Gold vs Sterling Silver: Which One Should You Choose?

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Gold and sterling silver are probably the most popular precious metal choices for jewelry.

Gold is a rare precious metal, which makes it a popular option for jewelry.

Silver, on the other hand, is less expensive than gold. It is also a popular choice for jewelry because of its versatility. Each metal has its own unique properties that can make it a better choice for certain situations.

Both metals are too soft in their pure states. Thus, we mix them with other metals to increase hardness and durability before making jewelry and other items.

Gold has a natural yellow color with red hues. It has a very bright shine and is often used in jewelry and coins.

In jewelry, we use yellow, rose and white gold alloys frequently. These types of gold gain their color thanks to the added metals.

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver and copper. It has 92.5% silver purity. The remaining 7.5% content generally comes from cheaper base metals, mostly copper.

Sterling silver carries a luster and shine that is characteristic of fine metals.

Now let’s take a closer look at gold vs sterling silver comparison by color, durability, hypoallergenic property and price.

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1. Color

Gold is a yellow precious metal that has been in use for millennia. It is often found mixed with other metals in coins, jewelry, and other objects.

The color of gold varies depending on the alloy it is mixed with. For example, rose gold gains its color via the addition of copper. Increasing the percentage of copper brings the color closer to rosy red.

White gold is another trendy gold alloy which gains its color from white – colored metals like zinc, palladium, nickel and silver. Many times, white gold alloys are coated with a thin layer of rhodium. This rhodium plating gives the gold core a more uniform white luster and extra protection.

Sterling silver, on the other hand, carries a metallic white shine. As it has 92.5% silver content, it is very close to the precious metal’s color.

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2. Durability

Gold purity is measured in karat.

1 karat represents 1 in 24 weight of the alloy.

24 karat is fine gold which is 100% gold.

Popular gold karats are 10k, 14k and 18k. These come with an increasing gold percentage of 41.7%, 58.3% and 75%, respectively.

As the gold percentage decreases, so does the hardness. Thus, 10k is harder than 14k, which is harder than 18k gold.

14k gold receives a around 3.5-4 rating on the Mohs scale of hardness.

Of course, if this is white gold with a rhodium plated, its hardness will increase to 6 on the same scale.

Sterling silver is a metal alloy consisting of 92.5% silver. While the silver percentage is set, the metals and ratios in the remaining part may vary.

The variations of the latter’s composition will affect durability. For simplicity’s sake, we can say that sterling silver is a softer alloy with 3 on the Mohs scale.

This means that 14k gold can resist scratches and dents better than sterling silver. If you are looking for a beautiful and durable ring, then consider investing in a piece of 10k or 14k gold jewelry.

Gold and 925 silver do not corrode or rust.

But, sterling silver jewelry does tarnish.

Tarnish is the black spots that appear on the surface of sterling items. They result from oxidation.

Thankfully, this process is self-limiting and does not corrode the item.

For this reason, sterling pieces need more care to keep shining.

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3. Hypoallergenic properties

Some materials may trigger skin allergies which may cause symptoms like rashes, itches, color changes etc.

There are many allergenic metals that fall into this category, but a few stand out.

Generally, the first culprit is nickel and then lead etc. Approximately 10% of the US population has a nickel allergy.

Even if it is not directly added to the mix, trace amounts of nickel may enter the alloy via other metals like copper.

After a sufficient time and absorption level has reached, sensitive people may observe allergy signs like itching or color change.

People with sensitive skin should opt for hypoallergenic materials that are considered safe.

While these do not guarantee zero allergy, they are the best option to minimize risks.

Both gold and silver are hypoallergenic metals in their pure form.

However, when made into an alloy with other metals, you should check if they are safe too.

Always ask for nickel-free jewelry, whether it is gold or sterling silver.

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4. Price

Sterling silver is a popular choice for jewelry because of its low cost and high shine. Gold, on the other hand, is typically more expensive than sterling silver.

Gold and silver are actively traded precious metals. Their prices and their relative ratio fluctuate in the market.

At the time of writing, the gold/silver ratio was around 85.

This means that 1 oz of gold could buy 85 oz of silver.

Thus, the same volume of gold jewelry will significantly outprice a similar silver piece.

Of course, the prices depend on many factors, like brand, collection, design, gemstone and market dynamics.