THE MATERIALS BEHIND OUR PEARLS
Our Discovery section explains a lot about pearls themselves, but what about the other aspects of Absolute Pearls pearl jewellery? On this page we’ll explain the different metals and gemstones we use, as well as the grading system used for diamonds and the hallmarks used on precious metals.
Most Absolute Pearls jewellery is crafted in high quality gold or silver. Both of these metals have been used in jewellery for thousands of years because of their shine and their scarcity. We use the metal we feel is most appropriate to the cost and quality of the pearls.
Gold is one of the rarest and most valuable metals, as well as one of the most malleable, making it ideal for jewellery making. Pure gold is so malleable that a single ounce could be spun out to a thread over 50 miles long, and even a single gram could be beaten to a sheet one metre square.
Gold comes in several different purities and colours. Pure gold is considered too soft for jewellery, so it is usually mixed with other metals. The amount of gold in this mix is described in carats, which represent the amount of gold in parts per 24. Thus:
- 9 carat gold = 9 parts in 24 or 37.5% gold - identified as '375'
- 14 carat gold = 14 parts in 24 or 58.55% gold - identified as '585'
- 18 carat gold = 18 parts in 24 or 75% gold - identified as '750'
- 22 carat gold = 22 parts in 24 or 91.6% gold - identified as '916'
18 carat gold is considered to be the best compromise between pure gold and the strength of the additives.
Absolute Pearls offers pearl jewellery in 9, 14 and 18 carat white or yellow gold.
Platinum is even rarer than gold, and this situation is not helped by the fact that most platinum production ends up in catalytic converters for cars. It is twice as heavy as gold, much stronger and more durable.
Platinum jewellery has a unique sheen that some people think is even more attractive than gold. The scarcity of platinum, and consequently the price, also makes platinum attractive to some buyers for its exclusivity.
An attractive and affordable alternative to platinum, palladium is the jeweller’s dream because it has a low melting point and low density that make it so much easier to work with, especially in the more creative pieces.
Prices vary all the time but palladium generally costs around two thirds as much as gold and just over half the price of platinum.
With pearls stealing the show with their beauty and lustre, many customers don’t feel the need to pay for expensive gold settings, and instead opt for the far cheaper, but just as attractive, silver.
The silver used in jewellery is Sterling silver, which is 92.5% pure silver. At Absolute Pearls we mostly use sterling silver which is rhodium plated to protect it from tarnishing and give it a brighter finish.
By law, all gold jewellery over 1g and all silver jewellery over 7.78g sold in the UK must be hallmarked to prove its fineness. In the UK, this takes place in just four Assay Offices across the country, in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh.
Until 1998, there were four compulsory symbols in a hallmark, but since then, the date mark has been optional.
The three compulsory marks are:
- Maker’s mark (often the retailer or importer rather than the actual manufacturer)
- Quality mark (denoting the purity of the metal in parts per thousand)
- 9 carat gold is shown as 375
- 14 carat gold is shown as 585
- 18 carat gold is shown as 750
- Platinum is shown as 850, 900, 950 or 999
- Sterling silver is shown as 925
- Assay Office mark
- London shown as a leopard
- Birmingham shown as an anchor
- Sheffield as a Tudor rose
- Edinburgh shown as a castle
An optional fourth date mark is shown as a letter. The current date hallmarks are lower case letters in a hexagonal box. The current system started from lower case a, in 2000, with 2014 indicated by the letter p.
Many of the styles at Absolute Pearls include diamonds to enhance and embellish the setting. We choose our diamonds very carefully based on the four Cs of diamond quality:
- Carat – diamond weights are expressed in carats, with 1ct = 0.2g
- Clarity – the clearer the diamond, the greater the value, with flawless diamonds by far the most valuable. That said, diamonds with tiny faults, known as very slight inclusions, graded VS1 or VS2 can appear flawless to the naked eye and even slight inclusions, graded SI1 or SI2 can provide good value without too much of a compromise on quality.
- Cut – the cut of a diamond is very important, as this will determine the trademark sparkle. Cuts range from best as Excellent/Ideal and the further down the scale you go, the less light will be reflected back out of the diamond and the less brilliant it will appear.
- Colour – diamonds are rated on their colour on a scale from D to Z. The clearest, and most expensive diamonds are graded D, but most people will not detect any discernable colour until you reach at least J on the scale.
Sadly, diamonds have been known to play a large part in financing, and even causing, civil wars and conflicts in Central Africa. In an attempt to stop the jewellery industry from inadvertently supporting these conflicts, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was introduced in 2002 to identify conflict-free diamonds. This scheme tracks the diamonds across borders and ensures that diamonds have not come from conflict areas or been part of the financing of violence.
Absolute Pearls are proud to say that all the diamonds used in our jewellery conform to KPCS and are certified in writing to be conflict free.