Understanding Your Metals - A Jewellery Deep Dive

Posted by Clare Izaguirre on

Sterling silver, gold vermeil, platinum and beyond. There’s a world of precious metals out there, and you’re forgiven for needing a little help decoding it. 

At Aquila Jewellery, we understand the importance of selecting the right metals for your jewellery. 

Not only to compliment your style and skin tone, but to work with your skin sensitivity. That’s why we’ve put together a handy guide that answers common questions about metals used to make jewellery.


At Aquila, silver has always been at the heart of our jewellery due to our close ties to Indonesia (the home of silver jewellery craftsmanship) and our skilled artisans who hand-make our jewellery using age-old techniques and handheld tools.

We introduced gold a little later as an earthy alternative to our silver pieces. For us, warm gold and cool silver make the perfect contrast whilst shining individually too.

What are common metals used to make jewellery?

These three precious metals are also the most commonly worn every day. Do you know them all? Let’s take a look.

1. Gold

As you know, gold jewellery is one of the most commonly worn jewellery types. It’s popular because of its glowing earthy tone, its longevity and its durability. ‘Durability’ in this context means the precious metal is strong enough to handle everyday use without easily getting damaged or losing its shape. 

Although gold is naturally softer than silver, an alloy is added to strengthen it and allow it to withstand a reasonable amount of wear and tear. The lower the purity level for example 9ct, the stronger the gold is, due to the higher mix of other metals, such as copper.

It also comes in various colours such as white, yellow and rose.

Did you know that rose gold, simply includes more copper alloy which changes the colour to a more pinkish hue? 

Another thing about gold is that It doesn’t tarnish easily. It keeps its glow with a little upkeep. These facts are why people worldwide choose it for everyday wear (including us!).

We find many opt for gold vermeil jewellery because it avoids the solid gold price point but it brings the earthy tone of gold that doesn’t fade with wear (unlike gold-plated jewellery). 

As gold vermeil jewellery has a base metal of sterling silver, it’s quality through and through!

We use recycled and hypoallergenic 14ct Hamilton Gold for our gold vermeil pieces. Our solid gold purities range from 9ct to 18ct for our solid gold jewellery.

2. Silver

This popular and affordable alternative to gold comes in a variety of finishes, including polished, hammered, brushed and patina. Sterling silver is the most commonly used alloy that contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (or similar). 

It is a softer metal and scratches more easily than for example 9ct gold, but it is loved for its affordability and lustre. Sterling silver is very versatile and can be crafted with ornate designs as seen in our silver range.

We use hypoallergenic and recycled 925 sterling silver for our silver pieces.

Let's cover some of the common questions that surround sterling silver as we get them from customers a lot.

Why wear 925 sterling silver? 

It’s a really commonly used alloy. But why is it so popular? It’s a good question and one we just love to answer.

Here’s why…


It’s that word again! 925 sterling silver is highly durable, making it perfect for everyday wear. It is strong and resilient, meaning that it will remain beautiful and functional for a long time.

Hypoallergenic properties

925 sterling silver is crafted from 92.5% pure silver and a small amount of other metals, typically copper (to make it strong enough to wear), which means it’s hypoallergenic and kind to sensitive skin.


925 sterling silver is renowned for its long-lasting properties, ensuring that with a bit of upkeep it will keep its shine with time.

Health benefits

Did you know silver has been recognized for its amazing health benefits? 

Silver is antibacterial and it is used to fight infections and help your body’s healing processes.

The electrical and thermal conductivity of silver allows it to generate an electrical field that can distribute electricity and heat around the body, reflecting electromagnetic radiation away from the body!

Does sterling silver turn green?

While sterling silver jewellery does not typically turn green, it is worth pointing out that from time to time even solid silver may leave a greenish hue on your skin. This is really down to a chemical reaction between the copper oxide on the silver’s surface and substances like sweat, lotions, or perfumes. 

The reaction doesn’t necessarily reflect low-quality jewellery and is usually just down to the metal’s contact with moisture. This is why it’s advised to take your jewellery off if you’re going swimming or taking a shower etc.

The good news is it can be easily prevented and here’s how:

  • We recommend keeping your sterling silver jewellery clean and dry when not wearing it. 
  • Avoid exposing it to harsh chemicals or substances that may trigger a chemical reaction, helping to maintain its beautiful shine.

3. Platinum

Did you know that platinum is one of the strongest precious metals used in jewellery? It’s even stronger than gold. It is also very dense, meaning it doesn't easily wear down or lose its shape. 

Platinum is often used in its purest form or alloyed with other metals such as copper and cobalt to make it more durable.

Have you noticed that platinum is popular for engagement rings and wedding bands for all the reasons above? It’s also a nice investment piece because of its high value and rarity.

    What metal is not good for your skin?

    For those with sensitive skin, it's important to avoid metals that can cause irritation or allergic reactions. 

    Watch out for these common culprits:


    This metal is a common allergen and can cause allergic reactions in many of us. It is often used as a base metal in lower-quality jewellery, so it's best to avoid it if you have sensitive skin.Opting for higher-quality metals will help you avoid these issues.


    Brass contains copper and zinc, and some people may experience allergies or skin discolouration when in contact with this metal. Opt for hypoallergenic alternatives if you are sensitive to brass.

    Costume jewellery metals

    Certain metals used in costume jewellery, such as zinc alloy or low-quality alloys, may cause skin irritation, discolouration or allergies. If you have sensitive skin, avoid these metals.

    At Aquila, we use only hypoallergenic metals; Sterling silver and gold.

    What metals are toxic to wear?

    Unfortunately, some metals are considered toxic and should be avoided in jewellery, especially if they come into prolonged or direct contact with the skin. 

    These include:


    Lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful when absorbed by the body. It is illegal in most countries to use lead in jewellery. All the more reason to purchase quality metal jewellery.

    In the past, lead was commonly used in the production of costume jewellery, as well as in the production of ornamental pieces. It was often used as a base metal or as a component in alloys to reduce costs and add weight to the jewellery.

    If you are purchasing vintage or historic jewellery for investments, find out all the information possible about the pieces first and if they may contain lead.

    How can you tell if lead is in jewellery?

    It isn’t common to find lead in jewellery anymore but ​​one common method to discover if it is, is by using commercial lead testing kits with a swab and liquid solution. 


    Have you heard of this metal?

    Cadmium is definitely a metal to avoid at all costs due to its tendency to cause health issues, including skin irritation, respiratory problems and even more serious issues.

    This metal has been used as a component in certain alloys or coatings, often in low-cost fashion jewellery, particularly in items with a bright, silvery appearance.
    Manufacturers have used cadmium as a substitute for other metals as it is cheap and malleable.


    Oh and one last piece of advice…

    Read return and warranty policies

    This is particularly important if you’re buying online. Make sure you know your rights and the time frame you have to return the item. At Aquila we offer a 6 month return window on faulty items.

    This will give you peace of mind in case you encounter any unforeseen issues.

    All in all…

    Now you know all the answers to the most common questions around gold, silver et al. You can make the best informed choices for which jewellery is best for you.  Get out there and take a look at jewellery in person. It makes such a difference when you hold it in your hand and see it in all its glory.
    Which is your favourite metal and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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