|Buyer's Guide | Gold Sterling Silver
Gold, element Au, was one of the first known metals. The most important of metals, it has been the
foundation of kingdoms and conquests for millennia. Until recently, the gold standard defined the
world's currency system, whereby money represented a value in gold. Gold won't tarnish, rust, or
corrode, and though it's very strong, it is also the most malleable of all metals.
Pure gold is too soft to withstand the stresses of every-day wear, so it is alloyed with a mixture of
metals like silver, copper, nickel, and zinc to give it strength and durability. Karatage, noted by a
number followed by "k" indicates purity, or how much of the metal in a piece of jewelry is gold. metals
like silver, copper, nickel, and zinc to give it strength and durability. Karatage, noted by a Karatage is
expressed in 24ths, making 24k gold 100% gold.
The color of gold is determined by two factors:
* The type of metal alloys included in it
* The percentage of each metal alloy
At Heartsmith, you'll find both 18k and 14k yellow gold jewelry. 18k gold contains more precious metal
than 14k gold. It is composed of 75% gold, which is alloyed with other metals to make it strong enough
to withstand every-day wear. Because 14k gold is composed of only 58.3% gold, and 41.7% other
metals that give it strength, its gold color is not as rich as 18k gold. 14k gold is most commonly found
in cases where strength is most important, like in earring backs and bracelet clasps.
Because 18k white gold is 75% gold, and 14k white gold is 58.3% gold, jewelry made from these
metals has a slight yellow color. To enhance the whiteness, almost all white gold is plated with
rhodium, a shiny, white metal which is extremely hard. Depending on the amount of wear to a piece of
jewelry, over time this rhodium plating may wear off, revealing the original metal color. Re-plating is a
simple process that can be done to restore your jewelry's whiteness if needed.
Rose gold gets its color from a larger proportion of copper in the metal alloy. This gives the gold a
beautiful pink color.
The price of gold jewelry is dependent upon the purity of the gold used or karat weight, as well as the
design and construction of the piece of jewelry.
Keep your gold jewelry away from harsh chemicals such as chlorine and cleaning fluids. This will
reduce daily abrasions and prolong gold's luster. To clean gold jewelry, use a solution of warm water
and detergent-free soap and wash gold gently with a soft-bristled brush (a dull tooth brush works
well). Store gold pieces separately in soft cloth bags or original boxes to protect them from the
exposure to harsh daily elements.
The polished surface of silver reflects nearly 95% of the light that falls on it! It sparkles and glows with
any available light. Its reflective properties have made silver long sought after for the creation of
personal adornments and ritual vessels.
Destined for Greatness
Silver is one of the softest metals - second only to gold. One of silver's most desirable properties is
that it can be worked into almost any shape - then melted, cooled and reshaped again. It can be
hammered into thin sheets. So thin that 100,000 of them could stack one inch high. It can be drawn
into a wire thinner than a human hair!
Another highly esteemed quality of silver is that it can be mixed, or alloyed, with other metals. This
mixture is called an alloy. Mixing silver with copper creates an alloy known as Sterling.
Silver in its pure state is too soft to be useful for items such as jewelry or silverware. Sterling, being .
925 pure silver is nearly all silver but strong enough to withstand daily use. Thus mixed with copper, it
is strong yet still beautiful and easily worked. Sterling is highly regarded for its lasting beauty and
Stamps of Quality
Most high quality silver items are stamped with a "fineness" or "quality" mark. This mark designates
the precious metal content of the jewelry, and under federal law, must be accompanied by a maker's
mark or registered trademark.
Items made of Sterling are marked with a lion or leopard in the United Kingdom. In the USA they are
stamped "Sterling". Sterling from Mexico and some other countries is marked ".925" or "Sterling".
Look for the fineness mark and the maker's mark on the underside of the silver item you are
considering to ensure the quality.
With proper care, your fine quality silver will last a lifetime. To minimize scratches and other damage,
store your silver jewelry either in a cloth pouch or in a separate compartment in your jewelry box.
Avoid exposing your silver to household chemicals when cleaning with bleach or ammonia, or when
swimming in chlorinated water, as these chemicals can damage silver.
Care should also be taken to prevent silver tarnish build-up, a dulling that naturally occurs when silver
reacts with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the ambient air. To clean your silver, use polishes formulated
specifically to remove tarnish. You can find fine silver polishes, solutions, or cloths appropriate to
remove tarnish at most hardware stores or specialty craft stores. Tarnish is most easily removed when
it first becomes visible.
Although wearing your silver jewelry often is the best way to prevent tarnish from building up, regular
cleaning of all your silver items will prevent tarnish and keep your silver bright and sparkling.
24 karat = 100% gold
Too soft for jewelry
22 karat = 91.7% gold
Very soft — not recommended for jewelry
18 karat = 75.0% gold
Recommended for fine jewelry
14 karat = 58.3% gold
Recommended for jewelry
12 karat = 50.0% gold
Not acceptable for jewelry
10 karat = 41.7% gold
The legal karat limit considered as real gold in the United States
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