It’s the age-old conundrum for jewellery lovers - should I go gold or silver? After all, there are many factors to consider when choosing between the two and it doesn’t always come down to price.
Let’s take a deep dive into all the pros and cons of gold and silver so you can learn which metal or metals are best for you.
Gold vs. Silver: A Comparison
The purity and the quality of the gold and silver are important jumping-off points as these are often the deciding factors for purchase as they influence the price.
Purity and Quality
Did you know that the purity of silver is expressed in terms of parts per thousand or minimal fineness? Pure silver is thought to be 999 fine which makes 99% silver (alongside some impurities).
As it’s too soft to work on alone, it is alloyed with other metals like copper to make it more malleable and strong. Take 925 sterling silver, for example. It has 925 fineness as it is made from 92.5% silver and 7.5 additional metals.
The higher the number the better the quality with 975 sterling silver usually being the highest purity jewellery for sale, at a higher price point.
Silver jewellery often comes with hallmarks or stamps that display their quality and authenticity so buyers can identify their genuineness. As an example, 925 sterling silver is stamped ‘925’.
The pro about silver is that you can get a much higher purity of silver for a much lower price point than with gold.
Aquila Jewellery use 925 sterling silver so our jewellery is stamped with ‘925’. This purity offers an affordable price point along with excellent quality.
Pure gold is 24 karats meaning it is 99.9% gold. Like silver, it’s too soft to use alone so it’s common to alloy it with other metals.
Some gold purities you might come across are 18kt (75% gold) and 14kt (58.3% gold). Gold also comes with hallmarks just like silver. As a rule, the higher the karat the better the quality.
So when it comes to budget, silver is a better option for the purity you get.
But which metal is a better investment?
Investment Potential of Gold and Silver
Gold and silver are often thought of as alternative investments to traditional financial assets.
They tend to retain their value fairly well and can even help protect against fluctuations and times of economic uncertainty during which they are considered ‘safe havens’.
The value of silver jewellery does not appreciate significantly. It is subject to change when taking into consideration demand, fashion trends, and consumer preferences. Wear and tear also plays a factor and don’t forget retail markup (the same applies for gold).
A pro for silver is that it can be melted down and reset into another jewellery piece and it never loses any purity.
A pro for gold is that it tends to hold its value well. It carries an intrinsic value due to its rarity, global demand and resale potential.
Currently, the market value of 99.9% gold is nearly 80% more expensive per ounce than 99.9% silver.
So, one of the factors to consider when choosing between gold or silver jewellery is whether you are viewing your choice as a long-term investment or short term.
For up-to-date market values check out royalmint.
Skin Tone and Personal Preference
Generally speaking people with warm tones in their skin colouring tend to suit warm metals such as gold as it tends to complement the natural warmth of their complexion.
Cool skin tones, on the other hand, frequently have a pink or bluish undertone, and individuals with cool skin tones typically find silver the most flattering choice. This is due to silver complementing the natural coolness of their complexion.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone.
At Aquila Jewellery we recognised that we want our jewellery to be inclusive of everyone in every way. So, we are in the process of changing our gold to a more neutral gold called 14k Hamilton vermeil. It is currently exclusively available in our shop so pop in and take a look for yourself.
The Characteristics and Properties of Gold and Silver
Gold has a vivid and vibrant yellow colour which is very distinct. It is a shade that occurs naturally. There is an earthiness to gold that often appeals to those who lean towards a warm colour palette.
There are many different gold shades such as yellow gold, white gold and rose gold. We use traditional yellow gold to keep our pieces as natural as possible.
Silver has a shiny white lustre and a cooler tone. Its subtle colour makes it popular due to its timeless and classic appeal.
It’s worth including reflectivity here - with silver being the most reflective metal, reflecting around 95% of visible light. Gold reflects approximately 70-80% of visible light. This results in different visual characteristics and is down to the preference of the customer.
This is one of the interesting differences between gold and silver as precious metals. Did you know that gold is relatively rare in the Earth’s crust, making it a precious metal?
It is this scarcity that contributes to its value and desirability.
In terms of geological abundance, silver is fairly common. Plus it is often the byproduct of other mining metals such as zinc and copper. That means its availability is frequently influenced by the demand for these metals.
Durability and Malleability
These might not be factors you immediately consider when it comes to gold and silver, but it influences longevity, maintenance and wearability going forwards.
Whilst gold and silver are both fairly soft metals, gold is denser and more malleable making it softer to work with when creating intricate designs.
The con? It picks up more scratches and dents than silver.
Silver is less dense and less malleable but stronger and more resistant to scratches and dents. It is also easy to work with in terms of creating intricate designs when mixed into an alloy.
That’s why we always use sterling silver (silver and copper) as our base metal for our gold vermeil pieces - resulting in quality pieces that don’t carry the cost of solid gold.
Both metals can be crafted into beautifully ornate jewellery due to these properties.
Gold is chemically inert which means it doesn’t react with most substances. It is famously resistant to tarnish, corrosion and rust.
As a pro, gold easily keeps its shine over time (though a bit of maintenance and upkeep is still a good idea) and generally ages well.
A con for silver is that it is prone to tarnishing when exposed to sulfur in the air and certain substances, forming a dark oxide layer. However, this tarnish can be polished or removed easily with regular upkeep.
Sometimes when gold is mixed in an alloy or as a result of impurities some wearers may experience a reaction but generally speaking, gold is hypoallergenic.
Silver is hypoallergenic when it is mixed in an alloy of copper. Those with sensitive skin tend to react to nickel alloys, which is why we always use copper in our sterling silver.
All of our gold, silver and mixed metal items are hypoallergenic.
Sustainability and Ethical Considerations
There is no denying gold and silver mining have significant sustainability and ethical implications.
While the industry has taken steps to address these issues, there is still much work to be done to ensure that mining is conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner that respects the environment and human rights.
However, there are organisations and initiatives that can guarantee that your gold or silver are ethical.
We work with a supplier in the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). They have developed a certification program that covers the entire jewellery supply chain, including mining, refining, and manufacturing.
That way, jewellers and customers know the jewellery they buy is ethical.
Our silver collection is made from recycled silver which means we don’t rely on mining and silver availability to provide our products (and we don’t contribute to deforestation or the environmental impacts of silver mining).
All in all…
As you can see, choosing between gold and silver isn’t as simple as preference. With aspects such as investment potential, sustainability and longevity to consider it really comes down to you and your lifestyle.
So, whether you prefer the warm, sunny look of gold or the cool, understated look of silver, we have silver, gold and mixed metal collections to kickstart your exploration.
And with our commitment to using recycled and hypoallergenic materials, you can feel good about your purchase and its impact on the planet.
Which metal is your favourite and why? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.