Metal Types for Jewelry: Comparing 14K Gold, 18K Gold, and Platinum

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The different metals for jewelry each have their own interesting history and properties. Many people don’t know that how the three gold colors are made. Even fewer know that rose gold jewelry was actually popular long before platinum jewelry.

Although the ancient Mesopotamians first discovered gold before 3000 B.C., the first person to use a rose gold alloy was Carl Fabergé—the celebrated jeweler to the czars—who used the precious blush-colored metal his famous Fabergé Eggs. Rose gold became so popular in Russian jewelry in the 1800s that people called it “Russian gold.”

Although platinum was known to the Central Americans before the 16th century, its beauty frustrated miners, who found that it wouldn’t melt in fire and was thus rendered useless. It took at least 400 years until 20th-century jewelers had the technology to heat platinum sufficiently to use in jewelry.

Today gold and platinum remain the most popular types of metals used in fine jewelry (such as diamond rings, engagement rings, etc). Both gold and platinum have their own pros and cons; let’s compare these to different metal types in terms of properties, cost, and markings.

Gold for Jewelry

Gold is an ancient favorite for jewelry making. The oldest metal jewelry ever discovered is the 6,600-year-old gold pendant from the prehistoric Solnitsata civilization in Varna, Bulgaria. Currently, archaeologists believe that the Solnitsata society was the first to figure out how to process gold.

The pendant is 24-karats—or pure gold—which is typically too soft for jewelry-making. As metal knowledge progressed, people figured out how to make alloys by mixing other metals with gold to give the world’s only yellow metal the strength needed to retain its shape.

The karat number defines the percentage of gold used in the alloy.

Gold Karats Chart

Here is a chart for gold karats, the percentage of real gold as opposed to alloy, and the hallmarks/stamps that indicate gold purity:

Karat

Parts Gold

Percent Of Pure Gold

Decimal Part Pure Gold

Normal European Stamp/Hallmark

Normal American Stamp/Hallmark

9K

9/24

37.50%

0.375

375

-

10K

10/24

41.67%

0.4167

416

10K, 10KP

12K

12/24

50%

0.5

500

-

14K

14/24

58.33%

0.5833

582 or 585

14K, 14KP

18K

18/24

75%

0.75

750

18K, 18KP

22K

22/24

91.67%

0.9167

917

-

24K

24/25

99.99%

0.9583

999 or .99999

24K

There will usually be a hallmark stamp on any piece of real gold jewelry. The normal American stamp is 10K–24K (18KP means “karat plumb,” plumb meaning exact. So, exactly 18 karats, or 75% pure gold content.

Gold Color Chart

Gold comes in three main colors: white gold, rose gold, and yellow gold. All three colors of gold contain the same type of pure gold, (Au), which is yellow. They get their different colors from the different metals used to mix with pure gold.

The higher the karats, the more yellow-tinted the type of gold will be. 18K and 14K rose gold will appear more rose-colored than 18K rose gold, which is more yellow-hued due to the higher amount of yellow gold.

White gold has a yellow tint to it, especially at higher purities. To give it a platinum finish, it’s typically plated in rhodium, a durable and rare precious metal.

Gold Color

Alloys mixed with Pure Gold

White Gold

10% - 20% nickel, also may contain a mix of tin, copper, sometimes platinum, or manganese. White gold is typically coated in rhodium to hide its natural yellow tint.

Rose Gold

Typically 25% copper for 18K rose gold (the percentage of copper will be higher for 14K rose gold, and lower for 22K rose gold). It may also contain some zinc, nickel, or pure silver.

Yellow Gold

Silver and copper, sometimes others. The percentage of silver metals is dependent on karats.

Platinum for Jewelry

Platinum first became popular for wedding rings in the Late Victorian Era, where it became more popular than gold or silver for diamond wedding rings especially. ​​Because it is more durable than sterling silver, it was the most popular silver-tone metal in fine jewelry up until the Art Deco Era, when white gold became more popular around the 1930s.

Platinum Hallmarks

In the United States, platinum hallmarking is not regulated under any laws, unlike gold. Most U.S. companies will provide one of the two main platinum stamps indicating platinum’s purity:

  • 900 Platinum: Indicates 90% pure platinum (900 parts out of 1,000) with 10% metal alloy (such as copper, palladium, rhodium, iridium, and titanium).
    • (Other stamps: 900 Plat, Pt900, Plat 900, 900Pt)
  • 950 Platinum: indicates 95% pure platinum (950 parts out of 1,000) with 5% metal alloy.
    • (Other stamps: Plat 950, PLAT, PT, 950 Plat, Pt950, 950Pt)

Platinum has hallmark standards in the U.K., since The Hallmarking Act of 1973 created three mandatory platinum hallmarks for all platinum pieces weighing more than 0.5 grams. U.K. platinum will have the following stamps:

  1. A sponsor mark: Consisting of several letters, the sponsor stamp indicates the person or company who submitted the platinum for its hallmarking.
  1. A fineness mark: This indicates the percentage of pure platinum.
  1. An assay office mark: This stamp shows which Assay Office hallmarked the item and tested it for purity. The four offices that test platinum in the U.K. are London (cat’s head), Birmingham (anchor), Sheffield (flower), and Edinburgh (castle).

Sometimes, U.S. platinum jewelry may get a U.K. hallmark if they sell a lot of platinum to a European market.

Gold vs. Platinum

If you’re wondering, which is better, gold or platinum? The answer is that it depends—the type of jewelry, quality of diamonds, lifestyle choices, and personal style preferences of the wearer all come into play.

For Metal Allergies

If you have a metal allergy, you want to avoid high concentrations of non-precious metals. Many people have a nickel allergy but some people are also allergic to other metals.

For hypoallergenic metals, opt for the following:

  • 18K white gold (75% pure gold, and coated in rhodium, a pure hypoallergenic metal).
  • 18K–22K yellow gold (high pure gold content)
  • 900 or 950 platinum (90–95% pure platinum shouldn’t have much nickel, if any).

If you’re allergic to only certain kinds of metals, you may be able to use 18K gold of any color. A good choice for hypoallergenic earrings is a set of 18K gold diamond hoops. If you don’t have a copper allergy, rose gold may be a good choice.

Price

The price of gold per ounce/gram depends on its karat purity. You can’t always trust charts you find online comparing platinum vs gold prices to be up-to-date, because the cost of gold and platinum fluctuates all the time

You’ll want to check gold vs platinum prices on sites that provide a comparison chart which they update regularly. As you can see, pure gold is currently more expensive than pure platinum. However, 10K gold is cheaper than platinum, and gold jewelry is often cheaper than platinum due to its lower purity.

Also, if you’re looking at buying engagement rings, diamond earrings, or a diamond necklace, you can save money by opting for 18K yellow gold or 18K rose gold because these gold colors mask diamond color tints.

White gold and platinum bring out high color-grade diamonds, while lower-quality diamonds with a brown or yellow tint will look whiter in a yellow or rose gold setting.

Maintenance

Which one is easier to care for, gold or platinum? Here are the types of jewelry metals in order from lowest to highest maintenance:

  1. Platinum is the lowest maintenance, although it will still need at-home cleaning to buff away scratches and keep it shiny (platinum will develop a foggy patina over time).
  2. 14K Rose Gold is the second-lowest maintenance metal, as it is durable and maintains its color.
  3. 14K Yellow Gold the third-lowest maintenance metal, as it is durable due to its alloy mix.
  4. 18K Rose Gold is still low maintenance, but having a higher percentage of yellow gold in its composition, it’s softer and will require more polishing.
  5. 18K Yellow Gold has a richer gold color than 14K yellow gold, but it is more prone to scuffing due to higher pure gold content.
  6. 14K White Gold is more resistant to scratches than yellow gold, but it will require re-plating in rhodium.
  7. 18K White Gold is still durable, but because 18K white gold contains more pure gold than 14K white gold, it is more noticeable when the yellow tint starts to peak through when the rhodium plating wears off.

Choosing a Metal for Unique Jewelry Designs

Here at Karini Jewellery, our backbone is our keen attention to detail. Each of our diamond and gemstone rings, wedding jewelry, diamond necklaces, and earring designs showcase the durability, symmetry—and above all else, wearability—that we prioritize.

Because we’re completely on-board with the new jewelry demands for personalization, customization, and unique jewelry, we offer a variety of metal options, as well as free jewelry engraving, to make sure each item is unique to the customer’s demands.

If you’re looking at antique or vintage rings, yellow gold will make the piece look most antique, while white gold, platinum, and rose gold vintage rings combine retro design with a modern feel.

Choosing a type of jewelry metal is a significant choice that is all about your own personal meanings and self-expression. Whatever type of metal you prefer, we hope our collection of unique jewelry items provides something special.

High karat yellow gold requires regular cleaning and polishing due to its softness from pure gold. White gold is stronger due to its rhodium plating, but you will need to re-plate it in rhodium every few years or so when it starts to show a yellow tint. Re-plating white gold is usually inexpensive; some jewelers will even do it free of charge.

In terms of scratch resistance, 10K gold and 14K gold are stronger than 18K gold and higher. While 14K gold is harder than 18K gold, people with metal allergies may prefer the higher percentage of pure gold in 18K gold.

Platinum is relatively low-maintenance, but it also requires polishing to keep it shiny. It will develop a patina over time.

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