I work in white and yellow gold, platinum, palladium and silver. Each project dictates which metal is appropriate based on the metal's working properties as well as the aesthetics and budget of the piece.
The Karat is a purity rating for gold. Karat tells us how many parts of gold and how many parts of alloy are in a metal. Pure gold is 24K . 14K gold is 14 parts gold, 10 parts alloy, 18K is 18 parts gold, 6 parts alloy, etc… Different alloys have different virtues. 24K gold has the richest yellow color, but is too soft to wear. As more alloy is added, the gold gets harder, but the color gets paler. In yellow gold, I usually use 18K. 18K yellow is the best of both worlds being a rich regal yellow, but durable. In white gold, I prefer a low Karat like 14K palladium white gold (14 parts gold, 10 parts palladium). If a white color is the goal, more alloy helps avoid the dinginess found in high Karat white gold. Along the same lines, I like a lower Karats for colored golds, so the color is stronger.
There are many options for jewelry made in "white" colored metals. Platinum, white gold, palladium and silver all fall into this category. Different projects and their parameters demand different choices in metal
Platinum is unparalleled in its rich look and feel. It is very white and actually gets whiter over time as it oxidizes. It is dense and therefore, heavy. Due to its density, it will not wear away, even when 2 rings (like an engagement ring and wedding band) rub together over the course of a lifetime. Platinum is the most expensive of the metals. It is also the most labor intensive of all of the metals I work with. Processes like polishing take much longer than they do on a white gold piece, so this contributes to its cost. While very durable and dense, platinum is also very soft. What this means is, when you wear a platinum wedding band, it can get dented and can bend more easily than white gold, but it will not wear away, even after a lifetime of wear.
14K palladium white gold is one of my favorite options in precious white metals. (14 parts gold, 10 parts palladium) This alloy has a cool rich white color, perhaps a bit grayer and warmer than platinum. I use the palladium alloy for many reasons in spite of a slightly higher cost than the common nickel alloy. Its beautiful white color that eliminates the need for rhodium plating. Most commercial white gold jewelry sold in this country is made from an alloy of gold and nickel. This is a cheaper option than palladium, but has a dingy yellow cast to it. Nickel is also a common skin irritant which can result in a nasty rash if the wearer is sensitive to it. The common solution to these problems is to rhodium plate the jewelry to cover the ugly color and potential irritant. Rhodium is like chrome for jewelry. It is very white at first, but wears off in time and leaves ugly worn yellow splotches on the piece revealing the nickel white gold underneath.The piece can be re-plated, but I prefer to work in fine metals that can speak for themselves and don't require covering up. Nickel alloys are illegal in many European countries & palladium alloys are the standard. This makes more sense to me, eliminates the need for rhodium maintenance & makes jewelry that looks great all the time.
Palladium is an exciting new option in the studio. I have just started working with it in the last couple of years and it has many great qualities. It is a relative to platinum, but with a price point between silver and gold. It is very white like platinum, but is quite lightweight. Palladium, like platinum, is labor intensive to work with, especially when a polished surface is required, but its relatively low cost per ounce makes it a non-tarnishing durable option for heirloom quality jewelry.
Silver is by far the most affordable option in white metals. Silver is relatively lightweight and has the whitest color of any metal. Because of its low density, it is possible to make larger pieces that are still comfortable to wear. Sterling silver (92.5% silver, 7.5% copper) is a good option for many kinds of jewelry. It does require polishing as it will tarnish over time. I do not recommend using silver for pieces like engagement rings or wedding bands. Engagement rings are not suited to silver settings because the tarnish under the diamond would dampen its color. Silver would also wear down too much over time and wedding bands need to hold up to a long marriage. That being said, silver is beautiful and offers a great value.
I love high Karat yellow gold. I try to work with 18K or 20K whenever I can. They have a rich old-world look and feel. The color is intense and makes a beautiful contrast to white metals. 14K is the American standard for yellow gold, but the color can look washed out when compared to higher Karats. The European standard is 18K yellow and the standard in Asia and India is 20K or even 22K. The look and feel of the higher Karat is worth the higher cost, in my opinion.
There are many subtle color options available in gold. These are achieved by adding different alloy metals to gold (adding copper creates pink gold.) Much like the preferable nature of a low Karat white gold (more alloy metal, less gold), if you want a rich colored gold, the more alloy (and therefore lower Karat,) the better. Options available are rose, red, peach and green.
I prefer to work with natural, high quality gemstones whenever possible. I have access to wonderful gemstones to match every style and budget. Finding the right stone for your piece of jewelry can be one of the most exciting parts of creating custom work.
There is a lot to consider when choosing a stone beyond its appearance and cost. Traits like durability are important, especially for rings and bracelets that can get knocked around because they are worn on hands. Fragile stones like opals, pearls and emeralds are better suited for pendants and earrings whenever possible. Also consider the frequency of wear - an emerald & pearl cocktail ring to be worn on special occasions is very different than an emerald and pearl engagement ring, which could be worn every day for 50 years... I won't make a piece if I think it will not last. I will help you make sure your stone is a good fit with the kind of piece you want to create so you are satisfied with your piece now as well as years from now.
Stones supplied by clients will be assessed on a case by case basis.