The Ultimate Guide to Gold and Silver Jewelry

Jewelry, an art form and a fashion statement, has been an integral part of human culture for centuries. Among the myriad of materials used for making jewelry, gold and silver have remained favorites for their beauty, versatility, and timeless appeal. In this blog, I will explore the various types of gold and silver jewelry, offering insights and advice to you on the different types.

Solid Gold Jewelry:

Timeless Elegance, known for its warm, classic hue and a traditional choice for all types of jewelry throughout history. Gold used for jewelry has different degrees, which are measured by the “carat/karat” system: a mechanism created historically to measure the purity of gold. The term “carat” is derived from the Greek word “keration” meaning “small horn”, referring to the carob seed pod’s shape, which historically had a remarkably uniform weight and were used by ancient merchants as a standard for weighing precious metals and gemstones.

The system was standardized so that 24 carat (or karat in the US) gold means pure gold. The use of “karat” with a “k” to indicate the gold purity and “carat” with a “c” for gemstone weight is a relatively modern distinction to avoid confusion between the two measurements. 

24k Gold (999), is the highest purity of gold, consisting of 99.9% gold, it has a very rich, vibrant yellow color that is highly sought after. However, there are some important considerations when it comes to using or buying 24k gold for jewelry:  

  • Softness: Pure gold is very soft and malleable. This means that 24k gold jewelry can easily bend, scratch, or warp, making it less ideal for pieces that are worn daily or are subject to rough use.
  • Durability: Due to its softness, 24k gold is not the most durable option for jewelry. It’s not typically recommended for engagement rings, bracelets, or other pieces that might endure regular impact.
  • Weight and Comfort: Jewelry made from 24k gold will be heavier than those made from lower karat gold. This might affect comfort, especially in earrings or other large pieces.
  • Cost: 24k gold is the most expensive type of gold due to its high purity. This cost is often reflected in the price of the jewelry.

To overcome some of these drawbacks, gold is often alloyed with other metals to create lower karat golds like 22k, 18k, 14k, or 10-9k. These alloys are stronger, more durable, and often more suitable for a variety of jewelry types. 

22k Gold (917) contains about 91.7% gold, with the remaining 8.3% made up of other metals like copper or silver. It’s slightly harder than 24k but still quite soft and not ideal for jewelry that will be worn daily.

18k Gold (750) comprising 75% gold and 25% other metals, 18k gold strikes a balance between purity and practicality. It’s still rich in color but more durable than 22k or 24k, making it a popular choice for fine jewelry. 

14k Gold (583) is about 58.3% gold and 41.7% alloyed metals. It offers even greater durability and is well-suited for jewelry that will be worn frequently. It’s less expensive than 18k gold and is popular in the United States.

14k and 18k gold are the most commonly used in solid gold jewelry worldwide, if you are in doubt between the two, you can consider the following factors:

  • Durability: 14k gold is slightly more durable and resistant to scratches, wear, and tear because of the higher percentage of alloyed metals. Which might make it a better choice for everyday wear.
  • Color: 18k gold, due to its higher gold content, has a more intense yellow color compared to 14k gold. If you prefer a brighter, more vivid gold, 18k is your choice.
  • Cost: 18k gold is more expensive than 14k gold because of its higher gold content, but might be of a better investment for the future if you’d like to resell your jewelry later on.
  • Hypoallergenic Properties: People with sensitive skin or allergies to certain metals might prefer 18k gold because it contains less alloyed metals, which are often the cause of skin irritation.

Other solid gold jewelry types, 10K (417) gold contains 41.7% gold and 58.3% other metals, while 9k (375) contains 37.5% gold and 62.5% other metals. In the United States, 10k gold is more common than 9K and it’s the lowest gold content that can still be legally marked as gold, while 9K is more common in the UK and is the lowest standard for gold jewelry acceptable by the British hallmarking. .

Both options are very durable and less expensive making them a good option for budget-sensitive buyers. You should consider however, that having a high percentage of other metals in 9k and 10k jewelry make them more likely to tarnish over time compared to 18k and 14k gold. (Tarnish occurs when the metals react with chemicals in the air, on the skin or with certain substances they come into contact with, leading to discoloration and loss of luster).

Gold jewelry can come in other finishes which can be White Gold, which is particularly trendy for engagement rings and diamond jewelry. White gold is created by alloying gold with metals like palladium or silver to give it a white color and it is often plated by Rhodium to give it extra shine and durability. White gold can lose its white luster over time and the rhodium plating wears off, but you can always reinstate the white color by having it re-plated with rhodium at a jewelry shop which offer this service.

On the other side, Rose Gold is a unique blend of pure gold and copper. It has a romantic and vintage appeal and gained popularity in recent years.

When buying jewelry, be aware that some jewelry might be labeled as “gold jewelry” but in fact is not made of any of the solid gold alloys mentioned earlier, but simply gold-plated. This should be highly reflected on the item’s price, and would be significantly cheaper compared to solid gold jewelry. It’s important to check the material description carefully and be aware of the jewelry you are purchasing.

Both Gold plated jewelry or gold vermeil involve coating a base metal with a layer of gold, but differ in quality, gold purity and the thickness of the coating layer. Gold Vermeil is considered a higher quality of gold plating because the gold purity should be at least 10k and have a minimum thickness of 2.5 microns of gold, with sterling silver as the base metal. While Gold-plated can have brass, nickel, copper at its base with a thin layer of gold on top usually less than 0.5 microns. The quality and durability of gold-plated jewelry depends on the thickness of the gold layer and the quality of the base metal, it can last for some years or some months, depending also on the use and the proper care.

Silver Jewelry 

Silver jewelry fits a wide range of styles, from casual to formal, it’s more affordable than gold, making it accessible to a broader audience. And it also comes in various types:

Sterling Silver (925): is an alloy containing 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. Its classic, cool luster makes it suitable for daily wear, not to mention its durability which can last for long with proper care. It’s also hypoallergenic, making it suitable for sensitive skin. Silver jewelry tarnish over time due to the copper content, requiring regular cleaning and maintenance.

Fine Silver: 99.9% pure silver, it’s softer and has a brighter and shinier color compared to sterling silver. Due to the higher purity, it is more hypoallergenic and less prone to tarnish compared to sterling silver. Its softness makes it less durable, hence less suitable for everyday jewelry.

Argentium Silver: is a modern and superior form of sterling silver which contains a higher percentage of silver 93.5% or 96%, and contains germanium in its alloys which makes it highly tarnish-resistant, harder, and more durable than traditional sterling silver. It also maintains a brighter and whiter color over time, and it requires less frequent cleaning and maintenance compared to sterling silver.

When choosing silver jewelry, consider the type of silver, the style of the piece, how often you plan to wear it, and how much maintenance you’re willing to perform to keep it looking its best.

Ella Creations Jewelry offers a wide collection of 18k solid gold jewelry, and a limited collection of silver jewelry. I believe in the long-lasting value of solid gold jewelry, not just as an accessory but as a lasting investment to cherish forever. Whether passed down, resold or recycled into new jewelry, solid gold retains its value, embodying both beauty and lasting worth.

Back to blog