With the sky high prices for gold and precious metals making headlines, I thought some information and useful tips would prove helpful. Precious metals, gemstones, and fine design pieces have dazzled us through the ages.
Called precious metals, gold, platinum, and silver are some of the world’s rarest materials. These three metals are found in many parts of the world, but they are not easily extracted from their natural state. Precious metals maintain their luster and shine and resist corrosion with little care. Objects dating back to the world’s ancient civilizations like the Native Americans, Egyptians, and Greeks show us that these metals endure.
The ancient Egyptians reserved the use of gold (yellow gold) for the pharaohs and related gold to the powers of the sun. White gold is created by alloying gold with nickel or palladium, zinc, and copper. Alloys are mixtures of different metals that offer greater strength, hardness, or malleability to another metal. For instance, alloying gold with copper creates pink gold or rose gold. Workability, the ability for master craftsmen to shape these metals is important to longevity.
On your mark
Pure gold is 24 karat gold and it is very soft. This is often too soft for everyday jewelry. Gold is alloyed to increase its strength. In the United States, 14 karat gold is common and a piece must be at least 10 karat gold to be sold as gold jewelry.
Here are some common marks:
14 karat would be marked “14 K” or “585” in Europe indicating that it is 58.5% gold.
18 karat would be marked “18 K” or “750” in Europe indicating that it is 75 % gold.
24 karat or pure gold would be marked “24 K” or “999” in Europe indicating that it is 99.9% gold. If you like gold jewelry, these marks should be committed to memory!
Look for them at your next yard sale, you’ll be surprised how many yard sale sellers put out real gold on their front lawn for sale!
Platinum is a popular choice for bridal jewelry as its strength surpasses that of gold and silver. A dense metal, platinum weighs more than gold and has a high level of purity making it naturally hypoallergenic. Platinum jewelry must show one of the following marks: “Platinum” or “Pt” or “Plat” which means that piece of jewelry contains at least 95 % pure platinum. Platinum may be worn every day without fear of damage and is perfect for wedding rings.
Silver is affordable, soft, and malleable. It has been used to make objects of adornment dating back to the Byzantine world. One of the most common and recognizable metal marks is the mark for silver. In the United States, only jewelry that is at least 92.5% pure silver or 925/1000 pure may be marked “silver”, “sterling”, “sterling silver”, “925”, “92.5”, or “ster”. Silver is often alloyed with copper to increase its strength. Silver will not rust, but it will tarnish. Tarnish may be restored with polishing. Another mark is the vermeil mark which is evident when a piece of sterling silver has been electroplated with karat gold. If the thickness of the karat gold plating is at least 100 millionths of an inch thick, that is referred to as vermeil (pronounced “vermay”) and sometimes as “overlay”. This is an affordable alternative to karat gold jewelry.
While I know I have the ladies attention, I wouldn’t want to leave out the gentleman who enjoy a bit of bling. Today’s styles are introducing men to the industrial look in fine jewelry achieved by metals such as titanium, tungsten carbide, and stainless steel. Steel gray color, lightweight, and strength are some of the qualities of these non-precious metals. Tungsten is the world’s hardest metal substance with a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale (diamonds rank 10 on the scale). These metals are less likely to scratch, but resizing a ring made of any of these metals proves difficult.
Here’s what I like to call famous last words: take care when cleaning your precious metals, dry your jewelry before storing it, place pieces in separate compartments to avoid scratching. Keep gold and silver out of pools, showers, and hot tubs as chlorine may weaken their structure and cause breakage. Know your jeweler and your stuff when you are selecting valuable precious metals.
Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. As seen on NBC’s The Tonight Show and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, watch Dr. Lori on The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television. To learn more about the value of your antiques, visit http://www.DrLoriV.com or call (888) 431-1010 and follow her on http://www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori and http://www.Twitter.com/DrLoriV.