Should your necklaces be silver or gold? Should they be precious metal or not?
When shopping for a necklace, consider the occasion, what you'll wear it with and your personal taste and style.
"There is no right or wrong," says independent style consultant Kathrine Eldridge.
However, says Kimberlee Powe, founder and CEO of Emiage Seven Inc., an image-consulting service. "It's all got to match."
That is, don't wear a gold necklace with silver earrings or gold earrings with silver sequins. Even consider your purse’s hardware, Powe says. If it’s got lot of metal content, it should blend in.
A good mix might be layers of necklaces in silver and gold worn with a plain black dress, suggests Eldridge. With a big-statement necklace, wear it alone and keep earrings and other jewelry low key and in tone.
Distance between jewelry is a factor, as well, experts say. You needn’t worry, for example, if your wedding ring or unobtrusive buckles on your shoes don’t fit the color scheme of your necklace.
Necklaces and precious metals
Costume jewelry is fun and can enhance your outfit for many occasions, but whether for every day or on special nights out, precious metals add pure elegance.
According to the Colorado-based Minerals Education Coalition, "Gold is described and known as a precious metal. The combination of gold’s relative scarcity and its obvious beauty has made it a very valuable commodity throughout the history of humanity.” It also does not corrode or rust.
In their purest forms, both silver and gold are soft and malleable. According to the Institute, gold is so soft "that it can be hammered into a sheet so thin that light can pass through it. It is also ductile, which means it can be drawn into long, thin wires: a wire thread approximately 50 miles long can be drawn from a single troy ounce of gold." (A troy ounce is the standard measure for precious metals, about 31 kg.) Silver is ductile, as well.
Pure precious metals, therefore, cannot be used for jewelry, which needs to be hard enough to stand up to the rigors of being worn. So they are typically alloyed with other metals, often copper, zinc or nickel. These metals affect the color. "White gold" may contain manganese or palladium. "Rose gold" has a high percentage of copper.
Karat vs. carat
The purity of gold is expressed in "karats." Pure gold is 24 karats, while 18-karat gold, the softest used in jewelry making, is 18 parts gold and six parts of some other metal. Other common levels of gold used by jewelers are 14k and 10k, each with progressively less gold content and a lower price but with higher durability.
Don't confuse "karat" with "carat," a unit of weight measure for gemstones. The gold-purity indicator stems from Germany, which once had a gold coin called a mark that weighed 24 carats, so "karat" came to mean the amount of gold in a mark.
The highest quality of silver used in jewelry is called "sterling silver," which has 92.5 percent silver content; it is also sometimes labeled "925." Because silver tarnishes easily, jewelry makers may cover it with a thin plating of another metal, such as hard, silvery-white rhodium, which also adds durability and brightness. White gold also typically receives rhodium plating, which also adds to the cost.
Are you allergic to your necklace?
If you are hard on jewelry, you may want to look for 10k gold, which is tougher than purer gold, although it's slightly less warm in color. However, if you have allergies, ask about the alloy content—one high in nickel may make you break out. Generally, 14k gold and above has enough gold content to keep sensitive skins from reacting, and rhodium plating will help with both white gold and silver (although it can wear off in time).
You may also see necklaces that are gold- or silver-plated, which means a thin layer of precious metal coats a less expensive base metal. That gives you the look of the fine metal for a fraction of the cost, but the plating will wear off eventually. "Vermeil" is gold-plated sterling silver.
Yet another jewelry type, "gold filled,” has a much thicker gold layer bonded to the base metal and is more durable than plated jewelry. "Gold-tone" or "silver-tone" necklaces are merely inexpensive metals, fun for costume jewelry, but with no intrinsic value.
When it comes to both precious-metal and costume jewelry, the craftsmanship of the piece also figures into the cost. Even a necklace made of inexpensive materials can be gorgeous and costly if it is beautifully designed.