Jewellery: Let's Get Technical
Jewellery is one of the most precious, sentimental and widespread gifts that we receive. Not only is it highly personal, but jewellery is treasured for its uniqueness, value and sometimes, its rarity. Here we present some general terminology and information that can greatly benefit you on your future jewellery endeavors. We start with a common question:
So, is it jewelry or jewellery?
These odd variations in spelling can cause much confusion, but it simply comes down to differences between British English and American English. The British standard spelling adds '-lery' to jewel: jewellery, whereas the American spelling adds '-ry' to jewel, becoming jewelry. To make matters more confusing, in Canada and Australia they alternate between both spellings.
Beppe Kessler, 'Warm Winters', courtesy of Galerie Rob Koudijs.
Carat vs. Karat
Yes there is a difference between carat and karat, and not just in the spelling. A carat refers to a unit of weight, and is used to characterise the mass of diamonds and other precious gemstones. One carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams.
Example: a four-carat diamond weighs 800 milligrams, or 0.8 grams.
Whereas a karat measures the purity of gold, with 24-karat gold being pure-gold which is often seen in coins. Since gold is a soft metal, it is common to add other metals, or alloys, to strengthen the material.
Example: 8-karat gold is 8/24th pure gold, or 33.30%.
- 24 karat = 99.90% (Pure-Gold Coins)
- 22 karat = 91.60%
- 20 karat = 83.30%
- 18 karat = 75.00%
- 15 karat = 62.5%
- 14 karat = 58.50%
- 10 karat = 41.70%
- 9 karat = 37.50%
- 8 karat = 33.30%
In order to differentiate these common terms, you may need to specify to your jeweller what you are looking for exactly. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably so it is easy to get confused.
Asymmetrical Gold Retro Bracelet in 18k Rose Gold, courtesy of Lyppens Juweliers.
Yellow-Gold / White-Gold / Rose-Gold
There are common alloys used in jewellery which make up yellow gold, white gold and rose gold. The combination of alloys provides gold jewellery with the durability and strength required to sustain as a decorative object, and allows for the jeweller or maker to manipulate the material.
Gold fineness or purity is the ratio, by weight of gold, to any base metals (alloys) included in the mixture. Here are some examples of gold-types in jewelry using 18-karat gold (75% pure) as an example.
Yellow gold = 75% purity with a mixture of 5% copper and 20% fine silver.
White gold = 75% purity with a mixture of 25% palladium or platinum
Rose gold = 75% purity with a mixture of 20% copper and 5% fine silver.
Of course, these combinations vary depending on the ratios.
Top: 18k yellow and white gold ring - here you can see the differences in colour which mark the variation in alloys. Below: a solid 18k white gold ring. Courtesy of Atelier Bockweg & Eekels.
When considering diamonds, it is important to note what is commonly referred to as the four C’s: Carat - Colour - Clarity and Cut. These components are important to know, for they summarize the quality of the ring, and help to determine the price.
Carat: See above. Refers to the unit of weight. One carat = 0.2 grams.
Colour: Diamonds come in many colours, while the most sought-after being ‘colourless’ or ‘white.’
Clarity: The clarity of a diamond is determined by the amount of inclusions or ‘blemishes’ that it has. A loupe (magnification device) assists in checking for clarity, so it is useful to have one when inspecting gemstones. If a diamond is free of inclusions, it is known as a flawless diamond. Understandably, diamonds with a higher clarity grade are more valuable.
Cut: The more ‘brilliant’ the cut, the more sparkly the diamond. When a diamond is well cut, it allows the light to reflect off the facets of the diamond.
Remember that the cut of a diamond is different from its shape, see below for details.
Top: Common Cuts, Below: 'Fancy' Shapes
Fun fact: A paragon is considered a flawless diamond, weighing at least 100 carats (20 grams).
Hopefully by now some of the more technical aspects of jewellery provide you with the clarity you deserve. Do you have further questions? Explore the jewellery category on Gallerease, or contact one of our specialists for more information.
Don't forget to subscribe below to receive our weekly newsletter.