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Choosing the Right Metals

Gold

All throughout the history of humanity gold has been prized and utilized for its malleability, workability, ability to resist corrosion and rust and ultimately the beauty that it holds.

Source: Classified as a precious metal, gold is found in two major types of mineral deposits 1) Lode/Vein: gold found in veins and cracks in rocks, and 2) Placer: formed from the erosion of gold out of lode deposits which eventually settle beneath river beds. South Africa is the world's largest producer of gold and is believed to have half of the world's gold resources followed by United States (Nevada and Alaska) as well as Brazil and Canada.

Production: When you speak of Italian gold jewelry, it is synonymous with style and class as it is sold mostly as 18 karat gold (or higher) with a 750 in the European markage ensuring excellent quality and craftsmanship.

Characteristic: Gold is distinguishable through its hardness and weight. Gold is very soft with a 2.5-3 average on the scale of hardness making it easily hammered into thin sheets without shattering. It is also very heavy with a gravity of 19.309 g/cm3

Color: There are three tones in which gold is classified determined by the type and percentage of alloy in each. Yellow gold is basically gold in its closest purest forms comprised of 18K (75% Gold) and 14K (58.3% Gold) that is alloyed together with other precious metals making it strong enough to withstand everyday wear and tear. On the other hand, white gold is produced by plating either an 18 or 14 Karat yellow gold with rhodium, a white shiny metal which is extremely hard. Finally, rose gold with its beautiful pink color is made through a large proportion of copper in its metal alloy.

Pricing: Karat weight, design and overall construction of gold jewelry determines its price.

Care:

  • Don't wear gold while bathing or cleaning
  • Soap doesn't harm gold but leaves a fimly residue that coats and lessens the luster of a gold jewelry
  • Avoid chlorine because it can permanently damage and discolor gold.
  • Since gold is soft, avoid its contact with highly abrasive materials.
  • Use chamois cloth in cleaning your gold jewelry

Sterling Silver

Silver in its most purest form 99.9% is known as "Fine Silver" and is considered to be the most lustrous precious metal, reflecting 90 percent of light. While on the other hand 925 sterling silver is an alloy that's 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper - bright, luminous and stunning in its own light.

Source: The principal sources of silver are the ores of copper, copper-nickel, lead, and lead-zinc mined from Peru, Mexico, China, Australia and Chile through various underground methods and which are afterwards crushed and grounded. The specific extracting process is highly dependent on the mineral into which it is alloyed with. It is important to note that for material to be considered "silver" in the US, the silver alloy must at least contain 92.5% silver. Do not be fooled by other markings that are less clear such as nickel silver, mexican silver or simply silver since they do not automatically guarantee silver content.

Production: The majority of today's silver jewelry is called .925 sterling. Over the years, most countries in the world have developed their own systems of hallmarking silver to ensure the quality and purity of Silver, and to note the manufacturer and date/place of production.

Characteristic: Silver holds 3.25 on the hardness scale and a relative density of 10.5. In terms of availability, silver is much more plentiful than gold; however since silver tends to tarnish easily due to its reaction with sulfur compounds in the atmosphere, it is a less popular choice in jewelry. In addition to being able to reflect light very well, silver is strong, malleable and ductile, and can endure extreme temperature ranges.

Color: Silver is the metallic shade that highly resembles gray. It cannot simply be produced by a simple solid color because its sheen is obtained and varies according to its surface angle and light source.

Pricing: A primary factor affecting the price of silver is the available supply versus fabrication demand. Recently, silver has increasingly been considered a tangible asset and a store of value which adds inflation and changing paper currency values to the list of pricing factors.

Care:

  • Storage: keep your sterling silver jewelry in an air-tight protective bag made of tarnish proof cloth or one can also use a Ziploc/polyehtelyne bag in order to protect your Silver jewelries from tarnish; Do not store in a loose drawer or jewelry box or its surfaces may incur scratches.
  • Clean Sterling Silvers with a nub free/funnel cloth to gently remove excess makeup.
  • Never rub polish in circular motion instead do it in a back and forth motion.

Titanium

In 1791, the advent of titanium came to being through the discovery of William Gregor, an English scientist and reverend that was later on confirmed and named Titanium by Martin Klaprotn, an Austrian chemist. Titanium can be alloyed with iron, aluminum among many others in producing strong lightweight alloys that are used for aerospace, automotive, and of course jewelry, among many other applications.

Source: Apart from being present in meteorites and the sun, the element titanium is the 9th most abundant on the earth's crust and the 7th most abundant metal. Titanium is almost always present in igneous rocks and in the sediments derived from them and even in natural bodies of water. Commercially, titanium is extracted from from the ore minerals rutile (titanium dioxide) and ilmenite (iron-titanium oxide). The leading producers of titanium concentrates include Australia, Canada, China, India, Norway, South Africa, and Ukraine.

Characteristic: Titanium at its pure form, is a lustrous white metal. Due to the oxidized surface that it forms when marred, titanium is very highly resistant to corrosion. This protection also makes titanium an inert hypoallergenic material. It will cause no reaction to organic substances, which makes it perfect for use in the medical industry as well as in jewelry production.

Color: Titanium and niobium are members of the reactive metals, which have the unique property of taking on color when exposed to electricity or heat. By using an electrically charged bath, foundries can create colors accordinding to the voltage range in which the titanium is anodized.

Pricing: Titanium pricing is primarily dependent upon long term trends and periodic volatility. Although titanium is abundant in the Earth's crust, commercially obtaining it can be quite expensive, which raises its cost accordingly.

Care:

  • Wash with a soft sponge, or cloth using mild detergent
  • Dry using a soft cloth
  • Avoid metal to metal contact or abrasive cleaners in order not to scratch the material

Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten carbide jewelry is engineered to last a lifetime. Tungsten carbide is four times harder than titanium, and twice as hard as steel. It is virtually unscratchable, thus making it an ideal scratch-resistant material for jewelry (including watch bands and wedding rings) and a less expensive and more heat resistant diamond alternative.

Source: Tungsten carbide is a compound of tungsten and carbon. Pure tungsten jewelry is available, but isn't as hard as carbide compounds.

Production: Together with carbon and other elements, tungsten is ground into a powder and then compressed with high pressure dies to form a ring blank. This blank is heated in an oxygen-free furnace to 6200 degrees F in a process called sintering. After sintering, the material is cut and shaped to the desired form through the use of the same tools used in diamond cutting.

Characteristic: Tungsten carbide is able to withstand extremely high temperatures, and is corrosion and wear proof. These characteristics make it ideal for many commercial applications including jewelry making.

Color: Light gray with a slight blue tint.

Care:

  • A highly polished 100% tungsten carbide jewelry piece essentially requires no care as it will retain its luster and polish virtually forever
  • Using a cloth will eliminate fingerprints and smudges
  • Using a polishing cloth, cheese cloth or abrasive sponge will help restore the polish of tungsten carbide jewelry with sterling silver inlays

Stainless Steel

A somewhat dark metal, stainless steel looks bright because it reflects light. Stainless steel is a common term referring to alloys that consist of at least 50% iron and a minimum of 12% Chromium. Although popularly known as stainless steel, a better term for it is "corrosion resistant steel". This resistance to corrosion makes it a perfect material for many of today's commercial products - including jewelry.

Production: One of the advantages that stainless steel boasts is the ability to be fabricated by all the standard fabrication techniques in today's market. Asia produces the largest share of stainless steel with almost half of the world's total (Japan is the primary producer), followed by Western Europe, Africa, the United States and Central Europe, respectively.

Characteristic: Generally, the chromium content in stainless steel alloys gives it its corrosion resistant property by significantly delaying oxidation (rust). Apart from it being resistant to rust, stainless steel is known for its low maintenance, relative inexpensiveness and luster, all of which make it a desirable base for jewelry.

Color: Stainless steel can be colored by chemically bonding colors such as blue, copper or black to the stainless steel.

Care:

  • Use mild detergent in cleaning
  • Use warm water in rinsing
  • Dry with a towel or cloth in order to prevent water spots
  • Use a glass cleaner or ammonia to eliminate fingerprints