Beginners’ Guide to Fine Jewelry Metals

There are 3 main metals that you’re likely to stumble upon whilst jewelry shopping: gold, silver, and platinum. Educate yourself as to what gemstones work best with each metal and learn what style is best suited to each combination.

There are 3 main metals that you’re likely to stumble upon whilst jewelry shopping: gold, silver, and platinum. This guide aims to break those down and offer some advice about what gemstones work best with each metal, and what style or aesthetic is best suited to each combination.

Gold

Gold is a time-tested, ageless classic when it comes to jewelry. Gold jewelry is an alloy of gold with other metals, like copper and zinc. This is because gold as a metal is soft, so pure 24 karat is very soft and not as hardwearing as lesser karats. The karat weight of gold signifies the purity of the gold, with the common weight being around 18k. Of course, you can go with a lower karat and still have a fantastic piece of jewelry, so the price tag attached to 18k is by no means the only option.

Gold is a very versatile metal, as it can be alloyed with other metals to create different hues. Yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold are all very popular choices of metal for jewelry. Let’s break them down.

Yellow gold: The classic, what everybody thinks of when they think of gold jewelry. Yellow gold is a very warm color, and often more popular with those who have warm-toned skin.

Typically, yellow gold jewelry comes across as regal, sophisticated, and timeless. This gorgeous citrine and 18kt yellow gold pendant can be yours for a little over $1500 at AC Silver.

Gemstones that tend to suit yellow gold:

  • Ruby
  • Emerald
  • Sapphire
  • Diamond
  • Citrine
  • Opal
  • Jade

This list is just a small number of popular gemstones that look great with yellow gold. Some of them look fantastic with cool-temperature metals too (which we’ll get too soon), but their style is completely different than when paired with a warm yellow gold. Typically, yellow gold jewelry comes across as regal, sophisticated, and timeless. This makes yellow gold a great choice for those who enjoy vintage and antique fashion. It also works very well with minimalistic aesthetics. A plain yellow gold band, or an understated singular gemstone on a slender yellow gold necklace can look very stylish for people who prefer an understated look.

White gold: A colder equivalent to yellow gold, white gold is generally grayer than it is white in its appearance. Gold is usually mixed with white metals like nickel and palladium to create white gold. White gold offers an excellent – and more affordable – alternative to platinum, whilst still being more extravagant than silver. Due to its cold color, white gold is often best suited to those who have fairer, more neutral and cool-toned skin.

Gold is usually mixed with white metals like nickel and palladium to create white gold. This vintage sapphire cocktail ring set in 18kt white gold lists for about $10,000 at AC Silver.

Gemstones that suit white gold:

  • Sapphire
  • Diamond
  • Emerald
  • Turquoise
  • Aquamarine
  • Onyx
  • Howlite

You probably noticed some duplicates on this short list from the selection of gemstones that suit yellow gold. There are a few key gemstones that suit almost any metal, but carry completely different styles depending on the metal with which they’re paired. Generally, these stones are: diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies.

Rose gold: A very contemporary, stylish and on-trend gold tone. Rose gold is a warm color, like yellow gold, but it has more of a playful, youthful feel to it, likely due to its recent surge in popularity. Rose gold is created by adding lots of copper to gold when mixing, creating a pinkish/red rosy tone. Whilst rose gold is a fun alternative to yellow gold, beware that it does not have the same timelessness as yellow gold. The subtlety of rose gold, as well as its successful pairing with many colored gemstones has played a large part in its popularity, but the biggest influence has been the use of rose gold in other elements of life. In 2015, Apple launched the rose gold iPhone, and from there countless technological luxuries have received the rose gold treatment.

Rose gold is a warm color, like yellow gold, but it has more of a playful, youthful feel to it. This vintage amethyst ring set in 15kt rose gold and platinum lists for around $2,000 at Ac Silver.

Gemstones that suit rose gold:

  • Diamond
  • Ruby
  • Rose quartz
  • Opal
  • Pearl
  • Emerald
  • Garnet

What is a good quality about rose gold is that it has a versatility which lends it to many skin tones and suits a lot of different styles and aesthetics. It can be utilized to create a very contemporary, on-trend look, and it can also perfectly complete a more unique outfit.

Silver

Silver is a much easier topic to cover than gold, as there aren’t as many complexities to it as gold. Silver can be a bright white color, or it can be oxidized to be black, or it can also be plated with different metals to create other colors. Silver can come in different gauges of quality though, so we will discuss those briefly before moving on to style. The most durable and most common quality of silver is sterling silver, which is always hallmarked with “925” somewhere, usually inside the band of a ring. This means that for every 1000 parts in the mixture that made that item, 925 of them where pure silver. This is an excellent metal for jewelry because it is long-lasting, durable, and timeless. Silver overlay (or silver plated) is another option for silver jewelry, though it is a much cheaper alternative, and leads to lower quality items, some of which can cause skin irritation.

As previously mentioned, there are a few gemstones that are relatively international, and they will be complimented by silver settings also. Silver is generally a very sleek metal so when paired with gemstones it looks very modern and effortless.

The most durable and most common quality of silver is sterling silver, which is always hallmarked with “925” somewhere. This diamond and silver pendant is available for about $3,100 at AC Silver.

Gemstones that suit silver:

  • Citrine
  • Amethyst
  • Howlite
  • Turquoise
  • Amber
  • Obsidian
  • Aquamarine

Silver jewelry does not carry the same regal feeling that yellow gold does, but it does have a similar timelessness.

Platinum

Platinum is arguably the most luxurious of the metals discussed in this guide. Incredibly rare, with only a few hundred tonnes mined each year, platinum is incredibly valuable and coveted. And yes – sadly – this means it is more expensive than any of the metals previously mentioned. Platinum also has the advantage that it is incredibly durable, non-reactive to high temperatures, and very resistant to corrosion. Platinum is a brittle metal, but it is very lightweight, which makes it well suited to larger pieces of jewelry like thick bangles and statement necklaces.

Similar to silver and white gold, platinum has a silvery-white tonality to it, best suited to cooler-toned skin, but complimentary to many.

Platinum is arguably the most luxurious of the metals discussed in this guide. This stunning platinum trilogy ring is available for around $51,000 at AC Silver.

Gemstones that suit platinum:

  • Diamond
  • Sapphire
  • Emerald
  • Aquamarine
  • Peridot
  • Topaz
  • Tourmaline

Diamonds are obviously a very popular gemstone, decadent and significant. They suit every metal, perhaps in part because we as a society dictate that they are ubiquitous, and will therefore always be a good choice. Everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion, but the pairing of platinum and diamonds is certainly an exquisite one; the lightness of the metal works perfectly with the sparkle of the diamonds to create something truly dazzling.

Hopefully, this guide has illuminated the situation of jewelry metals for you, and made the decision about which metal is the right one for you that much easier. Next time you’re jewelry shopping, think about the style you want, and be safe in the knowledge that you know which metals and gemstones will work.


Andrew Campbell, founder and owner of AC Silver, has been dealing in antique silver and antique jewelry since 1977. In addition to a premier retail premises in Newcastle, north-east England, Andrew has developed an internationally recognized online store, serving both new and return customers nationally and worldwide.

Andrew personally sources a wide range of items, including antique jewelry, antique diamond rings, and antique gemstone rings. Andrew has also developed a fine and comprehensive inventory of antique silverware, AC Silver is a respected and trusted specialist in its field.

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