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Gold is the most popular choice for jewellery items, particularly for engagement and wedding rings. The most important thing to look for in gold jewellery is the carat mark that should be stamped on the piece of jewellery. The carat mark refers to the proportion of pure gold in the item. Pure gold (24 carat) is too soft for practical uses in jewellery so it is alloyed with other precious and base metals to increase its durability. The most common gold carat measurements in Australia, and many other parts of the world, are 9ct and 18ct. In Asia and USA, 14ct is commonly used. The difference between the measurements is the amount of alloys that have been added – 18ct has fewer alloys and is 'softer' than 9 carat. In value terms, the higher the proportion of gold used in the final metal the more valuable and expensive the metal will be. The table below shows the percentage of gold and the common stamping for each gold measurement.

Carat Measurement %Pure Gold Stamp
9 carat 37.5% 375, 9ct, 9kt or 9k
14 carat 58.5% 585, 14ct, 14kt, or 14k
18 carat 75% 750, 18ct, 18kt or 18k

Gold is available in three choices of colour – yellow, white and rose gold. The difference in colour is due to the metal components in the alloy mix. Jewellery can also be made using a combination of different gold colours producing items that are sometimes called two-tone, three-tone or multi-coloured gold. Yellow gold is made by mixing pure gold with copper and zinc. 18ct yellow gold has a richer and more golden colour than 9ct yellow gold and is a popular choice for wedding and engagement rings. The colour of yellow gold will not wear off with age. White gold is a mix of gold and white metals such as silver and palladium. White gold is a popular choice for diamond engagement rings as a white gold setting can make the diamond sparkle more brilliantly. When white gold jewellery items are new they are coated with Rhodium which is a white metal similar to platinum. This rhodium plating is undertaken to make the white gold look whiter as the natural colour of white gold is actually a light grey colour. The rhodium plating does wear away and it is recommended to re-do the rhodium plating every 12 to 18 months. Rose gold is made using pure gold with alloys that include copper, which provides the reddish colour. 9ct rose gold will have a darker rose-copper colour than 18ct rose gold and the colour of rose gold will not wear off with age.

Platinum

Platinum is known as a prestige metal as it is popular with the rich and famous as well as discerning bridal buyers. Platinum is a very white metal that is used in jewellery in its almost pure form (approx. 95% pure). Platinum's lustre complements the sparkle of diamonds and gems and can be finished in a range from a bright shiny polish to a soft matte texture. Platinum's natural white colour means that rhodium plating is not required. Platinum is a dense and heavy metal and is extremely strong. This makes it more difficult to work with but a stone set in a platinum setting is likely to stay protected and secure. Platinum is about twice as expensive as gold as it is more difficult to extract from the Earth's crust and has a lengthy refinement process.

Silver

Silver is a white-grey coloured metal which is less expensive than gold, platinum or titanium. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver with the remaining portion made up of alloys such as copper, nickel or zinc. Sterling silver jewellery items will be stamped with 925. Silver is a popular choice for fashion jewellery items such as earrings, pendants, bracelets and dress rings. Silver is a softer metal than gold or platinum and will wear more quickly, as such it is not a recommended metal choice for wedding rings. It is also not recommended to use silver for jewellery items with expensive precious stones, particularly rings, as wear around the setting could cause the stones to become loose. Sterling silver is prone to tarnish and oxidisation, sometimes causing the silver to turn black. Polishing on a regular basis will prevent this.