Since ancient times, gold has been used to create the finest objects of art, religious articles and fine jewelry. Because gold can be mixed with other metals to create different colors and karats, it is one of the most popular metals for jewelry today in the United States and Europe. To regulate the use of gold, the UK enforce compulsory hallmarking, which states the purity of the gold. The marks for gold jewelry are 750 (signifying 75% gold known as 18 carat ), 585 (58% gold known as 14 carat), and 375 (37.5% gold known as 9 carat). Nine carat gold is the lowest level allowed under U.K. law. Jewellery made of higher-karat gold is more yellow in color and slightly softer than gold jewelry made of lower-karat gold, which may include copper, silver, zinc, or other metals.
Pure gold (which is always yellow) is too soft for jewelry use. The metals that are mixed with pure gold for strength can also modify the color of gold resulting in different shades of yellow, white, and pink gold. White gold was originally developed to imitate platinum, and is usually an alloy containing 25% palladium and zinc. If stamped 18 karat, it would be 75% pure gold.
Care of Gold
To keep gold gleaming, rub it with a soft chamois or clean it with a few drops of dishwashing detergent and gently brush away dirt with a soft toothbrush.
Platinum is an extremely durable metal that has been used in making fine jewellery since the 1880s. Because of its density and strength, platinum is favored above all metals to hold diamonds and was often used in very intricate designs requiring great detail. In the early 1900s platinum became very popular, and its popularity grew until World War II, when it was temporarily banned from use in jewelry because platinum's military uses had higher priority. In the past 10 years, however, platinum jewelry has grown in popularity. The mark for platinum is "950 which indicates it is 95% pure," and signifies the percentage of platinum and other metals used. Because of the small percentage of other metals alloyed with it, platinum is hypoallergenic and excellent for people who are allergic to other metals. When buying platinum jewelry, follow these tips:
• Be sure the item is stamped with its metal content. (This is a law in the UK and any jeweler that sells Platinum "un-hallmarked" could face prosecution.
• Be prepared to spend more initially because of the expert craftsmanship required to work in platinum.
Care of platinum is the same as for gold outlined above.
Silver has been used for jewelry since 3500 BC, when the Egyptians created ornaments out of silver. The word "sterling" is short for "Easterlings," a form of money used in 12th-century England. Silver jewelry was popular because of its large supply, affordable price and ease of manufacture. To be considered "sterling silver," an article must contain at least 92.5 percent silver; that is why sterling silver is marked "925." Although rich in luster, silver tarnishes when exposed to the elements, causing it to turn dark or black. The tarnish can be cleaned using a variety of products on the market.