Metals & Stones

What is a karat?

The term “karat” and the term “carat” are not the same. Carat is a unit designed to measure fine gemstones, such as diamonds, whereas “karat” is a unit designed to measure purity, as in metals.

You might ask, if 24 karat gold is 100% gold, why aren’t wedding rings made out of 24K gold? The simple reason is that 24K gold is much too soft to be used for jewelry making. Most gold jewelry is combined with other metals to make it harder and more durable. The most common metals combined with gold are nickel, zinc, silver, copper palladium and platinum. These composites of gold and other metals (called alloys) are where the different karats come into play, and different colors combinations can be produced, such as white gold, yellow gold, pink and green gold.

Here’s a simple breakdown of gold fineness:

  • 24K gold is 100% pure
  • 18K gold is 75% pure – fineness stamp is 18K or 750
  • 14K gold is 58.3% pure – fineness stamp is 14K or 585
  • 10K gold is 41.6% pure – fineness stamp is 10K or 417


Alloys & Color

Keep in mind, alloys commonly combined with gold are not only used to improve the hardness and durability of jewelry, but can also be made into a variety of interesting and beautiful colors.

  • Yellow Gold – 14K gold is less pure and therefore not as rich in hue as 18K yellow gold. Typically the alloys used in this metal include silver or zinc or improve hardness, without diluting the color.
  • White Gold – White gold is almost always made from high-quality 18K or 14K gold, both of which are over 50% pure. Natural white gold still has a slight yellow tint to it. Generally, white gold rings are alloys of gold and other bright white metals such as silver, nickel, palladium or platinum. White gold rings are often plated with rhodium, a hard, bright white metal coating used to improve durability and enhance color. With time, the rhodium will wear off, but with a little maintenance, replating will make your ring look as good as new.
  • Rose Gold – Rose gold has a high percentage of copper in it, giving off a warm, reddish hue. The lower the gold karat percentage, the more vibrant the red due sill be because of the higher copper content.


Platinum vs. White Gold

One of the most frequently asked question is: “What’s the difference between platinum and white gold?” First, they are two completely different metals with very different properties.

Platinum is softer than gold. Because of this, platinum does not stay bright and shiny. Over time, it develops a patina, giving off a satin-like finish, with a brushed stainless-like color.

White gold is hard, and therefore keeps its luster longer.


Platinum Stamping and Quality

The platinum standard is based on parts per thousand, where 1000 part = 100% platinum. The most common platinum alloys found in the U.S. are:

  • 95% Platinum – This alloy is 950 parts per 1000 and 50 parts of other metals. Common quality marks are: Platinum, Plat, Pt950, 950Pt, 950Plat and Plat950.
  • 90% Platinum – This alloy is 900 parts per 1000, and 100 parts of other metals. Common quality marks are: 900Pt, Pt900, and 900Plat.

Typically platinum is alloyed with copper, iridium, palladium, cobalt, ruthenium, tungsten, gallium or indium. It can also be alloyed with rhodium, osmium or titanium, but these are rarely used.

Learn More About Birthstones

January Birthstone: Garnet

Birthstone Color: Deep Red

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 6.5 to 7.5

The name: Garnet comes from the Latin word “granatus,” meaning “grain” or “seed.” This name was given to the garnet because of its close resemblance to the succulent pomegranate seed.

Colors: Green, orange, purple

Folklore: There are many myths and legends surround the garnet. One Biblical legend is that Noah hung this gem on the ark to light his way through the dark and stormy nights of God’s wrath. A Greek myth linked the garnet to the story of the goddess of sunshine, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, God of the Underworld. Hades eventually released Persephone, but not before he offered her some pomegranate seeds, which guaranteed her return to him.

Where do they come from: Garnets were first mined in Sri Lanka over 2,500 years ago. The garnet is also found in Africa, Australia, India, Russia, South America, and in the United States, specifically Arizona and Idaho.

Interesting Facts: Archaeologist findings of primitive style garnet jewelry among the graves of lake dwellers dates their early use to the Bronze age. Since not all garnet is gem quality, it is also a very effect abrasive and is used commercially for grinding and polishing. Garnet coated sandpaper is one such industrial use.


February Birthstone: Amethyst

Birthstone Color: Purple

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 7 to 7.5

The name: The word Amethyst comes from the Greek word “amethystos,” meaning sober.

Folklore: The ancient Greeks believed that this gemstone held many powers, among them protection against intoxication. The gemstone was associated with the God of Wine, and it was common practice to serve this beverage from amethyst goblets in the belief that this would prevent overindulgence. Today, the amethyst is considered a stabilizing force for those struggling to overcome addictive behaviors.

Where do they come from: Amethyst deposits are found in Brazil, Canada, Au8stralia, India, Madagascar, Namibia, Russia, Sri Lanka and the United States.

Interesting Facts: Amethysts were once considered more valuable than diamonds. They are a member of the quartz family, occurring naturally as crystals within rocks. A large Amethyst is among the closely guarded gemstones in the British Crown Jewels.


March Birthstone: Aquamarine

Birthstone Color: Pale Blue

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 7.5 to 8

The name: Aquamarine is derived from the Roman word “Aqua,” meaning water, and “mare,” meaning sea, as this pale blue gem does indeed resemble the color of seawater.

Folklore: Because of the association with water, the belief is that the Aquamarine was particularly powerful when immersed. Water that held an aquamarine was used to heal a variety of illnesses such as heart, liver, stomach, mouth and throat. Aquamarines were also used to reverse the effect of poisoning, and to aid in fortune telling.

Where do they come from: Aquamarines are relatively abundant with the largest deposits being found in Brazil. Other sources include China, India, Australia, Africa and the United States.

Interesting Facts: The majority of aquamarines are flawless. They vary in color from blue-green to a light sky blue.


April Birthstone: Diamond

Birthstone Color: White, clear

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 10

The name: The word diamond is derived from the Greek word adamas, which means unalterable or unbreakable.

Folklore: Diamonds have been revered throughout history being used to embellish such items are crowns, emblems and swords. Queen Victoria declared the celebration of her 50th year of reign a “Diamond Jubilee.” They also have been credited as having certain medicinal properties and thought to heal illness, but only if the ailing person took the diamond into the bed to warm it up first.

Where do they come from: India is thought to be the first river bed source of diamond mining, but today diamonds are found in Africa, Australia, Russia and Canada.

Interesting Facts: Diamonds are formed deep within the earth under tremendous pressure and intense heat. They are simply crystallized carbon.


May Birthstone: Emerald

Birthstone Color: Deep Green

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 7 ½ – 8

The name: The name emerald comes from the ancient Green word for green, “smaragdus.”

Folklore: Because of their intense green color, emeralds were associated with fertility and rebirth. Typically emeralds contain tiny inclusions, which the French call “jardin” or garden, because of their resemblance to foliage. They symbolize eternal youth, and because of this, were often buried with the dead.

Where do they come from: The first known emerald mines were in Egypt, dating from at least 330 BC into the 1700s. One of the largest commercial producers of fine emeralds regarded for their excellent color is Colombia. Zambian emerald also have good color. Other producers are Afghanistan, Brazil, Pakistan, Russia and Zimbabwe.

Interesting Facts: During Cleopatra’s reign, since emeralds were her favorite gem, she claimed the emerald mines as her own. She wore beautiful emerald jewelry, and bestowed visiting dignitaries with large emeralds carved with her likeness when they departed Egypt.


June Birthstone: Pearl

Birthstone Color: White

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 2 ½ – 4

The name: The Latin word for pearl literally means ”unique”, supported by the fact that no two pearls are identical.

Folklore: According to Arab legend, pearls were formed when oysters were lured from the depths of the ocean by the beautiful moon and then swallowed moonlit dew drops. The ancient Chinese thought they originated from the brains of dragons. Pearls have been ground up and used in cosmetics and as a medicine to treat heart and stomach conditions. Some cultures swear by pearls as an aphrodisiac.

Where do they come from: China and the US are the leading sources of freshwater pearls. Japan and China both produce saltwater akoya cultured pearls. The leading sources of South Sea pearls are Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Tahitian pearl are cultivated primarily around the islands of French Polynesia, the most familiar of which is Tahiti.

Interesting Facts: Natural pearls were once abundant around the world, and prized by almost all cultures. They have all but disappeared from the main stream jewelry market due to pollution, over-fishing, and economic factors. Because of this, they can command very high prices.


July Birthstone: Ruby

Birthstone Color: Red

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 9

The name: Ruby comes from the Latin word “ruber,” meaning red. Ancient Hindus call the ruby “Rajnapura” meaning King of Gems.

Folklore: This beautiful gem was thought to represent heat and power. It was said that a pot of water would boil instantly if a ruby was tossed into it. Rubies ground to power and placed on the tone were used as a cure for indigestion. Ancient tribes also used the gems as bullets for blowguns.

Where do they come from: Ruby mining dates back more than 2,500 years ago. It is thought the most beautiful crystals come from Burma (now called Myanmar), but quality rubies are found in India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States.

Interesting Facts: Larger, fine quality rubies are extremely rare and valuable. Due to increased worldwide production, and an array of treatments, rubies are now readily available to customers.


August Birthstone: Peridot

Birthstone Color: Green Yellow

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 6 ½ – 7

The name: Peridot comes from the Arabic word “faridat,” meaning gem. Ancient Egyptians called them the “gem of the sun” because of their brilliance when seen in the desert sunlight.

Folklore: Peridot is truly a gemstone that connects with nature. Drinking a beverage called Soma, from cups made of Peridot, early Egyptian priests believed this practice would draw them closer to Isis, the Goddess of Nature. When ground, peridot was used as a remedy for asthma, and a cure for thirst brought on by fever. It is said to protect against evil and when set in gold, is especially helpful against night terrors.

Where do they come from: Sources of Peridot include Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan and the United States,

Interesting Facts: Most Peridot is formed deep inside the ear and has also come to earth in meteorites, by they are extremely rare and you would not likely see these stones in a retail store. This gem is fairly easy to find in larger sizes up to 5 carats.


September Birthstone: Sapphire

Birthstone Color: Deep Blue

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 9

The name: The name sapphire comes from the Green work “sapphirus,” meaning blue. The most prized color sapphire is a rich, deep blue.

Folklore: Sapphires are thought to be protective against envy and poisoning. In ancient times, it was a common belief that a venomous snake placed in a sapphire vessel would quickly die. In powder form, this blue gem was believed to cure colic, rheumatism, mental illness, and strengthen eyesight.

Where do they come from: Sapphires were mined as early as 7th Century BC from India, and from what is now Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). They are found today in Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, China, Madagascar, and the United States.

Interesting Facts: Most people think of sapphires are being blue, when in reality, fancy sapphires come in violet, green yellow, pink purple and orange. Some sapphire exhibit the phenomenon known as color-change When this happens, the sapphire will change color depending on the lighting (daylight, fluorescent or incandescent) often changing from blue to purple. The Star of India, a 563 ct. rare sapphire can be seen in the American Museum of Natural History. The inclusions within this stone were cut to reflect light to reveal a bright six-legged star pattern.


October Birthstone: Opal

Birthstone Color: Multi-colored

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 5 – 6 1/2

The name: The Opal derives its name from the Latin word “opalus,”: meaning precious jewel. Because of the opal’s unique ability to refract and reflect light, it was called “Cupid Paederos” by the Romans, meaning a child of beautiful as love.

Folklore: A legendary explanation for this gem’s origin is that it fell from heaven in a flash of fiery lightening. Ancient monarchs treasured opals for their beauty and protective powers. Ground opals were ingested for their healing properties and to ward off nightmares. Worn in necklaces and set into crowns, they were said to ward off evil and protect eyesight.

Where do they come from: Most of the world’s opal deposits are found in Southern Australia. Other sources are Brazil, Mexico, Czechoslovakia and Nevada.

Interesting Facts: Opals comes in a variety of colors ranges, possessing a number of different names. There’s a White Opal, which is semitranslucent, the Black Opal, which has the play-of-color against a black body color, and the Fire Opal, which often doesn’t show play-of-color, and is transparent to translucent with brown, yellow orange, or red body color.


November Birthstone: Topaz

Birthstone Color: Yellow Gold

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 8

The name: The name Topaz comes from the old name Topazios, which is an island in the Red Sea, now called Zabargad.

Folklore: People born in November are said to have a heart of gold, and a wise nature. Ancient Greeks believed topaz gave them strength. During the Renaissance, period from the 1300s to the 1600s, European people thought that topaz could break magic spells and diffuse anger. In India, for centuries people believed topaz, when worn above the heart, would assure long life, beauty and intelligence.

Where do they come from: Sources for topaz include Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Mexico, Pakistan and the United States.

Interesting Facts: The largest faceted topaz is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Names the “American Golden” this gemstone weights 22,982 carats. Topaz comes in a variety of colors, including blue, green, orange, red, pink and purple. There is also colorless topaz. Imperial topaz, one of the most expensive of topaz, has a medium reddish orange to orange-red color.


December Birthstone: Turquoise

Birthstone Color: Blue

The Mohs Hardness Scale: 5 – 6

The name: Since Turquoise was believed to first arrive in Europe from Turkey, the gem’s name comes from the French expression pierre tourques, or “Turkish stone.”

Folklore: Native American tribes in the United States used turquoise as a ceremonial gem, a medium for exchange, jewelry and amulets. Apaches believed turquoise, attached to a firearm, or bow increased a hunter’s or warrior’s accuracy.

Where do they come from: Turquoise can be found in China, Iran and the United States.

Interesting Facts: The largest market for turquoise is in the American Southwest. Turquoise is plentiful and comes in a wide range of sizes and colors ranging from light to medium blue or greenish blue. The most valuable turquoise is an even medium blue, with no matrix. Matrix is the spider web-like patterns, which is formed by the rock surrounding the stone.



When not wearing your jewelry, place it in a soft container. If jewelry is tossed in a jewelry box, the metal can become scratched, and in some cases diamonds rubbing against other softer gemstones can cause abrasions.

Daily Wear

Be careful not to expose your metals and gems to cleaning chemicals, which can cause discoloration. Even though a diamond is among the hardest materials, they can still chip and break if struck at the right angle. Swimming in chlorine water can cause pitting in metals, and dissolve gold alloys.


If in doubt, the safest way to clean your diamond ring is by soaking it in warm sudsy water, using a mild liquid detergent. Since diamonds naturally attract grease, their brilliance can be affected when in contact with natural skin oils, or hand lotions. Using a good jewelry cleaner, and sometimes a soft brush can get your rings looking like new.

When they are unusually dirty, and the above methods don’t work, it’s best to have them professionally cleaned.


Do not use commercial jewelry cleaners on pearls unless they state they are safe for pearls. Ammonia products will cause deterioration.

Never steam-clean pearls, or use an ultrasonic cleaner. Heat can harm pearls, and an ultrasonic can wash color out of dyed pearls.

After wearing your pearls, all you have to do is wipe them off with a soft cloth. This will prevent dirt from accumulating, and keep perspiration, which could be acidic, from eating away at the pearl nacre. It is also best to put on your pearls on after you apply perfume or cosmetics.

Store your pearls is something soft to prevent them from scratching. A jewelry pouch is ideal for this purpose.
I would suggest having your jewelry inspected at least every six months for loose stones, worn prongs, etc. If you have any questions regarding jewelry care or cleaning, please let me know. I can guide you as to which cleaning method is applicable for your piece.