Jewelry-101

Jewelry 101 – The Basic

I am here to help you learn about jewelry, jewelers and goldsmiths, and their related arts in the Renaissance, Middle Ages, Byzantine era and ancient times.

Through my own research, I have established a reasonable collection of books and articles that assist me. I am hoping that they also serve as a resource for your research too or as an aid in creating your own treasures.

The more you know about jewelry, the better equipped you will be to identify quality pieces and good values. On this page, we’ll cover some fundamentals of jewelry care.

DIAMONDS

A diamond is one of the best-known and most sought-after gemstones. Diamonds have been known to mankind and used as decorative items since ancient times; some of the earliest references can be traced to India. Sparkly and spectacular, diamonds represent love and romance, and mark the most special of milestones. They come in all sizes and shapes – and truly flawless ones are extremely rare (and the ones that cost the most). Believe it or not, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to diamonds. Diamonds are such a highly traded commodity that multiple organizations have been created for grading and certifying them based on the four Cs, which are carat, cut, color, and clarity.

While there are other shapes, these are the most sought after. Round brilliant diamonds are by far the favorites, accounting for four of every five diamonds purchased.

GOLD

Gold has been a valuable and highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewelry, and other arts since long before the beginning of recorded history. Because of the softness of pure (24k) gold, it is usually alloyed with base metals for use in jewelry, altering its hardness and ductility, melting point, color and other properties. Alloys with lower caratage, typically 22k, 18k, 14k or 10k, contain higher percentages of copper, or other base metals or silver or palladium in the alloy. Copper is the most commonly used base metal, yielding a redder color.

When we say 22kt or 22k Gold Jewelry we mean that 22 parts of the jewelry, is gold and the balance 2 parts are some other metal(s) or equal to 91.3 percent gold plus 8.6 percent of some other metal alloy.

When we say 18Kt or 18k Gold Jewelry, we mean that 18 parts of the jewelry is gold and the balance 6 parts is some other metal or equal to about 75 percent gold plus 25 percent of some other metal alloy.

We can roughly state that each Karat is equal to approximately 4.1625 percent.

The difference of the other metal or alloys of the metal, gives the jewelry its hardness and color. We can state that 24 Karat is the softest and 10 karat the hardest, because 10kt would have 41.6 percent gold and the balance would be other metals which are mostly harder than gold. The color from the other metals enhances the beauty of the jewelry as the case may be, white gold, yellow gold, red gold etc.

PLATINUM

Platinum’s resistance to wear and tarnish is well suited for making fine jewelry. The metal has an excellent resistance to corrosion and high temperature and has stable electrical properties. Platinum is actually more rare than even gold! It ranks among the rarest of metals. Consider this: for every 15 to 20 ounces of gold extracted, only a single ounce of platinum is mined. But unlike gold, which doesn’t work well in its purest form, platinum is used in jewelry at 90-95% purity. Platinum of this fineness is stamped 900Pt, 950 Plat or just Plat. Like gold, it is tarnish and rust resistant and will last you a lifetime, and then some. Platinum, which is white, differs from its white gold counterpart not only because it’s more expensive but also because it’s denser and therefore heavier. Jewelry trade publications advise jewelers to present minute surface scratches (which they term patina) as a desirable feature.

SILVER

Silver has long been valued as a precious metal, and it is used to make ornaments, jewelry, high-value tableware, utensils, and currency coins. Jewelries are traditionally made from sterling silver (standard silver), an alloy of 92.5% silver with 7.5% copper. In the US, only an alloy consisting of at least 90.0% fine silver can be marketed as “silver” (thus frequently stamped 900). Sterling silver (stamped 925) is harder than pure silver, and has a lower melting point (893 °C) than either pure silver or pure copper. Sterling silver jewelry is often plated with a thin coat of .999 fine silver to give the item a shiny finish. This process is called “flashing”. Silver jewelry can also be plated with rhodium (for a bright, shiny look) or gold. Silver is a constituent of almost all colored carat gold alloys and carat gold solders, giving the alloys paler color and greater hardness. Silver is much cheaper than gold, though still valuable, and so is very popular with jewelers who are just starting out and cannot afford to make pieces in gold, or as a practicing material for goldsmith apprentices. Silver has also become very fashionable, and is used frequently in more artistic jewelry pieces.