Metals such as gold and silver and precious stones such as pearls, diamonds, and emeralds are processed and used to make necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets. These ornaments are called jewelry. So, do you know why jewelry is made of gold and silver? I mean, why certain metals such as gold, silver, platinum, etc. are used in jewelry making and others are not? Let’s explore the metals used in jewelry and their common characteristics!
Jewelry is made generally of gold and silver, because these metals are soft, forgeable, shiny, and have high plasticity. Apart from gold and silver, other metals used in the jewelry industry can be listed as copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, rhodium, and their alloys. In addition, some other metals such as cadmium, aluminum, lead, and zinc are also used in jewelry making in certain cases. All of these metals’ common characteristics are being soft and forgeable so that they can be processed and shaped to make jewelry.
The Reason Why Jewelry Is Made Of Gold and Silver
You may wonder why jewelry is made of gold and silver, but no other metals such as iron, steel, aluminum, etc. Actually, there are plenty of metals that are used to make jewelry, however, gold and silver are the most famous ones among them. In jewelry-making, metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium, and copper are used as well but in limited amounts. Still, where some metals can be used for making jewelry such as gold and silver, others cannot be used/are not preferred. That’s because of the unique characteristics of gold and silver.
Jewelry is made of metals such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The common properties of those metals that make them suitable for jewelry making are that those metals are hard to be found, can be easily processed, and are forgeable, which means that you can give them shape in any form you want with the help of the heat energy. Moreover, these metals are shiny and soft metals which makes them more favorable when it comes to jewelry making. Lastly, these metals are less active electrochemically, meaning that they do not undergo degradation in time.
Historical Development of Gold, Silver, and Other Metals Used to Make Jewelry
Humanity’s first contact with metals dates back to the earliest ages. The role metals played in human history and the possibilities of exploitation are directly related to the knowledge about metals. Even today, the economic and industrial place of society in the world is indicated by the amount of metal used. Diseases, wars, and the sense of domination between the growing population and societies encouraged further research, and new discoveries were made.
Mankind first started to use stones and one day noticed gold, copper, and silver, which did not constitute a compound and attracted attention with their natural state. One has seen that instead of brittle stone tools, they can be shaped by pounding. It is believed that for the first time use of forged copper was found in 4500 BC and that copper could be produced from ores only after 2000 years. It is noteworthy that iron was used behind gold, silver, and copper, but was kept as a secret where it was discovered compared to others.
Because iron is harder than bronze, which was previously obtained by smelting copper-tin ores together, and has superior properties for weapon making. In addition, since the reduction of iron is more difficult than copper, when it was first discovered, a compound that was previously only partially reduced in the form of sponge iron and together with unreduced oxide and silicate impurities could be obtained. When this material is beaten at a certain temperature, only these impurities melt, and the raw iron remains.
Although today’s cast irons were produced with different methods long ago, making high carbon alloys and then cleaning them from their carbon, that is, obtaining the steel property of today, has only been achieved in the last 200 years; The use of coal instead of wood at the end of the 18th century and the production of steel from liquid crude iron for the first time with the Bessemer process in the middle of the 19th century has a great share. Since then, developments in iron and steel have progressed at a dizzying speed.
The cross-sectional order of the metal has not been the same all over the world. The reason for this is related to the fact that the people living in the region met these metals by chance and the geological structure of that region. As a result, mining cycles did not occur all over the world at the same time. Metal production in Anatolia dates back to ancient times. It has been understood that copper was produced in 7000 BC (the oldest date of copper in China and Europe 4000 BC) and Anatolia can be accepted as the starting point of the spread of copper to the old world from the existing old slag heaps.
It is also known that silver and lead from silvery-lead ores were first produced in 3000 BC in Anatolia, and even some of the silver produced at that time was replaced with Egyptian gold. It is also known that certain copper deposits, which are still being processed, were operated by the Assyrians in 2000 BC, by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and by the Hittites between 2500 and 3000 BC.
Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans are the tribes that use Cu, au, Fe, Pb, Hg, Ag, and Sn for the first time. There are important reasons why these seven metals are the first historical metals. Some of these metals can be found in a constant state (such as Au, Ag, Cu, Fe (Meteorite), and Hg). Especially Cu, Fe, Sn, and Pb can be easily reduced at 8000C or lower temperatures. These temperatures can be easily achieved with carbon-type fuels.
In addition, the reduction of the melting temperature of the impurities in the metal (for example, the iron that is containing 4% Cu melts at 11000C instead of 15400C) is a factor in the easy reduction. While charcoal obtained from forests was used as a reducer, changes occurred in furnace and fuel usage as technology developed. The first used furnaces were fired after filling the ore and charcoal in varying layers and the fire was continued for 3-4 days. When the metal formed from the ore and started to flow from the inclined part under the furnace, the fire was turned down and the metal was obtained in 800-1500 grams of lumps.
The Birth of Jewelry and the Metals Used
Precious metals and stones have been processed and used as symbols of beauty, wealth, and nobility throughout human history. The history of jewelry goes back 30,000 years ago to the Upper Paleolithic Age. However, experts state that jewelry in the true sense began in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Anatolia towards the end of the 4th millennium BC.
When the complex compositions and elaborate craftsmanship of ancient jewelry are examined, the question immediately arises with which tools and with what superior technical knowledge they were made. These technical developments, which are an extension of the creative power of man, are also an indication of the struggle of man with the materials in his environment.
Technique and human have been intertwined since the earliest ages of culture. This property of gold, which has a very high plastic deformation, was known in the first Bronze Age. The masters of ancient times could make pure gold thinner like dice by beating it. This technique called leaf and leaf coating was used by Egyptians, Chinese, and Greeks. In Islamic art, gold and silver foil was widely used in printing motifs and manuscripts for coloring miniatures as well as wood and metal objects.
The art of foiling, which can be regarded as the beginning of the history of jewelry, rapidly declined and was forgotten in the late 19th century under the economic problems of the war period and changing socio-cultural conditions. The history of jewelry is naturally full of numerous techniques. The lost-wax technique, which is the basis of casting techniques such as centrifuge or vacuum used for mass and standard production in today’s jewelry, openwork used to make perforated ornaments, scraping technique, granulation, the plumping, and enamel technique are the main ones.
Jewelry tools, consisting of two bronze blowing pipes in this treasure and 30 pieces of bronze molds used in the production of jewelry and figurines, are of special importance. Bronze blowing pipes were attached to the ends of the bellows during the melting of the metal. Some of the molds found were pins. Another part was the forging dies used to form the thin noble metal sheets placed on the die by hammering.
Although there are about 70 types of metals in the world, only a certain part of them can be used in jewelry. The reason for this is that the hardness, workability, heat resistance of metals are affected by acids and bases, and their corrosion resistance is suitable for jewelry. Among these metals, the ones used in jewelry can be divided into two classes. These are;
- Precious metals used in jewelry: Gold, Silver, Platinum, Rhodium, Palladium
- The non-precious metals used in jewelry: Copper, Nickel, Zinc, Cadmium, Lead, Aluminum.
Why Jewelry Is Made Of Gold?
Natural gold is thought to be the first metal used by man. The fact that it is not spoiled, its sparkle, and its scarcity has caused it to attract attention in every period. Gold, a transition element with the symbol Au, Atomic number Z = 79, atomic weight M = 196,967, is in the BI column of the chart such as copper and silver.
The cyanide method has been used for about 100 years in the production of gold and silver from ores. As a result of the development of new processes that make the function more economical and efficient in recent years, this method has become the only option in today’s mining, especially in the evaluation of low-grade deposits containing small-grain gold.
It generally includes the processes of dissolving gold and silver in ore into anionic cyanide complexes into the aqueous phase (leaching) and recovering from the aqueous phase. In determining the processes to be applied for the extraction of dissolved gold and silver into the aqueous phase, the reserves and grade of the ore and its structural properties such as mineralogical, permeability, and diffusion are taken into account. Two main extraction (leaching) methods are applied:
Gold is very common in nature; However, due to the very low percentages, regions suitable for efficient business are rarely encountered. The gold content in seawater varies between 1 and 10 mg per ton of water, depending on the region. Gold deposits are divided into two: primary deposits and secondary deposits.
Primary deposits are generally composed of rocks rich in quartz; These rocks contain silver and gold tellurides (silvanite, calaverite, krennerite, petzite, etc.) as well as various sulfides (pyrite, blend, stylite, galena, etc.). Secondary deposits are alluvial deposits caused by the abrasion of primary bearings, and gold particles not exceeding 1/100 of a millimeter in length can aggregate due to their density and form masses of 25-30 kg.
Almost all of the gold produced in the world is extracted from quartz or schist veins and golden sands. Mechanical or chemical processes are applied to the minerals to separate gold. In the mechanical method, the mineral is ground into a fine powder, then washed in a mixture of water and an oily substance. In the second method, the operating possibilities of gold deposits are very diverse. During the grinding or washing of the mineral, the process of malting (alloying with mercury) can be applied. The resulting amalgam is distilled and gold is separated. It also allows processing with chlorine water (especially after amalgamating) (chlorination).
Today, the cyanidation method is generally used; The metal is dissolved in potassium cyanide or sodium cyanide in large pools and then processed with another metal (zinc, aluminum), and the gold is precipitated. Metals that are easily oxidized in processing some complex gold minerals can be eliminated either by differential oxidation or by the action of certain acids or vapors. To purify gold, the metal is first converted into gold chloride and this compound is separated by electrolysis; foreign metals accumulate in the sludge.
Pure gold is a very dense (19 300 kg / m³) and soft metal that looks yellow due to reflection and green because of its transparency. It melts at 1 063 ° C, boils at 2 600 ° C under ordinary pressure, and releases a greenish-yellow vapor. It is the most suitable metal for drawing wire (1 km of wire can be pulled from 1 g of gold) and the easiest forged metal. Leaves with a thickness of 0.1 µm can be obtained (ie to reach a thickness of one millimeter, 10 000 of these leaves must be superimposed).
It would be correct to examine the gold standards under two headings. The first of these is the gold bullion standards, the second is the gold standards in ornaments and jewelry. For bullion standards: Gold bars are often traded on stock exchanges and banks. Gold exchanges in the world are in London, Zurich, Frankfurt, Paris, Istanbul, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc.
Gold bars of three different purity grades are sold in stock exchanges and banks. Ingots are traded as 999.9 – 999.0 – 995.0 fineness bullion according to the amount of pure gold they contain. Standard weights of ingots are 1 kg, ½ kg, ¼ kg, 10 g, 5g, 2g, and 1g. In addition to these, there are commercially 12.5 kg ingots; but this is non-standard.
Why Jewelry Is Made Of Silver?
When silver is mentioned, the first things that come to mind are ornaments, jewelry, and silver coins. However, these constitute a very small part of the silver consumption in the world. Silver is the metal that has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity compared to other metals and is also used as a reflector. Thanks to these features; It has numerous uses, such as coating glass for reflective use, electrical conduction for electrical conduction, and as a catalyst in many chemical reactions.
The history of silver mining began about 5000 years ago. Ancient Greeks, one of the ancient civilizations in the near east, helped the enrichment of this precious metal. The silver element, which is 0.00001% in the structure of the earth, easily forms a compound with sulfur. Silver found in minerals generally formed at low temperatures in the earth; Available with lead, zinc, tin, antimony, bismuth, and gold.
It is found with copper in rocks formed as a result of the cooling of magma in the upper regions of the earth called subvolcanic. Silver, which is generally found in low-temperature minerals, can also be found together with cobalt and nickel elements formed in high-temperature minerals.
Silver is one of the noble metals in the first group in the periodic table of the elements and is a white, shiny, precious metallic element with the symbol Ag. Its atomic number is 47 and its atomic weight is 107.87 grams. Its melting point is 961.9 C, its boiling point is 1950 C and its specific gravity is 10.5 g / cm3. Most of its compounds have +1 valence, but +2 is also found. The symbol Ag comes from the Latin word Argentum.
Although silver has been known since ancient times, it was still discovered after gold and copper. Although gold is scarce, it has been used before because it is spread all over the world. In addition, naturally, silver was scarce and was found very deep.
The cyanide method has been used for about 100 years in the production of gold and silver from ores. As a result of the development of new processes that make the function more economical and efficient in recent years, this method has become the only option in today’s mining, especially in the evaluation of low-grade deposits containing small-grain silver.
The production flow scheme generally includes the processes of dissolving gold and silver in ore into anionic cyanide complexes into the aqueous phase (leaching) and recovering from the aqueous phase. In determining the processes to be applied for the extraction of dissolved gold and silver into the aqueous phase, the reserves and grade of the ore and its structural properties such as mineralogical, permeability, and diffusion are taken into account.
Other Metals Used to Make Jewelry
Platinum is the most used metal among the precious metal elements. It has an expanding area of use from jewelry to health, from automotive to the chemical industry. 90 percent of the world’s platinum reserves are located in South Africa. With its pewter white or silver or steel gray metallic color, it is a metal that is very often used in jewelry and is more precious than gold.
Derived from the Spanish word “Platina” and meaning “little silver”, platinum is a metal whose history dates back to 700 BC. Traces of platinum have been found on some objects in Ancient Egypt. Platinum has historically been mixed with silver or valued close to gold. Platinum, whose chemical symbol is “Pt”, is in the 8-B group of the element table. Its atomic number is 78, and its atomic weight is 195.09. It has 78 protons and 117 neutrons in its core. It is a transition metal.
Crystals of platinum with a metallic luster appearance and a cubic crystal system are in the form of small grains and flakes. It is found in basic and ultrabasic rocks, placer or crumb deposits, contact metamorphic deposits, and ores in quartz veins. It is a soft, workable, metallic element. It shows similar properties with gold and diamonds. In the element group that contains platinum, there are also precious metals such as ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, and iridium.
This group is also called “platinum metals”. They are all similar to each other and can be combined. In nature, they are generally found together in ores of metals in the “platinum metals” group, not pure. It can also be found in copper and nickel ores. It is used in various alloys with metals such as gold, nickel, cobalt, and tungsten, as well as precious metals in its group. These alloys are the raw material of many industries. For example, it forms a magnetic alloy with cobalt. Apart from that, it can also be used in many compounds.
It can be obtained as solid, powder, and soft. It is twice as dense as silver at room temperature. It melts at 1772 degrees and boils at 3827 degrees. It is not affected by air and does not combine with oxygen and sulfur. It preserves its brightness due to this feature. For this reason, it is preferred in jewelry making. Platinum is an important metal used in the jewelry industry. It is highly preferred in this sector due to its properties such as not rusting and not losing its brightness. It is a very ideal jewelry material.
It is more valuable than gold, and a variety of jewelry can be designed with alloys set up with gold. Platinum-gold alloy is a metal alloy with a silver and white gold appearance and is highly preferred in recent years. Since it is a soft metal, it can be easily processed and suitable shapes can be given for various designs. It is used in many types of jewelry such as wedding rings, rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, piercings, and pins. Pure or alloyed platinum can be used as a coating in jewelry as well.
Palladium is a metal that looks like platinum. Due to its interesting properties, it is the raw material of many products. It is the third most valuable commodity metal. Palladium is among the precious metals in economic and chemical terms. It ranks third after platinum among metals with commodity value. It is one of the platinum group metals. It is the building block of white gold and is sometimes called “white gold”. It has been found that the nanotechnology products produced in recent years have outstanding properties.
The most prominent feature is its ability to absorb and store hydrogen too much. World demand for palladium, which was first put up for sale by its explorer as “silver form”, increased abnormally in the 2000s. Palladium was discovered in 1803. However, in the early 1700s, it was known as a worthless gold alloy called “Palladon” in mines in Brazil. Its discoverer is the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston. During his works of separating platinum, he discovered palladium along with rhodium.
Wollaston, who dissolved the platinum in nitric acid and hydrochloric acid solution, realized that it did not dissociate completely. Continuing the processing, he obtained a palladium residue. The chemical symbol of palladium is “Pd”. Its atomic number is 46 and its atomic weight is 106.42. It is the transition metal in the 8-B group of the periodic table. It is the most important and valuable element after platinum in the same group. It is one of the lightest elements in the group, along with ruthenium and rhodium. Its melting point is 1555 degrees, its boiling point is 2963 degrees.
It is the element with the lowest melting point and density among the elements in its group. It is a shiny metal in silver-white color. Palladium, which is sponge-like porous, is a good gas absorber. It does not darken at normal temperatures. It stains slightly in a humid atmosphere containing sulfur. Its crystal structure is in the form of a face-centered cubic lattice. When annealed, it softens and can be processed. It hardens in cold and becomes difficult to process. When heated in air, its surface oxidizes, superficially oxidized. It is not affected by air oxygen and water vapor.
Palladium salts are brown in color and usually have +2 valence in their salts. It can form two compounds with oxygen. It is a good catalyst in chemical reactions. It reacts with chlorine. Its electrical resistance is 7 times higher than silver. It is the most valuable commodity product traded after gold and platinum. It is a metal used in white gold production. White gold is an alloy of decolored gold and palladium. Palladium alloys give metal jewelry exclusive features in terms of appearance and quality.
Rhodium was discovered in London in 1803 by the British chemist and physicist William Hyde Wollaston during his investigations of an unprocessed platinum ore he obtained from Peru. Rhodium means “rose” in Greek and is one of the most expensive metals in the world. Its extremely high reflectance rate is a thousand times higher than gold. The word “rhodium” is derived from the Greek word “Rhodon” meaning “rose”. Rhodium explorer Wollaston chose this name because the dilute solution of rhodium salts is rose-red in color. Its English is “rhodium”.
Rhodium is one of the world’s most expensive metals in the platinum group. It is among the six metals which constitute the platinum group, consisting of platinum, palladium, osmium, iridium, and ruthenium. It is used especially in making expensive jewelry because of its high reflection and brightness rate. Since it is not affected by air, it gives brightness by coating on metals. It is an extremely resistant metal against acids, corrosion, and various atmospheric conditions.
The chemical symbol of rhodium is “Rh”. Its atomic number is 45 and its atomic weight is 103. Its density is 12.41 grcm3. Its melting point is 1964 degrees, its boiling point is 3695 degrees. Although it has a higher melting point than platinum, its density is less than platinum. Its atomic radius is 134 pm, and its covalent radius is 142 pm. Its electrons per energy level are “2, 8, 18, 16, 1”. Unlike all other elements, it has only 1 electron in its outer shell. It can be valued as “2, 3, 4, 5, 6”. It has +2 and +3 valence in its compounds. The +3 valence salts contain complex ions. Its crystal structure is a face-centered cubic lattice.
Rhodium is one of the platinum group elements in the 9th Group, 5th Period, D-Block in the periodic table. Transition metals are included in the element series. It is solid metal in silver-white color. It is one of the elements with high brightness and reflection rate. It is a very durable metal. It has high electrical resistance and stable contact resistance. It has high corrosion resistance. Rhodium sheeted by evaporation is extremely hard when electroplated. It is affected by chlorine at high temperatures and turns into red-colored rhodium chloride, which can yield many complex compounds.
It is also one of the expensive metals in the jewelry industry. It is an important catalyst used in industry. Rhodium characteristically generates x-ray beams. Some of the products and fields in which rhodium, its alloys, and compounds are used are; electrical contacts, optical instruments, optical fibers and mirrors, jewelry and jewelry, ornaments, watches, catalytic systems, pens, hard alloys, coatings, medical devices, electronic instruments and parts of devices.
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