Metals & Jewelry Materials

Metals are the basis for most pieces of jewelry, but that doesn't mean they don't have a shine all their own. With a rich history going back to 6000 BC, metal jewelry is an important part of our culture.

There are significant differences between gold, silver and platinum. These three common jewelry metals have one quality in common: beauty. Since beauty is very personal and subjective, here are three questions to consider:

  • Color – What metal hue is best for me?
  • Luster – How does the metal reflect light?
  • Heft – How heavy is the metal?

Metal Comparisons

Hardness is resistance to denting and scratching; the measure of how an object made of harder material will scratch an object made of a softer material. Examples: Contemporary metals are more scratch resistant (harder) than precious metals. Among precious metals, platinum and gold are more scratch resistant than silver.

Strength is resistance to breaking, chipping, and cracking; the durability of the metal. Examples: Platinum has superior strength and withstands wear. Although tungsten is extremely hard, it may chip or break on impact. Jewelers often use platinum heads because the prongs will require less maintenance over time. Click on the metal type below for more details:


Bring your metal jewelry in to your local Helzberg store any time for a complimentary cleaning and inspection. To clean metal jewelry, use a solution of warm water and detergent-free soap with a soft-bristled brush.

Caring for Sterling Silver

The easiest way to get rid of a dulling coat of tarnish from your silver jewelry is to polish it right away with a product designed to remove tarnish. Although wearing your silver jewelry often is the best way to prevent tarnish from building up, regular cleanings of all your silver items will prevent tarnish and keep your silver bright and sparkling.

Why is my jewelry turning my finger/skin black?

Occasionally, a jewelry wearer will notice a black smudge developing on the areas of their skin that is in direct contact with a jewelry item. This sometimes results in the wearer believing that this situation is because their jewelry item is not actually 10k or 14k gold but is instead under karated, gold-plated, or even a "fake". However, in the vast majority of cases the reason for the discoloring is not due to any defects or deficiencies of the actual jewelry item, but instead is usually caused by a number of environmental or "real world" causes. Fortunately, once we better understand the true cause of the discoloration we are usually able to remedy the situation fairly easily. The most common causes of skin discoloration due to the wearing of precious gold jewelry are:

Cosmetic Products

Cosmetics are generally considered the number one cause of dark smudges from gold jewelry. Cosmetics often contain compounds harder than the gold itself, which wear or rub off very tiny particles of the metal. Very fine particles of metal appear black rather than metallic, therefore the resulting dust looks dark black in color. When this dust comes into contact with absorbent surfaces such as skin or clothing it leaves behind a black smudge.

Chemicals from the Body

Natural changes in one's body chemistry can affect the chemical make-up of the perspiration and other trace elements that are released through our skin. In addition, prescription drugs can have the same affect. Generally, unless someone is taking new prescription medication or undergoing other events that might affect their body chemistry, this can be eliminated as a cause of the smudging. In some instances, even a change in one's diet can cause skin discoloration from an item of jewelry that has been worn for years without any problem. For example, an additional quantity of acidic fruit intake (i.e., oranges, tomatoes, etc.) can alter a person's perspiration enough to attack the alloys in the gold and cause discoloration.


There are a few rare instances when someone may be allergic to some of the alloys used in karat golds. However, allergies usually cause a redness around the finger rather than a dark colored smudge line.


Chlorine rarely is responsible for smudges but its affect on some precious metals is so severe that it is worth mentioning. Chlorine will darken silver and actually damage gold jewelry. Chlorine based chemicals will attack gold alloys which can cause erosion and even metal fatigue to the point that the ring becomes brittle and breaks. *some information sourced from American Gem Society.

Learn about Diamond education