About Precious Metals

What’s the right choice for you and your partner?

At Ethical Jewellery Australia, we’re extremely careful about where the precious metals we use come from.

When it comes to yellow gold, we use locally recycled metal from our preferred Gold Coast-based refiner, or (if our customers prefer) Fair Trade gold.

Our rose and white gold and platinum group metals (platinum and palladium) also come from verified eco-refiners. Otherwise the metals we use are recycled internally or are from donor jewellery provided by our customers.

Colour-wise, you can choose from ‘white’ (platinum, palladium and white gold), yellow gold and rose gold. We’ll help with which is right for you and your design.

*By the way, we don’t make silver jewellery, for reasons explained below. 

Which precious metal is right for you or your partner?

When choosing between metals for heirloom-quality jewellery, the big three considerations are colour, strength and comfort (or wearability).

Which Colour?

If buying for yourself, you probably already know what you want, but if designing a ring that’s going to be a surprise, here are some simple pointers.

Take note of your partner’s favourite jewellery

If your partner wears a lot of yellow jewellery, go for yellow gold. If their jewellery is mostly ‘white’, go for either white gold, palladium or platinum. If it’s rose gold, there’s your answer.

Alternatively, if they don’t tend to wear much jewellery at all, or they seem to have no clear colour preference, talk to us and we will help you with the decision.

One other thing to consider when choosing the metal colour is the colour of the stones that will be set in the ring. (We can help you with that too.)

Strength

We almost always recommend platinum when high-value diamonds and gemstones are involved.

It’s the strongest and least likely to fail and the marginal extra cost is worthwhile insurance.

Palladium is a a good option too, but jewellers tend to describe it as being ‘buttery’, meaning it can be misshapen more easily.

It’s still a good choice though if you want something not quite so hefty and is a very bright white.

And gold, whilst the most popular jewellary choice, is also the softest and is more easily worn away than metals from the platinum family.

Wearability

In particular you need to consider skin allergies and reactions (see below).

Platinum and palladium are both hypoallergenic, so very safe choices if you or your partner are prone to skin reactions from contact with jewellery.

Working with ethical jewels was fantastic. Melinda understood exactly what I was looking for, answered all my questions and made sure the ring was delivered in plenty of time for the wedding. The ring is stunning, fits perfectly, and best of all I know it was ethically produced. I couldn’t be happier.

Ynys from Adelaide

Platinum: What’s the big deal?

Platinum is the “prestige” jewellery metal for both practical and financial reasons.

On a practical level, platinum is tougher than both gold and palladium, making it ideal for setting valuable diamonds and gemstones.

Stones are much less likely to come loose from a well-made platinum setting.

Image of a recycled platinum deco-style engagement ring featuring a vintage round diamond and four vintage baguette diaomnds

‘Safer’ than white gold

A common alternative to platinum is white gold, but unlike white gold, when a diamond or gem is claw-set in platinum and one claw fails, the claws don’t act like they are ‘spring loaded’.

With platinum there’s a better chance that the gem or diamond won’t instantly fall from the setting should a breakage occur.

Low maintenance

Platinum is also lower maintenance than white gold.

Usually white gold is rhodium plated to make it very shiny, and this coating does wear off over time.

Importantly, gold erodes whereas platinum displaces meaning a platinum ring will maintain its original weight whereas a gold ring will gradually reduce in weight.

If you want to create an heirloom piece, platinum is the white metal to choose.

More expensive, but not by much

A platinum ring will cost you more than a gold or palladium ring — and for good reason.

Platinum can be more difficult for jewellers to work with. It’s currently marginally cheaper per gram than gold but is a denser (heavier) metal.

This means you need more of it by weight to make a ring of the same size and design.

If you’re looking for a white metal engagement ring, particularly one with claw setting, we always recommend spending the extra few hundred dollars on platinum.

Palladium: What is it?

Palladium is a noble (inert) white metal and member of the platinum family. It shares many characteristics with platinum – including being hypoallergenic.

Image of an engagement ring with a bezel set Argyle cognac diamond set in recycled palladium, paired with a matching wedding ring

Durable and radiant bright white

Palladium offers a more radiant white than (un-plated) white gold.

With a weight similar to fine silver, it also has a lower specific gravity. That makes it an excellent choice for large, wide wedding rings.

Also, being lighter than platinum, you need less metal weight for your jewellery piece.

A great alternative to white gold

Palladium is a great alternative to white gold. Like platinum, it is inert and shouldn’t cause skin irritation. However, it’s not ideal for super fine or claw set rings as it can be a little ‘buttery’.

Design plays a big part in metal choice. Over the years we have learned what works best and are happy to guide you through the decision making process.

All metals will get scratched

Whilst platinum and palladium are beautiful and durable white metals, they can scratch. In fact, all precious metals scratch!

How much they get scratched depends on how you care for your rings and it’s important to accept this.

You must take care when putting your hands in abrasive substances such as soil or sand. Precious jewellery and hard physical labour tend not to go well together.

Gold: Your options

When it comes to gold, you have a few different options.

In Australia, the standard for jewellery is either 9 carat or 18 carat. (24 carat gold is ‘pure’, making it too soft for rings.)

Regional differences

In the USA and Asia, 14-carat is a popular choice and you’ll find 10 carat commonly mentioned – particularly with US-based suppliers.

The difference between 9, 10, 14 and 18 carat is the amount of added alloys. 18 carat gold has fewer alloys and is ‘softer’ than 9 carat, making it easier to work.

There’s also a noticeable difference in colour. 18 carat yellow gold is more ‘yellow’ and brighter than 9 carat yellow gold for example. While 14 carat is somewhere between.

We hand make engagement and wedding rings with 18 carat gold only as our pieces are almost always heirloom quality.

We also offer machine pressed rings from the US. These are available in 18, 14 and 10 carat gold.

Colour choices

When it comes to colour, you have three choices: yellow, white and rose gold.

As discussed earlier, the yellow of yellow gold varies with carat.

Image of an 18 carat yellow gold engagement ring with a moissanite main stone and small white accent diamonds

Rose gold has a reddish, pinkish colour …

Image of a ring with a Argyle cognac diamond set in recycled 18 carat rose gold

And un-plated white gold with a high palladium content looks a bit like silver when polished. Rhodium plated white gold looks super white.

Image of a rhodium plated white gold engagement ring featuring a claw set Argyle white diamond

Note: The rhodium coating wears off and requires reapplication. Frequency depends on how much of the ring comes into contact with hard surfaces.

As for cost, 18 carat white gold is more expensive than 18 carat yellow gold (at the time of writing) by about $6 per gram.

The recycled white gold we use is nickel free and has a high (12%) palladium content making it a much whiter gold in appearance. The other benefit is it doesn’t pose the same allergy issues as gold alloyed with nickel.

Why not silver?

Even though a lot of jewellery is made with silver (that is very often recycled in origin), when it comes to fine handmade jewellery, it isn’t a good choice.

Labour cost means hand making is uneconomic

Whilst silver is certainly a lot cheaper than gold or platinum (where you might pay $90 — $100 for a gram of gold, you’ll pay only $6 – $10 for a gram of silver), that’s where the savings end.

Labour cost is the ‘killer’.

In terms of time, it takes just as long to hand make a ring out of silver as it does to make one out of gold.

It’s a bit like spending too much money doing up a house – you’ll never get the value back again.

Too ‘cheap’ for fine quality jewellery

To get something hand made in silver you’ll pay up to ten times more than a similar retail item, so the value isn’t there.

For gold and platinum, the gap between mass-made retail jewellery and hand-made bespoke jewellery is much, much narrower. So the small premium you might pay is well worth it to get something that’s unique and exactly what you want.

Another downside with silver is that it tarnishes and needs regular polishing. You can rhodium plate it, but that’s expensive given the value of the base metal.

Allergies and Skin Reactions

In our experience, problems with contact dermatitis are most often caused by contaminants (like soap) being trapped between the ring and the wearer’s finger.  However this isn’t always the case.

Allergic Reactions

When metal allergies do arise, they’re almost always associated with gold and silver jewellery, both of which contain relativey high percentages of alloy metals.

The most frequent cause of allergic reactions is nickel, which is most commonly alloyed with white gold. (Other common metals alloyed with gold are palladium, copper and silver.)

As a guideline, the Jewellers Association of Australia recommends the following:

  • A piece of jewellery that will be in close contact with external surface of the skin (such as a ring, bracelet or necklace) should be no more than 3% nickel.
  • A piece of jewellery that will be in contact with internal skin – like an earring or belly ring post – should contain no more than 0.05% nickel.

18 carat gold is 75% pure, meaning that 25% of the metal is made up of other alloy metals.

As both are hypoallergenic, platinum and palladium are your safest choices if you or your partner suffer skin reactions to jewellery. If you must have white gold, insist on a nickel-free gold alloy.

Design to minimise contamination

Image of the underside of an 18 carat recycled yellow gold ring with a very elaborate but open undercarriage

If you or your partner are prone to skin reactions, one way to reduce the potential for future problems is to design your ring (or rings) so you reduce the likelihood of contaminants like soap, cosmetics and food becoming trapped and staying in constant contact with your skin.

Principally this means minimising the number of small cavities and hollows on the inside of the ring.

If your design calls for an elaborate undercarriage for the gem setting, try to keep it open to allow air flow and make it easier to keep clean.

Want to know more?

To start the design and quoting process, feel free to email us (preferred) or call us on 07 3379 2596. 

But if you’re not quite ready for that, you might like to download a copy of one of our free design guides for engagement and wedding rings.