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Jewelry Glossary: Common Terms You Need to Know for Your Next Shopping Trip

Alloy

A mixture of two or more metals that strengthens the resulting metal, or  improves its appearance.

Blemish / tarnish

An imperfection on the surface of jewelry. This could be a scratch or dent, or unintended change in color from the original appearance.

Gold

Pink / rose gold

Rose gold is made of pure gold mixed with copper and silver alloys. Rose gold is real but it’s not made entirely of gold. The copper and silver helps to strengthen it and give it its rose color. Rose gold is widely used for specialized jewelry. Rose gold encompasses the whole family of red, rose and pink gold shades.

White gold

White gold is an alloy of gold and at least one white metal (usually nickel, silver, or palladium). White gold is real but it’s not made entirely of gold. The other metals help to strengthen the gold and increase its durability for jewelry. Like yellow gold, the purity of white gold is given in karats.

Yellow gold

Yellow gold is made of pure gold mixed with alloy metals such as copper and zinc. The amount of pure gold in the jewelry depends on its karatage.

Gold coating (gold plating)

This is the process of adding a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, often copper or silver, by chemical or electrochemical plating. Gold coating helps the metal underneath the jewelry to mimic solid gold or make it less hypoallergenic (reactive to sensitive skin types).

Check out a simple, in-depth explanation of what gold plating is.

Hardness

The ability of a component on a jewelry piece to resist scratches. This is measured using the Moh’s scale of hardness from 1-10, with 10 being the hardest. Genuine diamonds are usually rated 10 on the Moh’s scale.

Karat / karatage

Karats are a measure of the purity of gold. 24 karat gold is softer than lower-karat gold on the hardness scale (Moh’s scale).14-karat and 18-karat gold is gold that is mixed with other metal alloys to strengthen it, and to enhance its appearance. Here’s how each karat measure compares:

  • 24 Karat: 99.9{9eee4a2cdd069b754fe326822c8d6e80e0804275733a8c4ece75f68929a45fa3}+ pure gold
  • 22 Karat: 91.7{9eee4a2cdd069b754fe326822c8d6e80e0804275733a8c4ece75f68929a45fa3} pure gold
  • 18 Karat: 75{9eee4a2cdd069b754fe326822c8d6e80e0804275733a8c4ece75f68929a45fa3} pure gold
  • 14 Karat: 58.3{9eee4a2cdd069b754fe326822c8d6e80e0804275733a8c4ece75f68929a45fa3} pure gold. Can be indicated on jewelry as “585”

Polish

The amount of smoothness, glossiness or shininess on a metal’s surface. The more polished a piece of jewelry is, the more light is reflected off its surfaces and edges.

Toughness

The ability for a jewelry component to resist breakage or cracking from impact. Ceramic jewelry is generally tough, but can chip easily with focused impact or improper care.

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