Jewellery Metals Glossary Guide: What Is The Best Metal For Your Jewellery?

Jewellery metals guide: The ultimate glossary


Your ultimate guide to jewellery materials, and what you should go for to suit your needs.


Chances are if you've been looking at buying some new jewellery, you might have felt a little overwhelmed with all of the different types of jewellery out there. There are a huge range of beautiful metals that jewellery can be crafted in and they all lend themselves to different levels of durability, longevity, affordability, design intricacy and appearance.

Which is the best metal for your jewellery? What's the best for what? In this guide, we help break down your options so that you can choose what is best for your needs with confidence, like a true jewellery expert.

At Constellations, quality is one of our very best unique selling points (USPs). Yes, you could go to the high street and buy costume jewellery cheaper, but we believe in longevity in contemporary pieces that look and feel like quality and are going to last you a long time (with proper care). We don’t create anything that your skin might react to, our jewellery is hypoallergenic.

That means crafting all of our jewellery from the finest metals. You won’t find any brass, copper or fake silver and gold here. 


Jewellery Metals Guide: Which Quality Metal Is The Best For Your Jewellery? 

Sterling Silver

Silver is great for crafting jewellery because it is a very soft and malleable precious metal (in its purest form) and highly reflective of light. To create sterling silver, fine silver is mixed with other stronger metals to create sterling silver: 92.5% pure, fine silver and 7.5% copper. This creates a more durable and long-lasting metal ideal for making jewellery and many other uses, without compromising on colour or shine. This is why you will see sterling silver often referred to as '925 silver' and hallmarked with a 925 stamp. Look for the 925 hallmark on your jewellery to confirm it is quality sterling silver.

Gold Vermeil Bracelet and Ring Stacks


Rhodium is a platinum group metal, meaning it is semi-precious. When added to sterling silver, it prevents tarnish and oxidisation from occurring on sterling silver, so less regular polishing and care is required. Adding a layer of rhodium to sterling silver also makes the piece more robust, durable and strong. Rhodium-plated sterling silver pieces aren't susceptible to discolouration or tarnishing over time and give your jewellery a bright, white appearance.

Solid gold

Gold is one of the most popular (and the most expensive) precious metals you can buy and never goes out of style. Pure gold won't tarnish, rust or perish – making it perfect for high-end jewellery which will retain its value and beautiful finish indefinitely. Gold is fairly rare and difficult to mine, making it particularly precious (and therefore, expensive). Solid gold can create a modern heirloom. 

What are carats (often referred to as ct or k) of gold? What gold carat should you choose?

The purest form of gold is 24 carats. However, when it comes to making useable objects like jewellery, 24ct gold is too soft and easily damaged. Gold is therefore alloyed with other metals to create a more durable, less 'yellow' look. A single gold carat is 1 of a possible 24 carats, therefore 18-carat gold is 18 parts gold, 6 parts alloyed metals to increase its strength and durability. This will also reduce the extreme yellow colour in your gold, so carat can also be selected with gold colour preference in mind, as well as durability.

18 Carat gold

This is the most commonly used purity of gold used in jewellery, particularly for gold plating and gold vermeil (we'll come on to this later!), as it offers a very good compromise between price and purity. It is regarded as the European standard purity of gold.

18 carat gold vermeil jewellery: best metals for jewellery

14 Carat and 9 Carat gold

Constellations is first and foremost, an accessible luxury jewellery brand, so we craft our solid gold pieces in 9ct and 14ct gold, so we can keep our prices as low as humanly possible, cutting out the expensive mark ups added on by other jewellery brands. We offer these at far lower than average market value. This creates a slightly less vibrant yellow in the gold – for a softer gold look which will last a lifetime.

Gold Plated Jewellery

The quality of gold plated jewellery depends both on the base metal and the thickness of the plating. Gold plated jewellery created with a cheap base metal (such as brass, copper, pewter, or nickel may tarnish or irritate the skin.

At Constellations, all of our gold plated jewellery uses quality sterling silver as our base metal to ensure our pieces are hypoallergenic and of the highest quality. Larger pieces may be made of stainless steel – which is strong and does not have any negative effects such as colour wear or scratching, will never tarnish and is scratch-resistant. We then use the highest percentage of gold alloy that can be used to make jewellery for our gold plating and vermeil, 18 carats.

Gold plating can last a varying amount of time, depending on how many microns thick the layer of gold is. The thicker the layer of solid gold and the higher the quality of the base metal, the higher the cost.

Gold Vermeil Jewellery

Pronounced ver-may (it’s French!) - Gold vermeil is also made through the gold plating technique but requires a thicker layer of gold by legal standards. In this case, the gold layer must be above 2.5 microns to legally be classed as vermeil, instead of plated, AND must be on a 925 sterling silver base metal – meaning it is of high quality.

With proper care, due to a thicker layer of plating, gold vermeil can stand the test of time and is fairly durable. In the realm of gold jewellery, gold vermeil is the best quality you can access short of buying solid gold jewellery.

Metal alloys to avoid

Cheap metal alloys have a higher potential for irritation for the wearer. Some people are allergic to these substances and can have an allergic reaction when wearing them. They also can turn green and oxidise extremely quickly, turning your jewellery (and your skin) black or green. These substances include jewellery made from copper, brass, zinc, painted gold or silver plating (rather than true precious metal plating).

We recommend investing in higher quality materials which mean your jewellery can last with proper care. In the long run, your pieces will be good investments because their good condition can be maintained for a long time.



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