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Guide to Precious Metal Types

January 20th, 2023

Guide to Precious Metal Types

Fine jewelry is defined by its materials. Precious metals are the canvas on which designers work, creating unique and distinctive engagement rings, wedding bands, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and timepieces. There is a myriad of precious metals available, each exhibiting a blend of practical and aesthetic qualities that make them stand out. Ultimately, what metal suits you best depends on your lifestyle, your tastes, and your priorities. Here are the most common metals used in jewelry, although there are more unusual materials out there. If you have any more questions about precious metals, don’t hesitate to contact us at Kirk Jewelers.

Sterling Silver

This alloy has an elegant gray hue and a lovely shine. Its color pairs well with colorful gemstones, accentuating the attractive stones with light. The metal is also hypoallergenic, which is great for those prone to allergic reactions. Sterling silver is more affordable than other precious metals despite exhibiting a luxurious look. Unfortunately, due to the impurities in sterling silver, the metal can tarnish and dull in color.

Sterling silver is 92.5% fine silver and 7.5% other elements. The other is usually copper, but it can also contain nickel, chrome, and other elements. Silver is naturally soft and brittle, so other metals must reinforce it. 

The alloy was invented centuries ago in North Germany. It was originally used as coinage, but jewelers eventually took note of its strength and beauty. There are many varieties of sterling silver, such as Argentium, which has a touch of germanium for increased tarnish resistance. 

Yellow Gold

This iconic metal features a luxurious, spectacular hue. It exhibits a timeless look evoking images of opulence, prosperity, and glamor. Beautiful and attractive, people have recognized gold’s value for eons. Its warm, chic style pairs perfectly with fiery gems like rubies, but its timeless aesthetic also highlights colorless diamonds.

While gold is inherently yellow, the term “yellow gold” is used to differentiate it from other alloys. Like other gold alloys, it is measured using karats. 24k gold is completely pure and shows off its color spectacularly, although soft and prone to scratching. 10k is the lowest commonly used in jewelry. 

The history of gold begins thousands of years ago, going as far back as 4,000 BC. Since its discovery, it has formed the backbone of economies throughout history. The United States only recently withdrew from the gold standard in 1933. Still, it is beloved and recognized throughout the world for its luxurious look and high esteem.

White Gold

White gold alloy evokes an exceptional, elegant, and sophisticated radiance. Its bright glamor is unmistakable and is perfect for complementing a fine diamond. White gold is also fantastic with gemstones, as it accentuates their deep, vibrant color. This metal looks great alongside other metals, too, especially other gold alloys like rose and yellow gold. It has a whiter shade than sterling silver. White gold jewelry has to be redipped by a jeweler annually, otherwise, gold’s natural color can peer through.

White gold’s color comes from adding bright, silvery metals to gold. They include palladium, chrome, and nickel. Many of the precious metal’s physical properties come from these impurities. Those prone to metal allergies should be careful and ensure the jewelry doesn’t contain anything they are allergic to, such as nickel and chrome which are the most common allergens. Rhodium plating is often added to produce a luxurious shine. However, this comes at a cost. 

This alloy was first invented in the 19th century and released in 1912 as a low-cost alternative to platinum. It proved invaluable during World War II when platinum was strictly reserved for military purposes. Today, it remains a fixture of beautiful, elegant jewelry.

Rose Gold

Showcasing a red-pink hue, rose gold sports a regal and vibrant flair. It makes a truly spectacular splash when used in engagement rings. Some say rose gold is feminine, but the warm tone of metal is suitable for every gender. 

Rose gold is a combination of gold and a substantial amount of copper. The metal is sometimes called pink or Russian gold. While rare, some jewelers call 24k rose gold by the moniker “crown gold.” Regardless of the name, every piece is spectacular and romantic. The copper ensures that this material is hypoallergenic for most people. 

The red-pink precious metal was initially used by the legendary Carl Faberge in his eponymous Faberge Eggs. As it was first developed by a Russian, it was referred to as Russian gold (a name that has since gone out of fashion), but rose gold has continued to be developed by jewelry designers to wonderful effect. 


Platinum is a precious metal that is distinctly brilliant, attractive, and luxurious. The most valuable metal commonly used in jewelry, platinum has a bright hue. It has a slightly greyer shade than white gold but offers plenty of features that make it more desirable. Unlike white gold, platinum never needs to be taken to a jeweler for renewal on its rhodium plating. Its strength and beauty make it perfect for representing eternal love and commitment, as well as conveying a simple fashion statement.

Platinum is more expensive than other metals because it is naturally durable. It doesn’t have to be reinforced with other materials (although cobalt is often added to make it easier to make into jewelry). Coupled with its rarity, platinum is the ultimate precious metal for a reason.

The history of platinum is an interesting one, as it took centuries to research to make this metal melt. Early smelting of platinum involved the use of gold, which is certainly not the standard today. The first pure platinum was made in 1786 by a Spanish inventor, but it took much longer to make the process cost-effective.

Discover Precious Metal Jewelry at Kirk Jewelers 

Find the best in luxury at Kirk Jewelers, Miami’s home for high-end accessories. Our Miami jewelry store provides all sorts of enchanting jewelry and timepieces to our community, including today’s top designer brands. We only staff our showroom with the most talented experts in the Magic City. Reserve an appointment with one of them today to ensure a private, intimate showing of all the enchanting items in our selection. Call (305) 371-1321 or email to learn more.