What is a Precious Metal?

Have you ever heard gold called a precious metal?     You might vaguely remember that term from science class.     Most people think of gold as the only precious metal, but there are actually eight elements (another term from science class) that fall under this category:

Image of list of precious metals

All the precious metals, except osmium, are durable, lustrous and malleable, and that makes them ideal for jewelry making.   They are also called the noble metals because of the high value and timeless quality that sets them apart from all other elements found in nature.

Precious metals generally have a distinctive luster and color, are able to be bent, formed and pulled, and can conduct heat and electricity.   The only ones found in actual metallic form in nature are gold, silver,  copper and platinum.   These four are called  native metals.   They’re rarely found in a pure state, but are usually found in natural alloys with other metals.   An alloy is a combination or mixture of two or more metals.

Each type of precious metal and its alloys have their own unique reactions to forces used in jewelry making such as forming, forging, bending, rolling and drawing.    A metal’s hardness refers to its resistance to denting.   Hardness is measured scientifically by pressing a very hard object of a known size into samples of different metals and measuring the results.

Malleability, which literally means “hammer-ability”, refers to how much the metal can be altered by hammering and shaping.  Gold is the most malleable of the precious metals, followed by silver and aluminum.    Interesting fact about gold:  Gold can be rolled or beaten so thin that light passes through it with a greenish tint.  Crazy, right?

That’s probably all the science y’all need to know right now about precious metals.   There’s sooo many other things to know about metals when you’re working with it, like how to heat it the right way to make it more malleable and how to solder it without melting it.    Since I make the jewelry that I design, I have to know and a little bit of the science involved and not be afraid of fire!

Next up, I’ll tell you everything you ever wanted to know about silver ~ the different types of silver, why sterling silver tarnishes, and what you can do to keep your silver jewelry looking fabulous whenever you’re ready to wear it.

In the meantime, sending good vibes to you all!

Much love,

Ann