Our product offerings vary from gold-plated (yellow gold finish) and rhodium-plated (white gold finish) silver to 14k & 18k gold, often customized depending on the user's intended use and budget.
We decided to make this guide to simplify the basics that encompass different karats and finishing options.
Basically, Gold is a very soft metal. At 24k and in its purest form, it is easily scratched and may easily loosen certain stone settings. While in fact and essence very valuable, it is not practical for jewelry that is used daily, and for holding precious gemstones. 22k is the next available option, but remains quite a soft metal. Most luxury commercial jewelry is set in 18k and 14k gold, but mass produced jewelry sellers will easily sell 8-10k gold as "real gold" at very discounted prices. It is still considered real gold, but technically, the percentage of base metals far outweighs that of the actual gold content.
To create different karats, as well as different gold tones, gold is often mixed with based metals to create a gold alloy. Increasing the percentages of certain metals gives a definitive tone to a specific piece. For instance, rose gold is produced by mixing copper into the gold alloy. The higher the percentage, the redder the tone. White gold is mixed with nickel or palladium, and plated with rhodium to give it a "whiter" finish. Plain white gold alloy without the rhodium plating often results in a yellow-toned white gold, which is not really ideal.
We offer silver as a cheaper alternative to gold, providing either a 14k yellow gold plating for yellow gold finishes, or a rhodium plating for a white gold finish. We prefer the rhodium plating as it toughens the silver and gives it protection against eventual tarnishing. However, for a yellow gold finish, we do an anti-tarnish coat that prolongs the gold finish on the silver. While this is not equivalent to buying actual gold (which on its own is resistant to tarnishing), it prolongs the plating and allows you to enjoy your piece longer without having to re-plate every few months.
How do you Decide?
First consideration is budget. Gold can be quite expensive. 14K Gold is the most practical choice as the alloys toughen the metal to make it more sturdy for daily use, and the gold percentage still outweighs that of the base metal, still making it a considerable investment piece. Gold is gold and the cost can easily be justified by how you intend to use it. If you are looking for something for daily use, then gold would always be the best option. If you are looking for something on the higher end of the spectrum, 18K is ideal in terms of color and investment. With a vibrant yellow tone, 18K speaks of class and a taste for luxury, albeit at an equally higher cost. We do not recommend any Karat higher than 18K, as this will be most likely a soft metal prone to dents and scratches. If you want something to last, and potentially give away as an heirloom piece, then gold would have to be the best choice.
For occasion pieces like bridal jewelry, cocktail or black tie jewelry, silver might be a more viable alternative. It's easy to dismiss silver as inferior to gold, but it is still one of the 3 precious metals and with proper care, silver can also last quite a while. Most of my experimental pieces are set in silver, and their platings have lasted years with care and proper storage. Some, I have even used daily on travels, because losing jewelry while travelling is not something I would be open to happening. Re-plating to update and refresh is always an option, even with gold jewelry, so it's not something that you will specifically have to do for silver jewelry.
Ultimately, it depends on the wearer, whether they consider something as an investment piece, or just something new to wear for a season or two.
You may also do something similar to what our more practical clients do: initially purchase items set in silver, and once they realize how they love the style, and wear it more often than they planned, they again seek us out for a re-setting to actual gold. Re-setting is something we would happily do for our clients, charging only for materials and labor.