Chemically seen, a precious metal is a naturally occurring metal that hardly reacts with other substances. For example, precious metals do not rust and are highly resistant to some acids – although we strongly advise you not to test this at home with our gold rings, for instance. In pure form, many types of precious metals are also quite soft, almost pliable, and they have a distinctive lustre. 

What do you need to know about gold, silver, platinum and some other lesser known precious metals? Which precious metal is perfect for you and your budget? Prices may vary quite a bit per precious metal. Discover everything about 8 precious metals right here. Some are frequently used by jewellery makers, others are not.

Please browse our range of engagement rings in precious metals

 

 

What do I need to know about gold?

Of all kinds of precious metals, only gold is yellow, but that colour changes in an alloy – BAUNAT
Gold is the only kind of precious metal that originally has an ochre yellow colour. It is soft and pliable, but also very compact: one gram of gold can be flattened and rolled into a full square metre sheet of gold leaf. The precious metal does not react with water or oxygen. That's why it doesn't rust or discolour.
Pure gold is too soft for jewellery. It is therefore combined with other precious metals.
Electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, has a greenish colour. The ratio of gold and silver is about fifty-fifty. The Ancient Greeks used it as currency.
Stacking rings from different precious metals. - BAUNAT
As pure gold is too soft for jewellery, other (precious) metals are added to create a so-called alloy. Yellow gold, for example, is an alloy of gold, copper and silver. Other combinations are also possible, pushing the yellow colour of gold in a different direction. White gold contains more silver, nickel or palladium, red gold is composed of more copper. In fact, a gold alloy is a better option for jewellery than platinum. It is much easier to adjust the size, and it doesn't easily distort.
Purple gold: visually stunning, but fragile
It can also be a bit more exotic, with purple gold for instance. This is a visually stunning but very fragile material. Purple gold is more often used as a 'gemstone' than as a ring band. Blue gold is another blend, of gold and indium. Depending on the proportion of indium, the colour can vary greatly.
However, neither electrum nor purple or blue gold have the classic, luxurious appearance of yellow gold, white gold or red gold. Therefore, you will not find them with jewellers who put quality first.
Gold bars are available in all shapes and sizes - BAUNAT

Where does gold come from?

The largest gold nugget ever found weighed around 71 kilograms. However, gold usually occurs as a fine, grainy structure, often combined with other metals such as silver, in veins in rock crevices deep underground. The concentration of gold in these rocks is very low: a ton of ore produces 6 to 7 grams of gold. Diamonds also arise deep in the earth.
Gold ore is processed to extract the gold.
Gold ore is mined from gold mines and processed to filter out the gold. The ore is first broken and crushed and then dissolved in sodium cyanide – messy stuff for sure. Then, the gold is heated to a temperature of 1600°C and cast in a rod-shaped mould with a purity of approximately 80%. Further treatment with chlorine and aqua regia increases its purity to 99.9%.

What do I need to know about platinum?

BAUNAT designer bracelet in platinum, an excedingly durable, stable and colourfast type of precious metal
When the Spaniards went searching for silver and gold in the New World, they encountered a curious metal that was 'impossible to melt'. They saw it as an unwanted contamination of the mined silver ore. However, they were quite wrong.

Check out this platinum designer bracelet with 3.32 ct. of diamonds in detail

The platinum price is currently quite affordable.
Platinum is very durable, stable and colourfast. It is mined just like gold, but a ton of ore produces only 1 to 6 grams of platinum. Platinum jewellery is generally more expensive than gold jewellery.

Read more about how exactly platinum and white gold differ.

Jewellery in precious metals such as white, yellow and red gold, or platinum? You can find them in all possible designs at BAUNAT. For men too, like in stylish cufflinks.

What do I need to know about silver?

Silver, a popular type of precious metal, loses its colour and turns black - BAUNAT
Everyone knows gold and platinum, and silver is no stranger either. For thousands of years, silver has not only been a popular precious metal for decorative purposes, for instance, but also a widely used means of payment. That's why the French word for money, 'argent', was derived from the Latin word for silver, 'argentum'.
Silver is very popular in applied art.
Its pliability makes silver easy to process. That's why this type of precious metal is very popular in applied art. Candlesticks, cutlery, jewellery boxes, religious icons and shrines, flutes – they all consist of silver or are covered with a silver layer. Silver oxidises quickly, but it can be remedied with a good polishing. We don't have any tips for that, but we do have some for cleaning your rings.
The purity of silverware can be checked in the fine print.
If you have silver jewellery or other objects in your home, you can establish its purity by checking the fine print. If you see 925 or AG 925 on the inside of your silver ring, your jewellery consists of 92.5% of silver and 7.5% of a different metal, usually copper. Silver with this purity is also called sterling silver.
Definitely not as rare as gold.
Silver is also used in gold jewellery, such as necklaces.  Both yellow gold, red gold and white gold jewellery contain a certain percentage of silver, to provide the soft gold with some strength. It is also definitely not as rare as gold. The largest silver supplier is Mexico, and 27 000 tonnes of silver was mined worldwide in 2018 alone.

In choosing between white gold vs. silver, some people are faced with a difficult dilemma. However, we would rather recommend white gold. This alloy will be stronger than jewellery of pure silver.

Which lesser known types of precious metals are also fascinating?

What is ruthenium?


It is a silver-coloured, hard metal that is mainly used in electronics. Ruthenium was discovered in the Russian Urals in 1844. Today, this precious metal is still mined the most there, besides North and South America.


Ruthenium is also used in jewellery. Ruthenium is added especially in platinum and palladium jewellery. This makes them a little more expensive, but also much sturdier.

What is osmium?


This precious metal has a blue grey colour and in powder form, it reacts very strongly with oxygen. As a result, it stinks (the word osmium is also derived from the Greek osmè, which means 'stench') and is also very toxic. So, not the kind of precious metal you want to wear in a ring around your fingers...

What is iridium?


This precious metal has a very high density, so it weighs relatively much.  In industry, the metal is highly sought after for its hardness, durability and high melting temperature. It is rare in the earth's crust, but often found in meteorites. Like ruthenium, iridium is often used to make platinum firmer.
BAUNAT jewellery in white gold, a type of precious metal with a very thin layer of rhodium

What is palladium?

With palladium, another silver-coloured substance, we are getting a little closer to the types of precious metals most people think of right away. Some jewellery is made of pure palladium, although it is very soft and light. But in jewellery-making, palladium is mainly used as an addition to gold, to achieve white gold.

Discover the splendour of this diamond necklace in white gold

What is rhodium?


Rhodium is a silver white (more white than silver), very hard metal, which is very rare. In nature it usually occurs mixed with gold, platinum or palladium. Filtering pure rhodium is an expensive, complicated process. Once again, most sites are located in the Russian Urals, and less than 25 tonnes are mined annually. By comparison, in 2018, the total global gold production was 3,260 tonnes. The favourable physical properties of this metal combined with its rarity makes this the most expensive precious metal in the world.
Rhodium is applied very thinly to white gold jewellery for the hardness and exceptional colour.
Rhodium is applied very thinly to white gold jewellery for the hardness and exceptional colour. White gold by itself still has a yellowish appearance. This process is called rhodation.

Other metals such as magnesium, copper or titanium are not precious metals.
Melting and processing platinum is more difficult than melting and processing gold. That is also reflected in the price. The specific weight of platinum is also higher than that of gold. An 18-carat white gold ring will therefore be lighter than the exact same platinum model. The weight also plays a role when calculating the price. That's why platinum jewellery will be more expensive.

How are precious metals classified?

In order to qualify as a precious metal, a metal must not be subject to oxidation, or only very slightly. But how do we know which of the precious metals are most precious? The answer to that question can be found in the reactivity series of metals. This series ranks the metals according to their reduction in reactivity. Thus, you can quickly and easily determine to what extent a metal is precious or not.

As you can see, you can choose between a wide range of metals, but some are more suitable for processing in jewellery than others. At BAUNAT, we resolutely go for gold and platinum, but at our tailored service, other metals are also perfectly possible. And which gem will you choose? For inspiration, look at this beautiful jewellery:

Have you found the jewel of your dreams? Order it online right away, or ask the BAUNAT experts for more information.

Which type of gold am I choosing? Or will I go for platinum?

To allow you to make the right choice, we have listed all the information on the different types of gold and platinum on other pages. Now you can compare the different options perfectly and decide for yourself what suits you best. If you still have doubts, the BAUNAT experts will of course be happy to help you. Read more about it here:
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