Silver vs. Gold Jewelry: Pros & Cons of Each
Posted on February 01 2021
Silver and gold are coveted, precious metals, and each has an enormous and long-standing fan base. Some jewelry wearers are team gold, some prefer silver, and others can’t get enough of both metals. Depending on the quality of each metal and a range of personal preferences, each has its upsides and downsides. If you can’t decide between silver vs. gold jewelry, consider the qualities of each metal, the pros and cons, and what best complements your skin tone before making your next jewelry purchase.
Gold is a noble metal that is resistant to oxidation and corrosion from moisture. It’s considered a precious metal for its rarity and high value, and the lustrous metal has long been appreciated for its beauty and glamor. One of gold’s first known uses in jewelry dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who associated the colors yellow and gold with the sun and used them in ornaments and crowns for the pharaoh.
Gold has not only been a prized metal for its link to wealth and status, but it’s also the most malleable of all precious metals and is resistant to rust, corrosion, and tarnish, unlike silver and other metals. It’s this durable and workable nature that has made it a preferred metal for jewelry makers over the centuries. Gold can also be melted down and reformed into new gold pieces, making it reusable. The price of gold depends on a few key factors, including the karatage or purity of the gold used, gold’s current market value, and the craftsmanship and design. With karat count, 24 karat is considered 100% pure gold. Other gold karats include:
- 22 Karat—91.7% gold
- 18 Karat—75% gold and considered to be luxury fine jewelry
- 14 Karat—58.3% gold and ideal for fine jewelry
- 12 Karat—50% gold
- 10 Karat—41.7% gold
Of each karat choice, 14K gold is the most popular for its balance of affordability and durability.
Gold Jewelry Pro: More Durable
Gold is the most malleable precious metal, but it also will not oxidize or corrode. There are also very few acids that can damage it. Silver, on the other hand, is softer and, therefore, easier to scratch. With enough wear and tear, it’s also possible for it to bend or change shape over time.
The more durable nature of gold, combined with its high value, is why many opt for gold pieces over silver for everyday wear.
Gold Jewelry Pro: Complements Warmer Skin Tones
Traditionally, gold has been widely accepted as an excellent color choice for warmer skin tones. Warm skin tones are typically identified by greenish colored veins, may have yellow or golden-apricot undertones, and can tan easily. If you have brown, green, or hazel eyes and red, brown, or black hair, you may have a warm skin tone.
Gold or other light metals complement these skin tones, as well as warmer colors you choose to wear. Of course, if you have a neutral skin tone, you can easily pull off both gold and silver. Yellow gold, especially, is widely accepted as attractive on warm skin tones. When paired with earthy clothing or stones and gems that have green, brown, turquoise, and orange colors, this can be the perfect color combination. If you fit any of these characteristics, you will likely be able to pull off a gold watch for men fantastically.
Gold Jewelry Pro: Comes in Several Colors
While silver is known and loved for its shiny, bright luster, gold is appreciated for its variety of colors. While pure gold is typically yellow, the metal it’s sometimes alloyed with can change that color to suit a variety of skin tones and tastes. Most fine gold jewelry comes in three colors: yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold.
Yellow gold is a combination of pure gold, copper, and silver. This color of gold emits a warm glow that’s often paired with colored diamonds with yellow tints. Yellow 18K gold typically has a richer color than 14K yellow gold, but it is softer and more prone to scratches.
White gold is pure gold alloyed with a combination of silver and palladium, nickel, or other alloys that achieve a white-silvery color. The process then involves plating the jewelry piece or covering it with a layer of rhodium for extra long wear. After a few years, the piece may require replating if the whiteness fades.
Rose gold is a combination of pure gold and copper alloy. This mixture created a pinkish hue that, with more copper alloy, becomes even rosier. Rose gold contains the same amount of pure gold as white or yellow gold. This gold color has both a vintage and modern aesthetic that makes it a go-to for engagement rings.
Gold Jewelry Pro: Real Gold Is Easier to Identify
In the U.S., gold is required to be stamped or marked based on its purity. The hallmark should tell you what percentage of gold an item consists of. This can often be found on the inner band of rings or on jewelry clasps.
Look for a rectangular, oval, or house shape on the piece. A rectangular shape with shaved corners shows that it’s a gold piece, an oval represents silver, and a house indicates platinum. Next, look for the number inside the shape. While different countries follow different hallmarking standards, common hallmarks for gold include:
- 999/990—24K gold
- 916—22K gold
- 750—18K gold
- 585—14K gold
Unlike gold, silver is not required in all countries to be hallmarked or stamped. For instance, sterling silver will bear the hallmark “925” and fine silver will be marked as “999.” The stamps SS or FS may also indicate it’s real silver. For this reason, it can be harder to identify if your silver is real when you’re not buying from a trusted or reputable jeweler.
Gold Jewelry Pro: Less Maintenance
On the whole, gold pieces require less maintenance and care than silver to maintain their beauty. If you own any sterling silver jewelry, you’ve likely seen that it can become tarnished or brown or black as time goes on. While a quality polish and some elbow grease can help you restore your silver piece to its original state, you can prevent this by regularly cleaning and polishing your sterling silver jewelry pieces and storing them in a cool and moistureless place.
Gold, and, specifically, white gold, will not tarnish over time and requires less routine care. Because gold is resistant to scratches and can withstand heat and water better, it holds up longer than its silver counterpart. Of course, white gold may become more dull over time, but it can be cleaned at home or taken to a professional jeweler to help bring back its shine.
Gold Jewelry Pro: Can Wear with Fresh Gear
Many gold pieces have been inspired by urban culture, making it a premium choice for street-style jewelry. From gold chains to watches, bracelets, earrings, and more, there are many custom-made styles that complement the hip-hop lifestyle.
In the early years of hip-hop, many prominent artists would sport gold chains and other pieces of jewelry to symbolize their success and mark major achievements in their careers. Celebrities such as LL Cool J sported gold rope chains and, later, watches, rings, and pendants. Today, you’ll see many celebrities wearing similar pieces and can find a range of types of gold chains that won’t break the bank.
Like gold, silver is a precious metal, and it is also malleable. Though not as hard as gold, it can be alloyed with other metals to increase its hardness. Silver that is 99.9% pure silver is considered fine silver, but it is typically too soft to be used in jewelry making. That’s why fine silver is alloyed with copper to make sterling silver, or 925 silver, which makes up the bulk of silver jewelry bought today.
By adding copper to silver, it hardens it and makes it more durable without affecting the silver’s color. However, the addition of copper also makes it prone to tarnishing over time, particularly in humid conditions. Other silver alloys include Mexican, coin, Britannia, and more that are used around the world to make silver more durable and, in some cases, more valuable. Silver has long been sought after for its bright, shiny luster, but it can also be oxidized to give it a dark gray patinated appearance.
Silver Jewelry Pro: Complements Cooler Skin Tones
For those with cooler skin tones, silver is an excellent choice. While it’s also a matter of preference, silver is thought to complement cooler skin tones, or those with bluish colored veins or undertones of pink or rosy-red. If you don’t tan easily or your skin burns easily, or you have green or blue eyes and blonde, brown, or black hair, you may also have a cool skin tone. Whether you opt for silver or white gold, both these light metals complement cooler skin tones and pair well with more vibrant colors such as deep reds, blues, pinks, and purples.
Silver Jewelry Pro: Less Expensive
A major perk of silver versus gold jewelry is its price point. Despite being a precious metal, it’s considerably less costly than gold. This is because there is currently a much larger supply of silver than gold worldwide. Because silver is also not as strong as gold and may cause allergic reactions, these factors also play into its less expensive price. With this in mind, it may be more affordable to amass a collection of silver jewelry, or to buy both silver and gold pieces to add to your collection.
Silver Jewelry Cons: Prone to Damage
As it has a softer texture than gold, silver is more prone to physical damage. It is easily scratched, bent, or broken, especially if you wear your pieces every day. Silver’s softness also limits your styling options, so you shouldn’t layer or stack silver jewelry pieces. This means avoiding placing silver bracelets next to your watch, but it’s good to wear silver rings on alternate fingers and only wear one silver chain at a time.
Silver and Gold Jewelry Con: May Cause Metal Allergies
Nickel, a metal used in white gold and silver, is one of the most common causes of metal allergies. While sterling silver is 92.5% silver alloyed with copper, nickel may be present in the remaining metals. And, for white gold, nickel is typically used as the alloy. Once the rhodium plating wears off, the nickel may be exposed to the wearer’s skin and cause irritation if they are allergic.
A nickel allergy can cause an itchy rash within hours or days to nickel exposure and last up to four weeks. Symptoms may include a rash or bumps on the skin, redness or changes in skin color, itching, dry patches, and more. While the cause of nickel allergy is not known, once your body has developed a reaction to nickel, it will remain sensitive to it, and you will need to avoid contact with the metal. If you find you have a nickel allergy, gold may be a smart jewelry choice for sensitive skin. Opting for a yellow gold chain for men, for instance, can spare you from an unwanted and uncomfortable rash.Shop Our Selection Of Iced Out Jewelry
Which Is for You: Silver or Gold?
Both silver and gold have long been used to create traditional and modern jewelry pieces. The classic question of silver vs. gold ultimately boils down to personal preference. Even if you have a skin tone that one of these metals complements more than the other, it’s about which one you prefer. And wearing one of these precious metals doesn’t bar you from wearing the other—you can wear both!
If price is of significant consideration, silver is more budget friendly. You can find plenty of bold and beautiful sterling silver pieces at affordable costs. While gold is more expensive, the higher value of gold pieces can also make them a great long-term investment. If you intend to wear a piece of jewelry more regularly, gold is a solid choice for long-term wear. It requires less routine maintenance than silver and stands up against the test of time. No matter which you choose, make sure you’re working with a reputable jeweler to ensure the purity of your gold or silver piece.
Lim_pix / Shutterstock.com
VladKK / Shutterstock.com
Elnur / Shutterstock.com
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com