Gold in its natural pure form of 24 carat is a soft, malleable metal with a rich yellow colour. In order to give the metal more strength and optimise for jewellery making, it is alloyed (fused) with other metals. Gold Jewellery in the UK is generally available in 22ct, 18ct and 9ct however other carats are produced and offered in other countries. By law all gold jewellery in the UK is Hallmarked – the earliest form of the procedure can be traced back in Britain to 1300 – the first type of consumer protection! Differing alloys will produce different coloured gold, the most common colours being white and rose. However, it is possible to produce gold in various hues, pink, green and even black! Other than highly polished, gold can be finished with a variety of textures, matt, satin and hammered are just a few.
White gold is achieved by alloying white metals to gold; in 18ct white gold, 18 parts (750 parts of 1000) of the metal are yellow gold, 6 parts white alloys. However as the end product may have a ‘very slight yellowish’ tinge, most jewellery is ‘Rhodium’ Plated. This gives finished items a crisp white shiny finish, indistinguishable from Platinum. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family of metals and has good wear properties. On a pair of earrings, it is unlikely that the plating will wear at all, however items that are worn every day, or worn heavily, will show signs of the plating wearing. It is straightforward and relatively inexpensive to have your jewellery re-polished and Re-Rhodium Plated, returning it to a good as new condition.
Platinum, a naturally white metal, is the rarest of metals - 30 times rarer than gold. Manufactured Platinum is 95% pure (950 parts of 1000) making it hypoallergenic. Ten tons of ore must be mined to produce a single ounce of platinum. Each year only around 133 tons of platinum are mined, compared to about 1,782 tons of gold and it takes some five months to process platinum ore into pure platinum, wheras in comparison, it takes around three tons of mined gold ore to produce one ounce of pure gold. Far more skill is necessary to work with platinum than gold. It is durable and dense, weighing approximately 50% more than an identical piece in 18ct gold. It is its durability and natural colour that makes it an attractive choice for jewellery, creating a perfect enduring setting for diamonds. Unlike gold, which wears with time and use, under the same situation, platinum looses little of its surface area. As with all precious metals, platinum can be scratched but, unlike gold, there is actually no or little material lost from the scratch; the metal is compacted. Over a period of time platinum will develop a ‘patina’ - a satin sheen, not unattractive, but it can be re-polished at minimal cost.