7 Common Jewelry Materials You Should Know

Of the many types of jewelry materials on the market, each of them has its own style and texture, but do you actually know the difference between them? Or do you often feel confused?

As a jewelry guru, we must be well equipped with such knowledge! In this article, we will share with you several common jewelry materials for you to become an expert too.

Solid Gold

Gold has been one of the most common jewelry materials for centuries, and jewelry made of pure gold has a good intrinsic value which is why it's very popular amongst collectors. Nonetheless, the so-called "pure gold" does not mean it's 100% pure gold!

You will often see pure gold jewelry marked with "number + K", such as 22K, 18K, 14K, etc. This actually refers to the mixing ratio of pure gold and other metals. Simply put, K gold stands for Karat Gold, 24K gold is the highest purity of gold, representing 24/24 gold (100%), and the smaller the K gold number is, the lower the pure gold ratio. For example, 14K represents 14/24 gold, its pure gold ratio is 58.3%.

Karat Measure Traditional Hallmark Modern Hallmark Gold Purity
24 karat 999 24k 100%
22 karat 916 22k 91.6%
18 karat 750 18k 75.0%
14 karat 585 14k 58.8%
 10 karat 417 10k 41.7%

24K pure gold has great ductility, so it is not ideal for jewelry as it gets deformed easily. It needs to be mixed with other metals such as copper and zinc to obtain the required hardness for jewelry making. As such, this is called "gold alloy", which is commonly referred to as "pure gold" in jewelry, it is usually marked as 14K pure gold, 18K pure gold, etc.

In addition, adding other metals to pure gold can not only increase the hardness but also affect the color. The tone and color of natural pure gold are very yellow. By mixing it with metals in different proportions, different shades of gold can be achieved such as white or reddish shades, which are white K gold, rose gold that we often see on the market, etc. The common types of pure gold currently used in the jewelry industry are 10K, 14K, and 18K.

Gold Plated

Gold plating refers to the plating of a thin layer of real gold onto jewelry that is based on other metals. For example, 14K gold-plated jewelry usually refers to hard metals such as brass and alloys as the main body, and the surface is plated with a thin layer of 14K gold.

There is also a type of gold plating known as Vermeil, a set of metalworking standards established by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. It means that sterling silver is used as the main material, the surface is plated with real gold of a minimum of 10K or above, and the thickness of the gold plating needs to be at least 2.5 microns to be classified as Vermeil. Because Vermeil jewelry uses sterling silver as the base and is plated with a thick layer of gold, these products are of high quality, and they are also more durable than ordinary gold-plated jewelry!

Whether it is general gold-plated or Vermeil gold-plated, although the appearance looks similar to that of pure gold jewelry, the gold content of the two is quite different. The gold-plated layer on the surface of gold-plated jewelry will eventually peel off with time and the number of uses, it needs to be given proper care to effectively prolong its shelf life.

Sterling Silver

Silver has always been one of the precious metals and is widely used in the design of many jewelry and accessories. However, due to the abundant silver resources, the price of silver is not as high as that of gold. We can acquire sterling silver jewelry at a comparatively cheaper price.

But similar to gold, natural sterling silver is too soft for jewelry making, and because of this, other metals are mixed in to increase durability and hardness. In terms of international standards, to be called sterling silver, the purity of the silver needs to be at least 92.5%, which is why we often hear the term 925 sterling silver or find a 925 engraving on sterling silver jewelry.

Through different fabrication methods, 925 sterling silver is available in colors from off-white to bright white and can have a matte or glossy finish. However, sterling silver will also oxidize and turn black with the way the user wears it or with the moisture in the air. If this happens, just wipe it gently with a silver cloth. If you want to deep cleanse your silver jewelry, you can apply a small amount of toothpaste on a soft cloth and wipe it gently, then rinse with water and dry.


Platinum is much more expensive than gold and is the most expensive of all precious metals. Because platinum is so durable, it is often used in the arms industry until the first half of the twentieth century. It wasn't until the 1990s that this durable and lustrous metal was reintroduced into jewelry, especially wedding rings of commemorative value.

The color of platinum is soft silvery-white with a beautiful luster. Because of its high ductility, it is also necessary to add a small amount of other metals to improve the hardness. For jewelry, it needs to contain at least 90% pure platinum before it can be classified as a platinum product, otherwise, it is a platinum alloy. Platinum and white K gold are often confused, but a simple way to identify whether it is platinum is by the platinum label "PLAT".

One of the advantages of platinum is that it does not oxidize or tarnish, and it is extremely durable. Products made of platinum can even be passed down as family heirlooms to the next generation! However, because of its rarity, buying accessories made of platinum requires a bit more budget.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is actually an alloy composed of various elements such as iron, chromium, carbon, etc. and its price is lower than other precious metals. Although many metals are prone to allergies, chromium will form a protective film of chromium oxide on the surface, and at the same time, the metal in the inner layer will not be easily ionized. , hence, the long-lasting and anti-allergic effect.

Stainless steel has many uses, amongst, the most common are kitchen utensils, electrical appliances, etc. However, different types of stainless steel have different compositions. Surgical steel 316L is the most commonly used in jewelry design, more specifically on earrings and ear posts, etc.


Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. When the content of zinc exceeds 20%, it is referred to as brass. Because brass is very easy to process, it is one of the most used metals in our lives, including electronic parts, musical instruments, decorations, machinery, etc.

Brass is also a very common material in the jewelry industry. In addition to being used as the base of gold-plated or silver-plated jewelry, because the color of brass is similar to gold, it is often made into all-brass jewelry by itself. Across time, it will produce different colors and textures resulting in a classic and retro charm, which is particularly valuable for many collectors.

Although brass does not corrode easily, it dreads water. After exposure to moisture in the air, it will slowly oxidize, and black spots will appear based on the degree of oxidation. It will produce a green "patina" (similar to the current statue of liberty), which may stain the skin or clothing during usage, so proper maintenance is very important.

When wearing brass jewelry, avoid contact with moisture as much as possible. After wearing, gently wipe the surface with a soft cloth, and then store the jewelry in a sealed zipper bag or a storage box that can isolate the air. If the surface is seriously oxidized or patina, you can also gently wipe it with toothpaste, soak it in vinegar or lemon juice, then rinse and dry.


It is often seen on the market that the material of earrings and necklaces is marked as an alloy. The so-called alloy is a mixture composed of several different metals. The common components include zinc, tin, iron, silver, etc., because the alloy is easy to oxidize, once it encounters sweat, perfume, hot springs, and other liquids, it will turn black or rust. For this reason, they are not included in the classification of "precious metals". Furthermore, the durability of alloy jewelry is weak, and the replacement rate is relatively much higher.

In addition, we often hear that people have allergic reactions due to alloy jewelry, which is mainly caused by the "nickel" content in the alloy (depending on body type), but because nickel can make products appear to be more lustrous and at a lower cost, it is still widely used in cheap jewelry. If you have allergies, you need to pay more attention when choosing alloy jewelry, or simply go for anti-allergic materials such as sterling silver or medical steel, etc. to avoid the burden on the skin.