What is an alloy and Why do jewelers use alloys in jewelry? A majority of jewelry you buy or wear is alloyed. That means it is not purely one metal.
Before you think that your gold or silver piece is not real, read on to find out what an alloy us and why jewelers use them in jewelry making.
What is an alloy or alloy technology?
The basic definition of an alloy is a metal that gets made from combining two or multiple elements. The primary reason alloys get made is because you’ll find that an individual metal or is not durable enough to fulfill a particular task.
By adding or combining two or more metals, you make an alloy fit for use. Usually, when talking about an alloy, we’re talking about combining two metallic elements, but there are exceptions. One such example is in the making of steel, where it requires combining iron and carbon, which is a non-metal.
To make an alloy, you typically melt the elements together. This fundamental technological did exist in ancient times, where they would make brass from copper and zinc and bronze from copper and tin.
Alloys tend to have a wide range of unique properties, which is the reason they are made in the first place. That includes toughness, hardness, corrosion resistance, flexibility, and even magnetizability.
In jewelry, the nature of an alloy is to be malleable so that it can get formed and bent into different shapes.
It also needs to be ductile so the jeweler or machine can mold it easily. You’ll also find that in this industry, there is usually a base metal with a precious metal added on top to improve corrosion resistance and other desirable qualities.
On the other hand, you’ll find that some precious metals, to maintain hardness, require to have other metals combined with it. These variables are different depending on the metal required.
Expensive jewelry alloy
Now that we’ve looked at what alloys are in general and how they apply in jewelry let’s explore some of the most expensive jewelry alloys that you’ll come across.
1. Gold alloy– 10K,14K 18K are all alloys
Pure gold is too soft and thus hardly used in jewelry making. Even so, gold is preferred because it can get molded into any shape. When alloyed with other metals, it helps with the malleability and strength.
That means it can retain its shape, whatever form it’s made in, and be durable. Let’s look at the various gold alloys in the market based on what they’ve been alloyed with. The karat refers to the purity of the gold, or how much gold is present within the alloy.
18K gold means that it has 75 percent gold, with the rest being other metals to make up the alloy. Thus, yellow gold comprises 75 percent gold, and the remaining percentage is made from zinc and/or cobalt, copper, and silver.
Globally, this is the most used alloy since it is accessible. For white gold, zinc and copper are present too, with palladium and nickel being added to form the final product.
What you’ll note about white gold is that once the item gets made, it gets a rhodium plating. That’s because white gold tends to deteriorate with prolonged use when it’s left as is. After a long time, it loses the silver-grey color, and the intensity of yellow gold appears.
The other kind of white gold is 18k palladium white gold, which is a combination of gold and 25 percent palladium. It is more expensive but quite durable. Lastly, there’s rose gold and green gold, which have copper and silver combined respectively with gold for form the alloy.
To make jewelry with a lesser karat, the same alloys we’ve discussed above are what get used. That means the same is true with 14k and 10k gold.
The only difference is the quantity or the purity of gold. In the case of 14k gold, it means that the entire piece is made from 58.5 percent gold. From 10k gold, the quantity of gold is 41.7 percent, with the rest making up the various metals we’ve mentioned.
Therefore, if you want more gold in your jewelry, then you have to opt for a higher karat gold measurement.
2.Silver alloy- 925 Sterling silver alloy
The silver used in making authentic silver pieces is an alloy as well. Similar to gold, silver is too soft and, therefore, not useful in this industry.
The 925 stamp you see means that the item contains 92.5 percent silver. The remaining 7.5 percent is copper, which, when combined, makes it an alloy.
The quantity of silver varies; Mexican silver is 95 percent silver, while Britannica silver has 95.84 silver. The remaining percentage is copper.
There are four types of platinum alloys used in jewelry.
Pt950/Ir means that it has 950 parts platinum and 50 parts iridium, and Pt950/Ru has similar parts of platinum as well, with the 50 parts being ruthenium.
Pt900/Ir has 950 parts platinum, and 100 parts iridium and Pt950/Co has 950 parts of platinum with cobalt making 50 parts.
Inexpensive jewelry alloy
Pure zinc is a bluish-white shiny metal. The most common zinc alloy is brass, which is made from combining zinc and copper.
In the world of jewelry, brass is among the most popular in materials used. It’s known for its low cost, versatility, and high corrosion resistance.
It also benefits the iron in that it develops heat-resistant properties. There are various kinds of stainless steel, but in jewelry, the most common types are 304, 316, 316L, and 316F. 304 stainless steel has 18-20 percent chromium and 8-10.5 percent nickel.
For hypoallergenic kind, we have 316, which has two to three percent molybdenum, which also improves corrosion resistance.
This inorganic compound is part of the carbon family. It is dense and looks metal-like, being light gray with a tiny bit of bluish tint.
Tungsten itself is a chemical element on the periodic table and is known to have the highest melting point of all metals.
The carbide comes about when you combine powdered tungsten with carbon black in hydrogen. The only thing that rivals tungsten carbide is a diamond. This alloy is more laborious than titanium.
Why do jewelers use alloys in jewelry?
In jewelry, pure metals can’t work alone. The primary aim for alloying metals is to bring about an increase in hardness and durability, ensuring that it doesn’t tarnish.
Let’s look at silver and gold as examples. When they are in the pure form, they both scratch and dent easily, and they also tarnish a lot faster merely from exposure to other elements.
The best approach then is finding complementary metals that will transform the precious metals to become strong, scratch-resistant, and won’t tarnish quickly.
Using alloys in the jewelry world also means an increase in the variety of metals available.
If there weren’t alloys, we wouldn’t be able to wear gold or silver. Other examples are brass and stainless steel.
Copper will tarnish and form a patina while iron will rust. To avoid this, alloying them changes their molecular structure and giving them properties that they didn’t have before.
Therefore, being spoilt for choice in terms of the metals available in jewelry is thanks to alloys.
why do jewelers need to understand the properties of different materials in order to make jewelry?
The reason is very simple. I will tell you a Joke first. If you are a chemist, but you do not know the periodic table of elements, how can you do your experiments, how can you be considered as a chemist? So, you need to understand the fundamentals. So do the jewelers. They need to know the properties of different metals to make great jewelry, to sell the jewelry at a reasonable price.
In the jewelry world, unless otherwise stated or requested, all pieces we have are alloyed.
It’s not about cutting corners; if anything, it is ensuring that we can purchase items that serve us well and last a long time.
Now that you know what an alloy is and its application in jewelry making, you’re bound to have more appreciation for what you wear.
Thanks for reading. Guys. I really hope this post helps you a lot. If you learn something in this post, please share this post with someone you know or someone who wants to know.