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Choosing a Class Ring:
All About Jewelry Plating and Alloys

Choosing a Class Ring - This image Copyright San Diego Bizmart, 2005 - All Rights Reserved

Q) Hi. I wanted to know what element or metal is better on a ring: Yellow gold, White gold, Platinum, Silver Elite® with Platinum, or White Lustrium?

Platinum is best. Gold is next. Yellow gold & white gold according to what Karat & what alloys are used. 18 Karat gold is the best gold choice for quality & durability. White gold, from gold & platinum, is the best choice in the white golds. Both golds (of the same Karat) are equal in quality. Next in quality is Palladium, then Rhodium. After that, at the cheapest end of the spectrum is Silver Elite®. And finally, Lustrium, which is the cheapest. Below are all the descriptions and qualities of the metals.


The most precious metal in the world is Platinum. It is obtained as a by-product of nickel mining, and is more expensive than gold. Platinum is a versatile metal with a hard "silvery-gray" finish. It is highly resistant to oxidation, and makes an excellent decorative finish, having exceptional resistance to scratching and discoloration from tarnish. Electroplating with Platinum is used in medical implants, scientific instruments and electronics. It is highly valued as a protective finish when plated over sterling silver and nickel-based jewelry. Platinum plating is an excellent alternative to Rhodium.


An alloy is a combination of metals. Pure Gold is too soft to be used for jewelry, so other metals are invariably added to it, no matter what color gold is desired.

Palladium can be mixed with gold, in varying amounts, to create white gold alloys. It is a relative of Platinum, and is more expensive than using Nickel.

Nickel is also used to mix with Gold to create a gray-white finish, however, many people are allergic to Nickel (contact dermatitis).


The color of the finish can range from pale yellow gold to orange yellow gold. Over 30 tints and colors exist. The higher the Karat Gold, and the thicker the layer of the plating, the greater is the resistance to discoloration and corrosion.

24kt Gold Plating ranges from a yellow-gold color to an orange-yellow gold color. This is a popular finish with excellent durability.

18kt Gold Plating has a soft to medium finish hardness, and moderate scratch resistance.

18kt gold: 18 parts (75%) gold and 6 parts of another metal(s).

18kt yellow-gold: A less "brassy" color than 24kt.

14kt Gold Plating has a medium to hard finish hardness, a good resistance to scratches, and a high corrosion resistance.

14kt gold: 14 parts gold (approx. 58%) and 10 parts of another metal(s).

14kt yellow-gold: Comes in a wide range of hues and wear resistances. It is the most used plating in the jewelry industry.

Vermeil: 14kt gold plated over sterling silver.

14kt Hamilton Gold: A medium yellow color, this metal is one of the hardest and most durable plating finishes available. Used where durability is needed, such as a belt buckle or watch.

12kt Gold Plating:

12 parts gold (50%) and 12 parts of another metal.

10kt Gold Plating:

10 parts gold (approx. 41%) and 14 parts of another metal. This is the lowest karat number that can be called "Gold" in the United States.


A Palladium finish closely resembles White Gold. It is a bright gray-white finish with high tarnish resistance, and is a good alternative to rhodium as a less expensive finish. Palladium is resistant to oxidation except when exposed to sulfur-containing substances, has a medium to hard finish, and is resistant to most scratching. Palladium comes from platinum, nickel, and copper mining.


Related to Platinum, Rhodium has a brilliant white color, is highly tarnish resistant, has a hard, durable finish and is quite resistant to scratching. It can be plated over silver or nickel to prevent tarnish, restore color, and is excellent for items that come into contact with the skin, where the oils can quickly dull other finishes. If you are allergic to Nickel, plating with Rhodium will eliminate the problem.


Silver Elite® (with Platinum) is a fusion of Sterling Silver and Platinum. This is a trademarked metal by Jostens. Less expensive than 14kt Gold, this metal has the durability and beauty of Platinum and is a finish that will not fade.


This metal looks to the eye identical to 10kt Gold. Lustrium is a mixture of nickel and chromium, and is a good, durable finish.

White Lustrium: This metal has the luster and brilliance of White Gold or Silver, but does not tarnish.

Yellow Lustrium: This is not a plated finish. The metal is fused with an amount of Real Gold all the way through so even if scratched, there will not be a difference in color. The gold content is higher at the surface, and becomes less, deeper into the metal. The cost is lower than 10kt Gold.

So there you have it!  You are now prepared to make your choice.

See also: Choosing Pearl Jewelry by James Dunn of Strictly Pearls

A San Diego BizMart Article
© San Diego BizMart, 2006 – All Rights Reserved

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