Walk past a jewellery store or scroll through an online one, and you’d see a plethora of jewellery pieces in different shades and materials. With so many materials — from gold and silver to platinum and copper, it’s hard to decide which ones you should get.
Besides going with your gut (i.e. personal preferences) and the quality of the metal as well as its purity level, the colour is also something you should consider before forking your money out.
Here, we dish tips on the five most common metals used in jewellery-making and which ones are suitable for your skin undertone. Whether you sport a warm, cool or neutral skin tone makes a difference in whether you’re rocking that jewellery piece to the fullest. (Psst if you have a neutral skin tone, you’re lucky, because you suit them all.)
Before we proceed, if you need a little help finding out what undertone you have, here’s a quick guide: Look at the veins of your wrist, if they appear green, you have a warm skin tone (because yellow + blue = green). If the veins appear blue, you have a cool skin undertone and if you can’t differentiate between the two, you’re likely to have a neutral skin undertone.
Yellow gold is an alloy of pure gold, silver and copper or zinc, which results in the yellowish hue that we commonly associate with gold jewellery. A higher carat number would denote the presence of more gold, and therefore a stronger yellow hue and a higher price tag. Also, if you’re really sensitive towards metals such as nickel and find yourself prone to an allergic reaction when you come in contact with them, opting for an 18k gold jewellery piece would reduce your risk of reacting negatively as the ratio of gold to mixed metals would be higher.
Great for: The warm tones of yellow gold would complement people with warmer skin tones as it brings out the glow of your skin colour without washing it out.
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White gold is an alloy of pure gold with a white metal — either nickel, silver or palladium. Because the alloy has a light grey colour with undertones of yellow, the “white” of white gold actually comes from the rhodium plating, a white metal that’s in the platinum family. As nickel is one of the possible metals that might be used to make the alloy, similar to above, if you are allergic to it, make sure you check with the brand on whether the jewellery piece you’re buying contains it, or try it on before purchasing it. The same carat rating as yellow gold applies to white gold too.
Great for: The cool, silvery tones of white gold are complementary for people with cooler skin tones but might wash out a person with warm skin tones.
A very popular metal favoured for its feminine pink hue, rose gold is made with a combination of pure gold and reddish-brown copper metal, with a touch of silver. The higher the levels of copper (and therefore lower gold percentage) would result in a deeper, darker rose hue.
Great for: Because rose gold comes with a rosy-orange shade, it leans towards the warmer spectrum and would be better for people with warmer skin tones. However, its rich warm hue makes it virtually flattering to every skin tone, as it brings out the blush tone of your skin. Which is why this is also a favourite among cooler toned people.
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Besides the three aforementioned types of gold jewellery, there are also a subset that consists of gold plated, vermeil and filled jewellery. But what are they?
Gold plated refers to the jewellery being made of a base metal such as copper and brass, before a thin layer of gold is being plated through industrial means onto the base metal.
Gold vermeil is another kind of gold plating, but the base metal is made with sterling silver (or 925 silver) and plated with a thin layer of gold of at least 10 karats and 2.5 microns thick. You can quickly identify a gold vermeil by looking out for the sterling silver composition.
Lastly, gold filled jewellery contains the highest amount of gold that’s bonded to a base metal such as copper and brass, akin to gold plating. As such, gold filled jewellery costs comparatively higher than gold plated and vermeil as it is made with higher gold amounts.
Great for: Gold plating, vermeil and filled can be created with either yellow, white and rose gold. Thus, its compatibility would be the same as the respective gold shades we’ve detailed above.
Like gold, pure silver is far too soft to be made into jewellery. What you’ll find instead is sterling silver, or 925 silver made with 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent of other metals (usually copper). There is also another type called Argentium silver, which consists of either 93.5 or 96 per cent pure silver and metalloid germanium. Argentium silver touts greater tarnish resistance, amongst many other properties, as compared to sterling silver.
Great for: The silvery white hue of this material makes it a firm favourite amongst people with cool skin tones, as it makes them look more luminous and healthy.
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Platinum jewellery is prized for its durability and being tarnish-proof, which makes it a favourite when you’re getting a piece that is meant to be kept for a long time, such as a wedding band. However, platinum is more expensive than gold, as it is rarer (one source estimates that for every 10 gold mines, there is only one platinum mine) and much denser, which means you’d actually be getting more platinum in a jewellery as compared to a similar one made of 18k gold. Pure platinum is slightly soft too, so it is usually made with 95 per cent purity mixed with other metals such as palladium, cobalt and tungsten.
Great for: Similar to silver, cool toned people might find platinum jewellery more flattering for them as compared to people with warmer skin tones.
Known to be the hardest natural metal in the world, titanium is especially great for people who are allergic to other types of metal as the metal is hypoallergenic. It is also lightweight, scratch- and tarnish-resistant and is so tough that a piece, such as a titanium ring, cannot be resized or soldered. It has to be melted down and recasted. Like the other metals here, titanium used in jewellery comes in the form of an alloy, usually either commercial pure grade (99.2 per cent titanium) or aircraft grade (about 90 per cent titanium with 6 per cent aluminium and 4 per cent vanadium).
Great for: Titanium’s shiny, silvery hue is more complementary for cool-toned people.
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Prized for its beautiful gold colour, brass is a much cheaper alternative to yellow gold as it doesn’t contain any precious metals and is made with a combination of zinc and copper. Also, brass is strong and durable and it can be poured into moulds and casted — which explains its popularity in making affordable costume jewellery. Brass however, can have a tendency to tarnish and form a green or brown layer after prolonged use.
Great for: Its yellow gold-like colour means that brass is suited for warmer skin tones.
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