Metals

1. WHAT IS THE BEST METAL TO CHOOSE?

There are many different precious metals used in jewellery, which are alloyed (or mixed) together to create a range of different purities and qualities. The metals we normally use are 18ct Gold (750 purity) in either Yellow or White; and Platinum (950 purity). We use recycled metal in all our precious designs.

MetalsIf you like the warmth and radiance of yellow gold then the decision is fairly straight forward – 18ct is the best alloy for resistance to wear compared to 9ct gold which wears away quicker. It maintains its shape and form better than 22ct gold which is more malleable and deforms more easily. 18ct gold also has the most beautiful warm colour.

If you want a ‘white option’ the decision is a little harder with four or more choices.
18ct White Gold is an alloy of gold in which the natural yellow colour is ‘bleached’ by the addition of whitening metals such as Palladium & Ruthenium. We offer two subtly different alloys: ‘Cool White’ which is rich in palladium and has a steely colour; and ‘Warm White’ which is a subtle warm grey. Both are attractive in their own right but can also be Rhodium plated to give a pure white finish. Rhodium is the hardest wearing of the precious metals and most often used as a plating - but this thin layer can rub off with time and wear, especially on rings. We can re-rhodium our jewellery as part of our TLC service.

Platinum is the rarest and most precious of metals used for making jewellery. It has a weight and ‘heft’ unlike any other metal and is very suitable for making rings as it holds onto stones beautifully and is the best at showing off a true white diamond. Platinum has a tendency to matt down with wear so may need to be polished occasionally to keep looking its best.

Recently palladium has become a viable alternative metal for jewellery. It was discovered in 1803 and was popular in the first half of the 20th century. More recently it has been used as a whitening agent in white gold alloys, particularly since the introduction of the European Nickel Directive. Over the last few years palladium jewellery has seen a resurgence in Britain - partly because of improvements in alloying processes, but also because it has just been recognised in an amendment to the UK Precious Metals Act meaning that it can now be Hallmarked.

Like platinum, the standard alloy for palladium jewellery is 950 and so can be marketed as '95% pure'. Palladium is very white; it easily falls into the 'Grade 1' category of the index developed to measure the whiteness of white gold alloys. Because of this it does not need rhodium plating. The metal has the same tarnish resistance as platinum; it is malleable and durable and can be polished to a high finish. The definition of fine details can also be better than platinum.

Two of the great advantages of palladium are its density and price. A ring cast in palladium will be fractionally heavier than in silver or 9ct gold, but less than 18ct gold. Palladium pieces currently retail at about 75% of 18ct yellow gold prices - less than rhodium plated white gold. Another advantage of the lower density is the reduced effect of wear as it rubs against things with less force and friction.

In conclusion, palladium does not have the ‘heft’ or feel of precious weight that platinum or white gold has, but it costs less. It is slightly more ‘steely’ in colour compared to platinum, with the rhodium plating of white gold being the ‘whitest’ option.

2. ETHICAL METALS

In the past, the mining industry has used a variety of methods to extract metal from the earth. Some of these processes have not been very environmentally friendly and have ended up exploiting vulnerable areas, leaving residues and waste behind.

Consequently, the industry has been subjected to increased scrutiny, and as a result it is becoming increasingly more environmentally aware. In a bid to clean up its act, new techniques and technologies are constantly being tested and developed to ensure the impact on mining areas is minimal.

All of our jewellery is produced using a casting process which involves pouring molten metal into a mould. These metals have been refined and alloyed to ensure that they meet the exacting standards of quality which is guaranteed by the independent Assay system.
During the refining process, newly mined metal is mixed with recycled old metal. Therefore, any new item of precious jewellery may include some metal that is in-fact hundreds of years old! The recycled metal could be from a Saxon Coin, Georgian Silverware, Victorian Wedding Ring, Art Deco Tiara or from any other era!

Currently, the metal used in our jewellery is 95% recycled and we support measures that will help to reduce our company’s impact on the environment. Our aim is to keep re-using current metal resources in our designs and eventually move to using 100% recycled metal. In the future, as the supply chain improves this looks all the more likely to happen.

3. CAN I REUSE THE METAL IN MY OLD RING?

Precious metals are the ultimate ‘recyclable’ materials – silver, gold & platinum can be melted down and reused hundreds of times with little waste. Traditionally jewellers rework scrapped metal into wire or sheet to then create simple designs. However our sculptural and detailed designs are created using a casting process that demands freshly alloyed metals with no impurities, to create pieces with no flaws or imperfections.

Casting is done in batches with many pieces created from the same pot of molten metal - so consequently we can never guarantee that bits from any particular ‘recycled’ article would end up in a specific cast item.

What we can offer is a credit against the scrap value of your metal, or alternatively we have in the past turned pieces into ear-hoops and incorporated them in other designs – but that is another story best told by Dan Dower.

For any enquiries or further questions please call 020 7377 5544 or email spitalfields@dowerandhall.com

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