Precious Metals: Buying Smart

Precious Metals: Buying Smart

Let’s start with a short quiz that might help clarify your thinking when buying jewelry. There are no right or wrong answers, just doors to awareness. You might find that all apply from time-to-time, and that's perfect.  

Do you consider buying a piece of jewelry when it:

  • tickles your emotions? Does your heart pound? Does a sense of calm or awe come over you when you see a piece?
  • enhances your professional appearance and supports a confident voice?
  • is a throw in a drawer piece or a long-term investment?[i]
  • seems fairly priced?

For many, jewelry pricing seems mysterious, so judging that last question is tricky. In the spirit of transparency, well priced jewelry includes everything that goes into creating a piece, for example the precious metal used, the cost of gems, design time, labor, and even less obvious costs like photography for websites and ads. This blog focuses on how precious metals contribute to price, as well as the pros and cons of choosing one precious metal over another. Future blogs will cover more.

How precious metals impact price

The picture below shows our three-strand necklace Sky Mountain. A customer in Great Britain asked if the price would come down if we deleted a strand. I was honest and said no, but if she commissioned a similar necklace using a sterling silver rather than a white gold clasp, the cost would drop dramatically. Read a little further, and you’ll see why.

Sky Mountain necklace


What are Precious Metals?

According to Investopedia, precious metals are metals that are rare, have a high economic value, are scarce, and retain value over time. Gold, platinum, and silver are the most popular precious metals.[ii] All precious metals are commodities sold on international markets every day, just like wheat, oil, or livestock. The price today will probably not be the same tomorrow. Daily prices are a snapshot. Trends tell you more about holding or selling a piece of jewelry constructed of these precious metals.


The following chart helps ground my understanding of gold. I hope it helps you too.[iii]

 10k gold 42% gold - 58% filler metals

10k gold is common in North America, but not used in fine jewelry. Ten karat gold is relatively dull (you don’t see it on the cover illustration for this blog) and fails to attract customers looking for a little bling.

While the price point is inviting, as of 3/11/2021 the price per oz.[iv] is $722.39 USD., jewelry studios tend to start their inventories at 14k gold.


14k gold 58% gold - 42% filler metals

14k gold is common in America and Europe. As of 3/11/2021 the price per oz. is $1,006.60 USD. At present, White Orchid Studio relies on this level of purity.

As an aside, yellow is the natural color of gold. The intensity of yellow varies with the percent of filler. But there are other colors: white is an alloy of nickel, palladium, zinc and copper. Rose is an alloy of silver and copper. Green is an alloy of silver, copper and zinc. Peach gold, an alloy of copper. The Studio plans to use these alloys in future designs.

18k gold 75% gold - 25% filler metals

18k gold is common in Italy and Portugal, and is offered by many fine jewelers in North America. As of 3/11/2021 the price per oz. is $1,292.50 USD.

Currently, our Studio relies on 14k gold in part because of the price, and in part because 14k is tough. While 14k is not as bright as 18k gold, 14k tends to wear longer and is less malleable.

21k gold  75% gold - 25% filler metals 21k is common in India and Arab countries. As of 3/11/2021 the price per oz. is $1,511.20 USD.
24k gold 99% gold - 0.1% filler metals “Pure gold,” is preferred by customers in China. As of 3/11/2021 the price per oz. is $1,730.00 USD.


Of the three precious metals silver is the least expensive. At present, silver is selling for $26.11 USD. The descriptors sterling silver and 925 silver refer to the same alloy of silver containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of other metals, usually copper. The studio only uses this type of silver.

True confessions, out of ignorance I used to disparage silver because it can tarnish. But, wear a silver piece a lot and you will see less tarnish. When you purchase silver, used in our White Orchid Collection, we include a little black cloth in the organza sacks we use to store all our inventory. Please consider retaining both the organza sack and the black cloth. The cloth is our gift to you. It retards tarnish.

A final reflection on price.  The purer the gold the more expensive it is.  And, gold costs more than silver.  The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words holds true when you look at the next picture I found on

Look at the difference between 1 troy ounce of gold and a comparable price for fine silver.  


Platinum is a wonder metal. First, of the three precious metals, it is pure, not an alloy. That means the look of platinum over the years does not fade. If anything, it looks softer and more loved, similar to fine leather. Second, at present the price of platinum is between that of 14k and 18k gold, currently selling for $1,130.00 USD. Finally, platinum is environmentally and medically beneficial. It is used in catalytic converters to reduce air pollution and as an essential component of many medical devices, including pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, catheters, stents and neuromodulation devices. The Studio is currently creating designs in platinum, and we are thrilled to offer them to you in the near future.

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[i] Throw-away pieces are generally any piece of jewelry constructed of a shiny coating over a base metal such as bronze or copper. With wear the coating disappears and the base metal shows through. Throw-away pieces are fine as long as you are aware of the pitfalls.


[iii] An adaptation of explanations provided by

[iv] Precious metals are measured in troy ounces, equivalent to 31.21 grams. The troy ounce was used as a unit of measurement in Troyes, France. See

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