About the precious metal used in jewellery

Apart from the colour - what are the differences between platinum and gold?

Gold and platinum wedding ring made by our friends at Christian Bauer. The brushed effect is particularly effective at highlighting the colour differences between the two metals.

Heirloom London offer clients the choice between 18 karat gold and 950 platinum for the majority of jewellery we make. We may consider silver for some commissions, and very occasionally 9 karat gold, but our name Heirloom is a promise of quality, longevity and preciousness. In specialising in platinum and gold, Heirloom are ensuring that their jewellery lives up to their name by the ultimate white and yellow precious metals.

Gold, and it's role in jewellery

Pure gold nugget
About Gold

Whenever man has found gold he has fashioned it into a jewel, worn it as a symbol of status or power, or given gold jewellery as a public declaration or intimate celebration of his love to a woman who has then worn it, loved it and handed it down through countless generations.

Gold is one of only two metals in the periodic table that is not white or grey. Gold is a lustrous warm yellow shade, but it can be mixed with copper which produces an attractive pink/red finish and is known as rose or red gold.  Natural gold is also mixed with white metals to create white gold which we'll cover below.

We mainly offer 18 karat (kt) gold jewellery at Heirloom, which is 750 parts pure gold, per thousand.  We offer 9Kt gold (375 parts pure gold per thousand) for some jewellery items where making them in 18kt is out of the client budget. We also produce rings in 22kt (916 parts pure gold per thousand) on special order.

Gold is easy to keep shiny, which is partially because the metal surface lends itself to micro scratching, which means the metal is permanently being polished.  This is also why gold rings often become thinner after decades of wear. Gold makes beautiful jewellery, it is however work noting that the metal has a flexibility to it, that means when choosing an engagement ring for an active wearer, the setting needs to be carefully considered. Intricate claws and settings are more susceptible to movement and require respect. Check with your jewellery consultant when selecting a gold engagement ring, or consider a gold shank with a platinum setting for more security.

A word on white gold

Heirloom can make white gold available, but we don’t offer or recommend it as standard for bridal rings. Our rationale is simple, it is impossible to make white gold truly ‘white’ and maintain high gold purity. White gold is often rhodium plated, to give its high white lustre. Over time this wears off. For engagement and wedding rings which are going to be worn daily, this means that every 1-2 years the ring will require re-plating. So within about 3-5 years time, the difference in cost of having bought a platinum ring will be lost, and you’ve had to give your ring up 3-5 times. We make it easier, and recommend platinum as the best long term option, not least because it is a very hard wearing metal in its' own right. However, if you prefer the warmer shade of white gold which has not been rhodium plated, we are happy to offer this.

Platinum, and it's role in jewellery

Platinum Ore
About Platinum

Pure, rare and eternal, platinum is the king of metals, and embodies the uniqueness of your relationship. It is a great choice for engagement and wedding rings, as it doesn’t change colour, or wear away.

UK platinum jewellery is mainly offered at a finesse of 950, which means that 950 parts per thousand are pure platinum.  People with sensitive skin tend to get along well with platinum jewellery, the metal being hypoallergenic.

Platinum is actually heavier than lead in weight.  It isn’t always great for big chunky pieces, big earrings will drag on the earlobes.  But nothing makes jewellery feel precious like platinum, the heft is very reassuring.  

In addition to the weight, part of the reason why platinum is so popular for stone stetting is that platinum claws don't flex or warp easily. A lot of gold rings now have platinum settings for the centre stone -this is because it offers more security for the centre stone.

Over time, platinum develops a natural patina, which gives it a more matte finish.  Wearers can choose to have the metal re-polished again, the patina forms because the surface of the metal shifts over time.  This is why platinum does not wear away like other metals but it can appear dull over time, regular cleaning and polishing is important to help counter this.

Does Metal Price drive Jewellery Costs?

Metal price does drive jewellery cost.. after a point. Every now and then I have a client coming to me saying "I've checked the price of the precious metal and it's a fraction of the ring cost.." But they haven't included the cost of fabricating the metal, or making the piece or finishing the piece. Fabrication (which is the cost of making the metal alloy and casting it into jewellery making materials, and jewellery) costs more than just the price of the raw metal. In addition, the piece then has to be finished and polished which is the time of various craftsmen. This will include wastage charges (metal and tools) too. So, a heavy piece of jewellery will have a higher metal value, but may have cost the same to make as a lighter piece, like for like as it is only the material costs that will fluctuate on a day to day basis. This means that a lightweight ring may look slightly disproportionately expensive, because here you are paying the same for labour as you would be on a heavier piece.

What should I Choose?

The key driver to choosing the right precious metal should be skin tone. The three colours (white, yellow, pink/orange) are not universal for all skin tones, and if this is for a piece of jewellery that you want to see worn a lot, ensure that the colour is flattering. Sometimes this is easy to work out because the wearer has a preference to one metal colour already. If not, it is worth considering other colours worn and how they make the skin look.

In addition, it is worth taking the time to consider how the piece is going to be worn. If the wearer is looking for lots of detail, and is quite active, then having a gold setting needs to be carefully approached, as the claws can be more susceptible to rough handling over time.

Your decision in the end, should be what works best for the wearer. A good sales consultant will advise on the right metal for you.

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More useful articles

If you are ready to start hunting for 'that ring' - we've compiled some useful information for you. Read our Engagement Ring Buying Advice to get an overview, and if you would like further nuggets of wisdom, there is a free download optimised for mobile phones which you can download (right hand side on tablet or PC and below if you are on a mobile phone).

If you are planning on creating something with an existing piece of jewellery, and would like to melt your old piece down, click to read the article we've compiled about the advantages and challenges that this presents.

If you just want somebody to take care of all these details for you, have a look at our jewellery services!

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