As a goldsmith I work in a number of different precious metals, including sterling silver (mainly for my studio collections), and 9ct and 18ct yellow, white and red / rose gold. Precious metals are bought and sold as commodities and their price fluctuates daily. I use eco-friendly or recycled metals rather than 'new' metals wherever possible.
Sterling silver is a worldwide recognised form of precious metal. The fineness of the precious metal content of jewellery and silverware is expressed in parts per thousand. Sterling Silver items are hallmarked 925 to indicate it contains 92.5% silver. It is inadvisable to create jewellery from pure silver as it would be too soft and is therefore alloyed (mixed) with copper to make it durable. Please see the 'Jewellery Care' page for further information about how to look after your jewellery.
I am happy to make rings in silver but due to the relative softness of this metal I would not recommend this precious metal for wedding rings. It wears at a much quicker rate than other precious metals such as gold, palladium and platinum. Rings that are intended to be worn everyday need to be durable to withstand everyday use for an extended length of time, so for this reason sterling silver is not ideal. If you still want to consider silver for this type of ring and would like gemstones too, then I would recommend that the settings be created in gold (white or yellow) to protect them from wear.
Gold needs to be alloyed (mixed) with other metals such as silver, copper and zinc for it to be durable for use in jewellery. The ratio of the alloys used determines its properties, colour and carat i.e. 9ct, 14ct, 18ct & 22ct gold. 100% pure gold is 24ct and as such is too soft to use to create jewellery. Alloys are also used to change the colour (yellow, white and red) of the metal. For example, a higher proportion of palladium is alloyed to the gold to achieve white gold and a higher proportion of copper is added to create red gold. There are many differences between the carats and colours of gold, not just their cost but the general look, finish, colour, weight and tarnish resistance. Further details can be found below but in summary, I believe that 18ct gold offers the best all round properties to create fine jewellery. Its proportion of gold to other metals offers both quality and resilience.
18ct alloys are almost completely resistant to tarnish, whereas 9ct alloys are less so. This is because 9ct gold alloys is alloyed with higher quantities of base metal (such as copper). Base metals are susceptible to oxidisation (tarnishing) from chemicals in the atmosphere as well as perspiration, perfume, some fabrics and household chemicals etc. This means that like sterling silver, lower carat alloys such as 9ct and 14ct gold are susceptible to discolouration (tarnish). These alloys require regular cleaning to maintain their appearance or to remove tarnish but some areas maybe harder to clean by hand. I supply a polishing cloth impregnated with anti-tarnishing properties which can help to keep your jewellery clean but please see the 'Jewellery Care' page for further details.
24ct gold is completely pure and as such is not suitable for use in jewellery. 22ct gold, has a lovely rich yellow hue and although popular in the past, it still quite soft so I generally do not recommend it. The exception being when using an old piece of jewellery within a new design for sentimental reasons. A practical alternative to 22ct gold is 18ct rose gold as it has a very similar look but is more suited to withstand everyday wear, particularly when is used in rings.
18ct Gold is used for fine jewellery. The carat refers to the purity of the gold. The fineness of the precious metal content is expressed in 24th's. 18ct Gold items are hallmarked 750 to indicate that its gold content is a minimum of 75% in yellow, white and red colours. The higher the carat, the more gold the alloy contains, the heavier the metal and greater its resistance to tarnishing. I believe that 18ct gold offers the best all round properties to create fine jewellery. Its proportion of gold to other metals offers both quality and resilience. It is particularly suitable for wedding rings which are intended to be worn for an extended length of time and will need to withstand the rigours of everyday wear.
9ct Gold is the most commonly used carat of gold in the UK. The carat refers to the purity of the gold. The fineness of the precious metal content is expressed in parts per thousand. 9ct Gold items are hallmarked 375 to indicate that its gold content is 37.5% in yellow, white and red colours.
Gold alloys can be created to a number of different colours. The most common being yellow, red and white. This is achieved by changing the type and ratio of other metals used when it is alloyed.
18ct yellow gold is bold and bright due to it's high gold content of more than 75%, which also makes is highly resistant to tarnish. It's quality and resilience means this alloy is ideally suited for wedding and engagement rings.
9ct yellow gold is a very subtle yellow colour and lighter than it's 18ct gold counterpart. With a lower gold content of 37.5% it is a mellow yellow but with a higher amount of base metal, this alloy is susceptible to tarnish.
14ct yellow gold is somewhere in between in colour although not widely used in the UK, this alloy is more commonly used in the US.
Red gold is created by alloying gold with a higher proportion of copper than other alloys. 9ct red gold is quite a strong rich red rose colour due to it's high proportion of copper so it is a redder and more coppery colour. 18ct red gold is a more subtle 'rose' colour due to it's smaller proportion of copper than 9ct red gold and it's high yellow gold content which is a minimum of 75%.
It's richer hue has a similar appearance to that of 22ct gold. If you like the colour of 22ct gold, then 18ct rose gold provides a more practical alternative to 22ct as it is much softer and therefore less practical than 18ct gold.
18ct red gold looks stunning when used in contrast with 18ct white gold. When used in combination with yellow gold the difference it much more subtle but can add a rich warm colour to a design. I often use 18ct red gold for the leaves as it gives a wonderful autumnal feel to a piece.
White gold is created by alloying yellow gold with 'white' metals to achieve a 'whiter' appearance.
9ct white gold is similar to silver but has a slightly yellow tinge. This alloy contains a minimum of 37.5% gold, with the rest made up of copper, silver and zinc to 'whiten' the alloy. However, like other 9ct alloys, it contains copper which makes the alloy susceptible to discolouration (see 'tarnish resistance' above).
18ct White Gold is created by alloying yellow gold with other 'white metals'. Unlike most commercially produced 'browner' 18ct white gold jewellery, I use a high palladium content 18ct white gold alloy which is a lovely warm subtle grey colour (Palladium is a metal which is a member of the platinum family). Therefore it does not require rhodium plating (info below) as the subtle grey colour of this alloy is generally preferred.
However there are instances when you may want to consider rhodium plating, for instance if your engagement ring already has a rhodium plated finish, although plated and non-plated finishes can work well together. If you are considering this, I always recommend seeing the high palladium 18ct white gold alloy in it's natural state first.
Rhodium (a white metal which is a member of the platinum family) is commonly used to plate most commercially produced 18ct white gold to achieve a 'whiter' finish on greyer or browner 18ct white alloys. It's finish is nearly as white as silver but with a slightly cooler look. Rhodium is a hard wearing metal but with time (especially with rings) the finish will wear and require re-plating, which is far from ideal. The length of time in which this will need to be carried out is hard to predict and will vary from wearer to wearer.
Combining sterling silver and gold can be a great way to highlight the details of a pieces, although due to it relative softness to gold I don't recommend sterling silver for wedding rings.
A hallmark is an independent worldwide respected guarantee of the fineness and quality of the metal. It comprises a series of marks applied to articles of gold, silver and platinum. It indicates that the piece has been independently tested at an Assay Office and guarantees that it conforms to the legal standards of precious metal content, known as fineness.
This is my Sponsor's mark which is struck on all pieces and is registered at The Goldsmiths' Company, Assay Office, London, which has a record of testing the quality of gold and silver dating back to c1300. A Sponsor's mark takes the form of the makers initials surrounded by a shield design and is unique to the maker.
A Hallmark consists of a series of marks applied to articles of the precious metals including, platinum, gold, palladium and silver.
The majority of my work is hallmarked, with the exception of some smaller items such as silver items that weigh under 7.8 grams or pieces under 1 gram in gold, which is the maximum legal limit for un-hallmarked pieces and/or pieces that are exempted because hallmarking would damage the design. However, quite often pieces that are under this weight are often hallmarked anyway. If you have any questions to whether a piece is hallmarked, please contact me.