelry and other adornments.

Despite its widespread popularity, gold has always been a rare commodity: All the gold ever mined would fit into a cube approximately 70 feet on each side. As such, its status endures as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

 

Gold Mining

Rich mines in South Africa produce about half of the world's annual gold output. Russia is the second largest gold producer, with additional deposits found in Australia and the United States.

Gold is mined from the earth in two forms: nuggets and dust. The methods used to mine gold are costly and time-consuming. No fewer than three - and sometimes as many as ten - tons of ore must be extracted to produce a single ounce of gold. Even after thousands of years, technology has yet to succeed in making gold mining easy or inexpensive, so it remains a valuable commodity.

 

Gold and its alloys

Pure gold is too soft to be used in everyday jewelry. The metal would bend out of shape and wear away. Therefore, gold must be combined with an alloy - or base metal - to make it more durable. Copper, zinc, nickel and silver are metals commonly mixed with gold for use in jewelry.

It is the amount of alloy mixed with the gold that determines the karat weight of gold, which is measured in 24ths. Pure gold is 24K. The composition of other grades, with the percentage of gold versus percentage of alloy expressed as a decimal, are:
 

  • U.S. Grades
  • Composition
    • 18K
    • .750 gold/.250 alloy
    • 14K
    • .583 gold/.417 alloy
    • 10K
    • .416 gold/.584 alloy


Have you ever discovered a black film on your skin where you've worn gold jewelry? That discoloration is caused by a reaction between the gold jewelry and the wearers' skin. There's nothing wrong with the jewelry; it's just chemistry. The higher the percentage of base metal alloy, the more likely it is that a reaction will occur. Another good reason why Shane Co. sells nothing less than 14K gold jewelry.

 

Colored gold

As an element, gold exists naturally only in its namesake color. It can be combined with alloys not only for strength, but to create intriguing colors and designs:
 

  • Color
  • Alloy
    • Yellow Gold
    • Copper and Silver
    • White Gold
    • Nickel, Zinc and Copper
    • Copper
    • Pink or Rose Gold
    • Green Gold
    • Silver, Copper and Zinc


White and yellow gold are most prevalent in jewelry. White gold is the sturdiest of the colored golds, which is why it's frequently used in prongs in diamond setting. Such white gold settings resist hard blows and tend to enhance the color of the gemstones. Like platinum, white gold is enjoying a resurgence in popularity with today's interest in white metals.

 

Determining the price of gold

Gold is considered a commodity in the world markets, with the price, which fluctuates, generally controlled by large investors. Every day, the opening London "fix" price is published worldwide in newspapers and the closing price is listed on the New York Commodity Exchange.

Jewelers measure gold weight in pennyweights (DWT). There are 20 pennyweights to one Troy ounce. In the metric system, one pennyweight equals 1.555 grams.

The price of gold on world markets is only one of the factors influencing the price you pay for a given piece of gold jewelry. Besides the raw gold material, the designer or manufacturer incurs costs of production, labor, quality control, overhead and other incidentals. Traditionally, the jewelry wholesaler and retailer also have distribution, marketing and other overhead expenses that add to the final price tag.

 


 

 

 

Platinum

 

 

Platinum is the purest, most durable and most valuable of the metals used for fine jewelry. Its white luster shows little wear and beautifully enhances gemstones, making it ideal for settings. Platinum has been enjoying a resurgence as part of the current interest in white metals.

Caring for Platinum

Like gold, platinum will not tarnish. To maintain the luster of your platinum jewelry, simply clean it with a soft cloth and mild detergent or an ammonia solution (one part ammonia to six parts water).

 

Platinum - the rarest metal

Of the three "noble" metals, platinum is the most valuable because of its rarity and purity. It also has many other desirable qualities for jewelry making, notably enduring elegance. Platinum is soft, ductile and easily worked, yet strong and durable, making it an excellent metal for gem settings. Platinum prongs show little wear, providing great protection for precious stones. Furthermore, platinum's rich white luster beautifully sets off diamonds, and its neutral color enhances any gemstone's brilliance and depth.

 

A preference for platinum

Ancient Egyptians were the first to recognize the beauty and endurance of platinum. In fact, one high priestess commissioned an artisan to carve hieroglyphics in platinum on her casket - designs that are perfectly intact today, 2500 years later! King Louis XVI of France favored platinum jewelry during his reign in the late 1700s. Some of the world's most famous diamonds have been set in platinum, including the Hope Diamond.

Platinum use peaked in the U.S. in the early part of the century, but after 1940, during World War II, the government banned its use for all non-military purposes, including jewelry. To accommodate consumers' preference for its white luster, white gold took its place during the embargo. However, once restrictions on platinum ended, it did not regain its previous popularity, until recently. Today, platinum is once again in style as the modern millennium metal, particularly in bridal and high-end fashion jewelry.

 

Elemental issues

Supplies of platinum remain scarce, which contributes to its higher cost. In terms of rarity, consider that 10 tons of ore must be mined to produce a single ounce of platinum. In contrast, it takes three tons of ore to extract one ounce of gold. The main suppliers today are Russia and South Africa, with Canada, Columbia and the U.S. producing smaller amounts.

In the U.S., platinum is used in near pure form for jewelry because of its strength. Strict laws maintain a very high level of quality for platinum and platinum alloys. It is alloyed only with "sister" metals such as iridium, osmium, palladium, rhodium and ruthenium, and by law, unsoldered platinum articles may contain no more than 1.5% base metal content. Platinum jewelry stamped "IRIDPLAT" contains 90% platinum and 10% iridium. A piece marked "PLAT" must contain at least 95% pure platinum.

 


 

 

 

Sterling Silver

 

 

The manufacturing of sterling silver has come a long way. New alloys and alloy combinations are used to resist tarnish, and with the refinement of the manufacturing process, sterling silver will maintain its look of beauty. Due to the superior methods in which Shane Co. jewelry is manufactured, our sterling silver pieces that are rhodium plated will not require re-plating with rhodium.

Caring for Sterling Silver

• Use the complimentary cleaning and polishing cloth included with your Shane Co. sterling silver purchase.
• Use the inner polishing cloth to remove tarnish or dirt, and finish with a few rubs of the outer cloth to provide a high shine.
• Alternatively, create your own cleaning solution (do not use this method with jewelry that contains gemstones). Line a bowl with aluminum foil and pour in hot, salted water. Drop your silver jewelry in and move it around with a wooden or plastic utensil to ensure all of the surfaces come in contact with the aluminum foil. When the metal has become bright again (it should only take a few minutes), remove the jewelry and rinse under the tap. Wipe gently with a towel and polish with a soft cloth.

 

Many of the styles we carry are handmade; you can see the craftsmanship in each unique piece. Like gold, silver is very ductile and malleable, rating a 2.7 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, as compared to gold's 2.5 rating. This makes silver easy to manipulate and a perfect choice for handmade pieces.

Traditional sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper with traces of nickel, which is what can cause an allergic reaction in people with intense jewelry allergies. These allergies can be avoided through rhodium plating, since rhodium is hypoallergenic.

Silver has a white color and a brilliant metallic luster that can withstand a high degree of polish.

 


 

 

 

Titanium

 

 

Titanium is a lightweight metal that has good strength, excellent resistance, and won't tarnish or rust. It is a lustrous white color when pure – almost resembling sterling silver. It won't cause irritation or discoloration of the skin, making it ideal for sensitive skin types.

Titanium will almost never break or bend, though it can scratch. It has a high melting point of 3,135°F and a rating of 6 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. Shane Co.'s jewelers can polish out light scratches and apply a light finish to the metal; however, polishing and finishing are the only two alterations that can be made – it cannot be sized, soldered, etc.

Titanium is a popular choice because it is strong and hypoallergenic, and will last a lifetime. It also won't fade in sunlight or react to saltwater like some other metals do.

 


 

 

 

Cobalt

 

 

Cobalt, often compared to platinum or palladium in color, is a bright white metal that is highly scratch resistant, doesn't chip or shatter and is hypoallergenic. It looks and feels like white gold, but is a cost-effective alternative. Cobalt neither fades nor tarnishes and can be easily polished using platinum polishing techniques. Cobalt has a rating of 5 on the Mohs scale of gemstone hardness. It is four times harder than platinum and five times harder than gold.

How does cobalt compare to tungsten and titanium?

Cobalt features many unique properties and characteristics, the most obvious being its premium bright white color. Cobalt is much whiter than tungsten and titanium, and its appearance is similar to platinum. Since the bright white color isn't just plating, cobalt will stay white forever.

Cobalt bands are one of the only alternative metals in the jewelry industry that can be slightly sized up to a 1/2 size without adding any metal.

The weight of cobalt bands falls between tungsten and titanium bands. Cobalt is heavier than titanium but slightly lighter than tungsten. As a result, they are extremely comfortable to wear. Cobalt bands are incredibly hard and provide an unyielding strength. Because of its tremendous strength, these bands are shatterproof and will not crack.

Cobalt's hardness and durability has proven to be more scratch-resistant than precious metal wedding bands. Because of their hardness and durability, they are less likely to crush or bend out-of-round.