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Gold Engagement rings (that’s the ones with the diamonds, lads!) and plain wedding bands are almost always made of gold.While “white gold” used to be a specialist taste, it has taken over in recent years and is now the couples’ favourite.

You will have heard of carats (sometimes spelled karats): this is a very simple measure of purity. 24 carat gold, with no alloys or other metals, is the purest — but also the softest. For that reason, it is hardly ever used in the jewellery trade. 18 carat is far more resilient, and is traditionally used for women’s wedding bands and engagement rings. Men’s rings are made from 18 carat or, more often, 9 carat, which is tougher, but slightly less yellow in appearance.

Gold has shot up in price, with investors looking for a safe haven, and pushing the price of the metal to over $1000 an ounce. (It stayed below $300 for much of the 1990s.) For more on how we can buy your gold, click the We Buy Gold » button on the left.

White Gold The term “white gold” causes some confusion. This is simply high-carat gold treated with an alloy or alloys (such as rhodium, palladium or silver) to give it silverish, whitish appearance. These days, most people prefer this colour.

Platinum While silver and gold are the stock-in-trade of the jewellery business, some clients covet rings made of Platinum. Platinum is heavy, and men, in particular, are drawn to the metal, and it is prized for its rarity and mysterious, steely-silver colour. At the time of writing (early 2010), it was selling at $1500 per ounce (well over €1000), while gold was at just over $1000.

“Sterling silver” is over 92.5% pure, and strengthened with an alloy, usually copper. Most silver jewellery is made from standard silver or (less often) from a slightly purer 95.8% variant.

Silver is lovely for emeralds and sapphires, with its plain colour bringing out the brilliance of these stones. It is the metal of choice for necklaces and daytime jewellery, and for those first gifts when the man doesn’t want to scare the lady away! It has advanced in price and prestige, doubling in value between 2007 and the present day.