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Your Guide To Precious Metals

Different colours of gold silver and platinum rings for comparison by Kate Smith Jewellery Birmingham

Gold is gold, right?

Well, yes and no. There's a little more to it than that.

And silver wouldn't be suitable as an engagement ring? Maybe.


Before overwhelm starts to kick in at the choices of precious metals out there, I'm here to walk you through them, so you can decide which is the best choice for YOU.

So let's get started!

Gold - what's the difference between 9ct & 18ct?


The difference here is the precious metal content.

  • 9ct gold contains 37.5% pure gold.

  • 18ct gold contains 75% pure gold.


The remainder is an alloy of different metals, which can include copper, zinc, palladium, or platinum. What they are and how much depends on the colour of gold desired. For example, white gold may include silver, platinum and palladium (the 'whiter' metals) whereas rose gold has a higher content of copper, to give it the desired colour.​ 


  • 18ct gold is denser than 9ct gold, so the same ring will feel heavier in 18ct gold.

  • 18ct gold is more durable, whereas 9ct gold is harder.


But which is best?


A good way to understand the difference is to compare a sheet of glass (representing the 9ct) with plastic (representing the 18ct).

  • Glass (9ct) is the harder material, but more brittle.

  • On the other hand, plastic (18ct) is a softer material, but it is more durable if pressure is applied.

So which is better for jewellery?


18ct gold is more durable and is ultimately the best choice for items that are being worn all the time, i.e. engagement and wedding rings. Items such as necklaces, earrings and bracelets are less prone to heavy wear, so it matters less what carat you opt for.


However, 9ct gold is also fine for rings! - we make lots of rings in 9ct - and may also be the more desirable option if you are on a tighter budget, as 18ct is more expensive.

Making the right choice for you will include considering the look you prefer (see the image above to compare how they differ), what it's being made into and if you are working within a budget.

handmade bespoke modern engagement ring with blue sapphire and diamonds by Kate Smith Jewellery England

Yellow gold

9ct yellow gold has a lighter appearance than 18ct yellow gold, which has a deeper, richer tone - which you can see in the image above. Both work fabulously well with pretty much any gemstone though!

unconvential slim gold wedding ring handmade by Kate Smith Jewellery

9ct yellow gold 

18ct yellow gold 


White gold


Can I let you into a secret? White gold isn't actually white.


Most of the white gold you see in jewellers has had a plating applied, to make it look 'whiter'. This is common practice throughout the industry and rhodium plating is widely used - we offer it as an option too. A rhodium plated white gold ring is shown (below right) and you can see how it compares to the 9ct and 18ct white gold rings in their 'natural' colour.

Difference in colour between 9ct & 18ct white gold


9ct white gold naturally has a slight yellow tone to it and 18ct white gold can appear quite grey. Some prefer it in its natural state, but lots of people favour the look that rhodium plating gives, as it brightens up the look of the jewellery.


It is a plating, so over time will wear and most likely need re-plating. We're talking years, not months, but some people don't want to be bothered with this.


We offer a free re-finishing service as standard for all of our jewellery, so we can easily re-rhodium at the same time for a small cost (approx. £30 per ring).

Simple small white gold earrings handmade by Kate Smith Jewellery Birmingham

Natural coloured 9ct white gold 

Chunky white gold handmade diamond ring Kate Smith Jewellery Jewellery Quarter Birmingham

Natural coloured 18ct white gold 

Handmade remodelled twist solitiare white gold engagement ring by Kate Smith Jewellery

Rhodium plated 18ct white gold 

Alternative rose gold engagement ring with morganite and diamonds by Kate Smith Jewellery Birmingham West Midlands UK

9ct rose gold (with central morganite and smaller diamonds)

Rose gold (sometimes referred to as red gold)


9ct rose gold has a more intense 'rose' look to it than its 18ct counterpart, which is a lighter colour.


If you are choosing rose gold for a surprise engagement ring, I'd encourage you to be sure that the wearer really loves rose gold. Firstly, it is a very specific look that isn't necessarily to everyone's taste. Secondly, whilst rose gold is beautiful, it works better with some skin tones more than others. I highly recommend trying on both 9ct and 18ct rose gold to compare the two.


Rose gold looks wonderful with pink gemstones, such as sapphires, pink diamonds and morganite.


Hallmark to look for in any colour of gold: 375 (9ct) or 750 (18ct)

octagonal blue sapphire set in an alternative engagement ring handmade by Kate Smith Jewellery Birmingham UK

Platinum (with blue sapphire)

remodelled platinum rings by Kate Smith Jewellery West Midlands UK

Platinum (with diamonds)



Traditionally viewed as the most desirable of precious metals, it is very durable and hard wearing. It is a dense metal and when used to make a chunkier ring, you will definitely know you're wearing it! Platinum looks stunning with diamonds, but also gorgeous with blue gemstones.


Hallmark to look for: 950 - in little house shaped rectangle.

solitaire diamond alternative engagement ring handmade by Kate Smith Jewellery West Midlands UK
Nature inspired silver necklace & earring set - Kate Smith Jewellery
aquamarine March birthstone handmade silver ring Kate Smith Jewellery West Midlands UK

Silver jewellery
Ring with diamond. Necklace & earring set with oxidised detail. Aquamarine ring.


Not the obvious choice for an engagement ring? Maybe, but have you seen how amazing silver and diamonds can look together? Silver's 'whiteness' is particularly attractive and looks amazing with diamonds and blue gemstones (sapphires, aquamarines, topaz).


If your budget isn't vast, then this is an ideal choice - our silver engagement rings start from just £167.


It is the softer of the metals we work in. This doesn't mean it isn't durable, but it does mean more care would need to be taken of it over the years. It's wise not to wear a silver ring next to aring made of a much harder material (ie platinum) as the harder metal may wear away at the silver over time. However, it does depend on the styles of the rings involved.

Envisioning a large diamond taking centre stage in your ring? Then silver may not be the best choice for the setting as it's important to have a really robust setting for an especially valuable gemstone. White gold or platinum might be a wiser choice, long term.


Silver does not like chlorine as it can tarnish it heavily - so swimming is a no no in silver. Care needs to be taken so that silver doesn't come into contact with other chemicals as well, such as cleaning products and strong perfumes.


General tarnishing of silver can naturally happen over time. This is normal and something that can be removed. We offer a free re-finishing service on all of our jewellery over its lifetime of wear.


Hallmark to look for: 925

Independent modern jewellery designer Kate Smith Birmingham UK

Hi - I'm Kate.

Jeweller. Mum. Businesswoman. Wife.

A tea-drinking, ice-skating, book-writing, photograph-taking designer who would love to create your dream piece of jewellery.

From my workshop in the heart of Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, I share regular jewellery care tips, tricks, latest makes and pieces that inspire. Want in?

modern handmasde silver gold eternity wedding and engagement rings by artisan jeweller Kate Smith Birmingham UK
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