I work in recycled and Fairmined or Fairtrade metals, in 9ct, 14ct and 18ct yellow, white and red (rose) gold. Please read on to learn more about the different properties of each metal and hopefully work out which one is right for you.
Carats and Hallmarking
All of my gold jewellery and some larger silver pieces will be hallmarked. It is the law to hallmark gold jewellery that weighs over 1 gram and silver jewellery that weighs over 7.78 grams.
The carat of a piece of metal tells you how much gold there is in the metal in proportion to the other metals that it has been alloyed with.
The hallmarking standards are:
Sterling Silver ~ 925 (92.5% silver)
9ct - 375 (37.5% gold)
14ct - 585 (58.5% gold)
18ct - 750 (75% gold)
If a piece of jewellery is ‘mixed metal’ it will be hallmarked with the least precious metal. For example, a piece that is made with silver and gold would be hallmarked as 925 with a ‘part mark’ for the gold.
GOLD: HARDNESS VS DURABILITY
Pure 24ct gold is very soft and so it is alloyed with other metals to add strength, hardness & durability.
18ct gold is often the preferred option for wedding and engagement rings as it has both strength and durability. However we are talking about durability over multiple lifetimes and so 9ct and 14ct can offer an affordable option that will look good for a lifetime.
Yellow gold is gold that has been primarily alloyed with silver and copper to strengthen the metal and enhance the colour. It has warm tones and can provide beautiful contrast with coloured precious stones and other metals.
18ct yellow gold is brighter than 9ct as it has a higher gold content. 9ct gold will have a much softer slightly red-tone colour due to the higher copper content.
9ct yellow gold is considered a harder metal, i.e. more resistant to scuffs and scratches, due to the higher proportion of tougher metals such as copper. 18ct yellow gold is considered more durable as it has less alloyed metals that tarnish over time (pure gold is non-reactive and doesn't tarnish at all).
White gold is pure (yellow) gold that has been alloyed with either silver for 9ct or palladium for 18ct to produce a white/grey colour. White gold varies from very bright to quite grey. It's strong neutral colour allows gemstones to really stand out.
When working in 18ct, I only use palladium white gold and never rhodium plated as it wears off over time and requires re-plating. Rhodium-plated white gold is very bright white, but personally I love the darker grey colour of 18ct palladium white gold which is similar in colour to platinum.
Because 18ct white gold is alloyed with palladium it is both hard and durable.