FAQ's About Jewelry Metals, Materials,

and Jewelry Markings

Since incorporating in 1973, all of us at Steven DiFranco Jewelers are consistently being asked about what the metal stamps inside the shank of rings stand for, and what the difference is between Platinum and 14k white gold, etc..  So we've designed this page to give everyone some basic information as to what the stamps inside ring shanks stand for, and what type of alloys you can expect to find with each type of metal, as well as a general jewelry materials primer

    •    14k Yellow Gold: 

The 14k stamp represents the amount of gold in the ring as opposed to the alloys added for manufacturing stength and integrity. 14k = 58.5% pure gold. The rest of the ring usually consists of silver, copper, and zinc. You may also see the stamp 585 which refers to the percentage of gold in the ring, but it also alerts you to the fact that your ring was probably manufactured in Europe and/or another foreign country. Essentially 14k = 585 = 58.5% pure gold. 18k = 75% pure gold.

    •    14k White Gold:

Just like 14k yellow gold, 14k refers to the amount of gold in the ring. Along with the gold, 14k white rings also usually have Silver, Copper, Zinc, and Nickel to keep the white color. The same European and/or foreign stamp applies to 14k white with 585 = 14k = 58.5% gold.

    •    18k Gold:

The standards for 18k gold are along the same lines as 14k gold. The only difference being between the amount of actual gold in the ring. Since a pure gold ring is 24k, 18k is 75% gold and 25% other alloys (see 14k gold for alloys), thus 750 is the European standard for marking 18k gold rings referencing the percentage of gold.

    •    Platinum:

Platinum is only white in color and comes in two common percentages, each depending on the time of fabrication. Older Platinum rings are usually 90% Platinum and 10% Iridium, whereas newer rings are usually 95% Platinum and 5% Cobalt. The stamp for some newer Platinum is 950, and the stamp for older Platinum rings is 90% PLAT/10% IRID. There are some modern companies that still use the "older style" platinum alloy and stamp the jewelry PT900. Platinum has been confused with 14k white gold many times, reason being, they are both Rhodium plated, which gives them an identical "chrome like" white shine. It is only when the rhodium plating wears off that the true color of both metals are visible. Platinum will have more of a greyish patina to it, whereas 14k white will have a more creamy yellow tint.


 •    Palladium:

Palladium is often overlooked as a great choice for jewelry, especially rings.  Palladium is not as expensive as platinum (as of writing this), and it gives a very white color without the need of rhodium plating.  It also resists scratches better than gold.  It also is very hypoallergenic, so if you have metal allergies, this might be the metal choice for you.


    •    Tungsten Carbide & Tungsten Carbide TC.850:

Tungsten carbide is virtually indestructible when talking about strength, nearly ten times harder than 18k gold, five times harder than tool steel, and its abrasion resistance is second to none. Tungsten carbide rings are made from tungsten processed with carbon. They are ground to a powder, then compressed at extremely high temperatures. The result of this process is an extraordinarily hard and durable ring with a polish that will last longer than any other metal sold for jewelry. The strength of tungsten carbide is twice as hard as steel and three times harder than titanium. The strength of tungsten carbide can be measured on the Mohs scale of hardness, where tungsten is given a hardness rating of 8.5 to 9, a diamond is a 10, platinum is 4.5, 14k gold is 5.5, titanium is about 6, and steel at 7.5. This ring is vulnerable to harsh household, garage, and industrial cleaners that are either strong acids or alkalines. These would include, but not be limited to: Ammonia, Bleach, and Chlorine.  These cleaners will not destroy the ring, but will ruin the shiny finish causing it to look foggy. It is recommended that tungsten carbide rings are removed before using any of these chemicals.

There is a "new version" of tungsten carbide called White Tungsten Carbide TC.850.  This is a VERY white metal that has all the benefits of normal Tungsten Carbide, but it is extremely white and has a very nice weight to it.  This new Tungsten Carbide TC.850 can also be had in a "black" color.  This color is derived from a process called Physical vapor deposition (PVD), which deposits thin layers of color in a high temperature , vacuum environment.

    •    Titanium:

Titanium is an extremely light, but extremely durable metal (8 times more durable than gold) that fends off both abrasion and denting. Titanium is made of simply Titanium and is sometimes paired up with 18k gold and/or diamonds to create a more elegant look. People who have allergic reactions to some metals should look to titanium, as it is non-allergic and won't cause any skin discoloration or reaction.

    •    Sterling Silver:

Sterling Silver is used in many different pieces of jewelry as well as silverware, bowls, candle sticks, baby rattles, mugs, and trays. Traditional Sterling Silver is made up of 92.5% pure Silver and 7.5% copper and is usually marked by the stamp Sterling, 925, or SS. Sterling Silver does not stand up well to abrasions and is quite soft. Quickly tarnishing when in contact with oxygen is quite common with Sterling Silver, thus keeping it shiny can become tedious.  There are "rumors" that there is a non tarnishing sterling silver available.  This is a rumor only.  ALL sterling silver will tarnish, given the proper circumstances.

    •    10k Gold:

This type of gold is composed of 41.6% gold alloy and 58.4% of either silver, copper, or zinc. The common stamp for this type of gold is simply 10kt, but can sometimes referred to as 416.

    •    18k HGE:

This one can be confusing to someone who doesn't have any experience at jewelry karat markings. The "HGE" , "GE", or "HG" stands for hard gold electroplated, the 18k refers to the type of plating, not that the piece of jewelry is actually 18k gold.  In other words, a piece of jewelry that is stamped 18k HGE is gold plated costume jewelry with little or no value.

    •    Meteorite:

One of our wedding band manufacturers uses authentic Gibeon meteorite.  This meteorite was formed millions of years ago and has cooled, crystallized and fallen to Earth.  Meteorite consists primarily of iron and can be inlayed into other materials.  After wearing a meteorite wedding band, I found that magnets will stick to it!

 •    Damascus Steel:

Damascus steel is a unique blend of up to 120 layers of two different types of stainless steel.  These layers are forged together to make a beautiful, durable band.  This ancient metalworking skill makes one-of-a-kind rings you'll love.  Damascus steel has extra artistic value, as no two rings are alike.

   •    Mokume Gane:

Like Damascus steel, Mokume Gane is an ancient metalworking process that creates unique, swirled patterns.  Where Damascus steel uses two stainless steels, Mokume Gane uses precious metals.  The name Mokume Gane is Japanese for "wood grain", as the precious metals tend to mimic patterns in nature.

   •    Black Zirconium:

Black Zirconium is usually used in medical applications and nuclear reactors.  It is perfect for jewelry because it creates a lustrous black layer when it is heat treated.  This layer makes the ring very scratch resistant.

 •    Gold Filled:

Gold filled jewelry is made from joining or bonding a top layer of gold alloy to a base metal alloy and then rolled or drawn to the thickness required. Gold filled jewelry usually contains less than 5% gold alloy.

  Gold filled is sometimes stamped 1/20th 12k gold filled.  The "old fashioned" gold filled is much better than the current gold filled being sold.  Watch out for items that are gold plated thick enough to be called gold filled.

    •    Plumb Gold:

Back in the 1970's J.C. Penneys took one of their rings that was stamped 14k and had it tested to determine exactly what it's gold content was. This ring wasn't even close to 14k gold! After that J.C. Penneys and the rest of our industry decided that if a piece of jewelry is stamped a certain karat content it has to be at least that karat content. This plumb gold standard had already been in place for any imported gold jewelry, now because of J.C. Penneys, plumb gold is a standard for all domestic gold jewelery as well. Don't be confused if you see the inside of a ring that is stamped 14k P, this is a slightly older marking meaning 14k gold that is plumb.

    •    Ceramic:

Extremely strong and VERY scratch resistant.  Actually, ceramic scores 9 out of 10 on the MOH's scale.  Lightweight and their shine lasts an incredibly long time.  Satin or gloss black finishes on most, with some fancy colors available.  Great choice for wedding bands.

    •    Cobalt Chrome:

VERY shiny silver color with very high resistance to scratching.  Cobalt Chrome is hypoallergenic and corrosion resistant as well.  Reasonably priced too.  Excellent choice for gents wedding bands.

   •    Rhodium Plating:

On white gold or platinum jewelry, rhodium plating usually lasts from 3 to 6 months before starting to wear off. At Steven DiFranco Jewelers, we can re-rhodium your jewelry for a nominal fee.  Rhodium plating is done to 99% of the world's white gold and platinum jewelry.  Refiners are constantly looking for combinations that will keep white gold and platinum looking "chrome" white without rhodium plating.  They have not been very successful.

    •    Wear and tear differences:

With appropriate care, 14k gold will give many years of use.  14k gold is our "normal" gold grade here in the United States.  Platinum will resist scratches better than white gold, but it bends much easier.  Repairs of platinum jewelery will cost much more than gold repairs.

  The newer alternative metals and ceramics have been out a very short time, so their "track record" can only be guessed.  By understanding the materials, these new alternative metals and ceramics have many good traits that should make them last a lifetime.

    •    Hallmarks:

Federal law insists that all pieces of jewelry have a karat stamp to show what type of metal the piece of jewelry is made of.  The law also insists that a manufacturer's mark be on the piece of jewelry to identify who produced the piece.  This mark can also be a picture or logo.  Over time, and with repairs, these hallmarks and karat gold markings can be worn away.

    •    Why does gold discolor or turn your fingers black?

Some people think that only "junk" or "costume" jewelry turns your fingers, neck or wrist a black color. Truthfully, this is not the real reason. It is actually pretty rare when a person is allergic to a type of jewelry metal. If there is a true allergy to the metal, it is with one of the alloys, not the gold, silver or platinum itself. Some of the reasons that a person will "break out" or "turn black" from jewelry are caused by the following: change in body chemistry due to age or pregnancy, change in make-up brand, hand cream, suntan lotion, contact with certain household chemicals, bath oils, body lotions, baby powder, change in or starting a new perscription medication, iron pills, increase in acidic foods or drinks, and an increase or change in coffee and/or tea consumption. Rings that are very wide with openings on their insides will hold some of these materials close to the finger also causing a rash or other problems.

     •    European and/or Foreign Metal Markings:

In other countries a slightly different type of marking is used on jewelry.  These markings are as follows:

Gold Markings: 6k=250, 8k=333, 9k=375, 10k=417, 12k=500, 14k=585, 18k=750, 22k=916, 24k=999

Silver Markings: 925=Sterling, 958=Britannia Silver, 999, Pure Silver

Platinum Markings: 850=85% Platinum, 950=95% Platinum, 900=90%Platinum, 90% Plat/10% Irid= 90% Platinum combined with 10% Iridium, 999=Pure Platinum.