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Alternative Metals Glossary

by Staff Writer

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Pretty woman wearing an alternative metal necklace

When you are shopping for jewelry and watches, you will likely come across plenty of new terms. Alternative metals can be especially confusing, as many types of metals and combinations of metals are available in watches and jewelry selections, such as rings, bracelets and wedding bands. Understanding common terms for alternative metals can help you choose engagement rings, bracelets, wedding bands, watches and other jewelry selections that are perfect for your lifestyle and fashion sense.

Common Alternative Metal Terms:

  1. Alloy: An alloy is formed by the mixture of two or more metals or by mixing a metal with a non-metal substance. Alloys can create different colors and/or increase durability. In jewelry, alloys that combine a less valuable metal with a precious metal offer the look of a precious metal at a lower cost. Alloys are great for creating rings, bracelets and necklaces.

  2. Alternative metals: In the jewelry and watch industries, "alternative metals" refers to the alloys and industrial metals that are not part of the traditional "precious metals" group. These materials include platifina, titanium, tungsten and stainless steel.

  3. Precious metals: Gold, silver and the platinum group -- platinum, iridium, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium and osmium -- form the precious metals. "Precious" refers only to their use in jewelry.

  4. Base metal: Base metals are a group of metals used in industry that are more plentiful than precious metals and, thus, less expensive. These metals are known for their tendency to oxidize easily. For jewelry, watches and decorative arts, base metals are used to form the body of an item. A precious metal is layered over the body to increase the aesthetic and economic value. Copper, iron, nickel, tin and aluminum are common base metals used in jewelry, as is brass, an alloy of copper and zinc.

  5. Compound: A compound is a substance that is composed of two or more elements. This mixture occurs naturally, so compound metals are not alloys.

  6. Rhodium: This silvery white metal is part of the platinum group of metals. Although it is an expensive precious metal, rhodium is often electroplated over white gold and platinum jewelry to create a shiny, reflective white surface. Rhodium is non-oxidizing and is sometimes added to silver to prevent tarnish. Platifina is a popular and beautiful rhodium-and-silver combination metal. Rhodium metals are popular engagement ring metal choices.

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