What Alloys Are Used In Jewelry?

Written By Allie Perry March 8, 2024

When it comes to making jewelry, choosing the right metal is a critical part of the design process. Metals form the foundation of every jewelry piece, influencing its appearance, durability, and overall value. One of the key aspects of these metals is the use of alloys—mixtures of two or more metals. These alloys offer a spectrum of properties that cater to diverse aesthetic and practical preferences. 

I want you to understand your current jewelry collection and be able to make informed decisions about any jewelry you purchase in the future, so I compiled this comprehensive guide you can use as a reference. I’ll tell you why alloys are used in jewelry, what common alloy metals you can expect to see, and which of these things you need to pay attention to as a consumer.

Why are alloys used in jewelry?

Alloys are used in jewelry for several compelling reasons, each contributing to the overall quality, aesthetics, and practicality of the pieces. Here are some key reasons why alloys are favored in jewelry making:

  • Enhanced Durability: Pure metals like gold, silver, and platinum are often too soft for practical use in jewelry. By alloying them with other metals such as copper or nickel, their hardness and durability are significantly increased. This ensures that the jewelry can withstand the rigors of daily wear without losing its shape or structure.
  • Improved Strength: Alloys offer superior strength compared to pure metals, reducing the risk of bending, denting, or breaking. This is particularly important for jewelry pieces that may be subjected to impact or pressure, such as rings and bracelets.
  • Customizable Properties: By varying the composition of alloys, jewelers can tailor the properties of the metal to suit specific design requirements. For example, adjusting the ratio of metals in a gold alloy can alter its color, allowing for a wide range of hues from classic yellow gold to trendy rose gold or white gold.
  • Resistance to Tarnishing and Corrosion: Some alloying elements, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, impart excellent resistance to tarnishing and corrosion. This ensures that the jewelry maintains its luster and brilliance over time, reducing the need for frequent polishing and maintenance.
  • Affordability: Alloys often offer a more cost-effective alternative to pure metals, allowing jewelers to create beautiful pieces at a lower price point without compromising on quality or aesthetics. This accessibility makes jewelry more attainable for a wider range of consumers.
  • Hypoallergenic Properties: Certain alloy compositions, such as stainless steel or titanium, exhibit hypoallergenic properties, making them suitable for individuals with sensitive skin or metal allergies. These alloys minimize the risk of skin irritation or allergic reactions, ensuring comfortable wear for all.
  • Design Flexibility: Alloys offer greater design flexibility compared to pure metals, allowing jewelers to experiment with different textures, finishes, and intricate detailing. Whether crafting classic, vintage-inspired pieces or modern, avant-garde designs, alloys provide the versatility needed to bring creative visions to life.
  • Environmental Considerations: Alloys can be engineered to minimize environmental impact by incorporating recycled metals or reducing the use of precious resources. Sustainable alloying practices help promote eco-friendly jewelry production while meeting the growing demand for ethically sourced materials.

In essence, alloys are indispensable in jewelry making due to their ability to enhance the durability, strength, aesthetics, and affordability of metal-based adornments. By harnessing the unique properties of various alloy compositions, jewelers can create exquisite pieces that stand the test of time, delighting wearers for years to come.

What alloys are used in jewelry?

Gold Alloys:

Gold, globally beloved for its timeless allure, is often too soft in its pure form (24 karats) for practical jewelry use. To enhance its durability and strength, gold is alloyed with other metals, resulting in various karats and hues.

    • Yellow Gold: The most classic form of gold alloy, typically mixed with copper and silver. It retains the warm, lustrous glow of pure gold while offering improved hardness suitable for everyday wear.
    • White Gold: Achieved by alloying gold with white metals like nickel, palladium, or silver, white gold exudes a sleek, contemporary aesthetic reminiscent of platinum. Rhodium plating is often applied to enhance its brilliance and durability.
    • Rose Gold: Infused with copper, rose gold captivates with its romantic, blush-pink hue. The copper content lends strength to the alloy while imparting a unique warmth and elegance.

Sterling Silver Alloys:

Widely adored for its affordability and versatility, sterling silver remains a popular choice for jewelry crafting. Composed of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% alloy (usually copper), sterling silver offers a perfect balance of shine, durability, and affordability.

Platinum Alloys:

Renowned for its rarity, purity, and durability, platinum epitomizes luxury in the realm of fine jewelry. However, due to its high cost and weight, platinum is often alloyed with other metals to enhance its workability and reduce expenses.

    • Platinum 950: Consisting of 95% platinum and 5% alloy metals such as iridium or ruthenium, platinum 950 maintains the metal's signature durability and hypoallergenic properties while improving its resistance to scratching and bending.
    • Platinum 900: A slightly lower platinum content (90%) combined with 10% alloy metals ensures a more affordable option without compromising on platinum's premium qualities. This alloy offers exceptional strength and longevity, making it suitable for heirloom-quality pieces.

Palladium Alloys:

A member of the platinum group metals, palladium boasts similar characteristics to its noble counterpart but at a more accessible price point. Alloyed with other metals, palladium forms alloys prized for their durability, hypoallergenic properties, and lustrous finish.

    • Palladium 950: Comprising 95% palladium and 5% alloy metals like ruthenium, palladium 950 offers exceptional purity and resistance to tarnishing. Its lightweight nature makes it ideal for larger, statement pieces without compromising wearer comfort.
    • Palladium 500: With a lower palladium content (50%) and a blend of alloy metals, palladium 500 offers a cost-effective alternative for budget-conscious consumers. Despite its lower purity, this alloy maintains palladium's desirable qualities, making it an attractive option for everyday jewelry.

Titanium Alloys:

Known for its exceptional strength, lightness, and hypoallergenic properties, titanium has emerged as a popular choice for contemporary jewelry design. When alloyed with other metals, titanium alloys offer enhanced durability and versatility.

    • Grade 2 Titanium: The most common form of titanium used in jewelry, Grade 2 titanium boasts high corrosion resistance and biocompatibility, making it suitable for sensitive skin. Alloyed with small amounts of aluminum or vanadium, it exhibits a sleek, metallic sheen perfect for modern designs.
    • Black Titanium: Achieved through a specialized surface treatment or alloying process, black titanium jewelry exudes a bold, edgy aesthetic. The dark hue adds a dramatic contrast to gemstones and enhances intricate detailing, making it a favored choice for contemporary, masculine designs.

Why do I need to know about the alloys in my jewelry?

As a consumer, it’s important to know what you’re buying so you can have reasonable expectations for your jewelry and its required maintenance. When it comes to understanding the alloys in your jewelry, there are several key factors to consider to ensure you make informed decisions about your purchases and care for your pieces effectively:

  • Metal Purity or Karatage: For gold jewelry, familiarize yourself with the karatage or purity of the gold alloy. Pure gold is 24 karats, but most jewelry is made from lower karat gold alloys (e.g., 18k, 14k, 10k), which contain a percentage of other metals for added strength and durability. Higher karat gold alloys have a higher gold content and are typically more valuable but may also be softer and more prone to scratching or bending. You want to be sure that the metal used for a jewelry piece is appropriate for its application.
  • Color and Finish: Understand how different alloy compositions affect the color and finish of your jewelry. The most common issue customers experience is their white gold jewelry appearing to turn yellow with wear. This is because most white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium to enhance the white appearance. While this doesn’t affect the value of white gold, it has a big effect on maintenance.


  • Durability and Maintenance: Consider the durability and maintenance requirements of your jewelry based on its alloy composition. Some alloys are more resistant to tarnishing, corrosion, and scratches than others. Follow proper care and maintenance guidelines provided by the jeweler to prolong the life and beauty of your pieces. This may include regular cleaning, storing your jewelry properly, and avoiding exposure to harsh chemicals or abrasive materials. For white gold, maintenance includes replacing the rhodium plating that wears away with regular use.
  • Metal Composition: Know the composition of the alloys used in your jewelry. This includes understanding the percentage of pure metal (e.g., gold, silver, platinum) and the alloying elements added to enhance its properties. The varying characteristics of different alloys can influence the overall quality and value of your jewelry, as well as your comfort while wearing it.
  • Allergies and Sensitivities: Be aware of any metal allergies or sensitivities you may have, especially to common alloying elements like nickel. Opt for hypoallergenic alloys such as stainless steel, titanium, or certain gold alloys (e.g., palladium white gold) if you have sensitive skin or metal allergies. Consult with a jeweler or dermatologist if you experience any adverse reactions to your jewelry.
  • Value and Investment Potential: Understand the value and investment potential of your jewelry based on its alloy composition, craftsmanship, and market demand. Pure metals and higher karat gold alloys tend to have higher intrinsic value but may also command higher prices. Consider factors such as rarity, craftsmanship, and brand reputation when assessing the long-term value of your jewelry as an investment.
  • Sourcing and Ethical Considerations: Take into account the sourcing and ethical considerations associated with the alloys in your jewelry. Look for responsibly sourced materials and eco-friendly practices, such as recycled metals or certifications from reputable organizations like the Responsible Jewelery Council (RJC). Supporting ethical and sustainable jewelry brands promotes transparency and accountability in the industry.

By knowing these key aspects of the alloys in your jewelry, you can make informed decisions about your purchases, ensure proper care and maintenance, and appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of your pieces for years to come. If you have any questions or concerns about the alloys in your jewelry, don't hesitate to ask! I’m happy to help you make an informed decision!

And if you want an easy way to decide which metal is right for you, check out my blog post that tells you How to Choose the Perfect Metal for Your Jewelry.



Allie is the owner and goldsmith behind Allie Perry Designs.

Learn more about her here, or connect with her on Instagram!

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