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: "Hard and soft" metals


I’ve been a goldsmith for close to 30 years now, and one of my pet
peeves, is the useage of hard and soft to describe metal. To call
24k “very very soft” and to suggest 14k or 10k as being hard, is
"very very" misleading. Speaking form a gemological background,
hardness is the abilitiy to withstand a scratch and not if it is
stiff or bendable. A softer material will scratch more readily than
a harder material. Gold, platinum, silver, copper, nickel,
stainless steel, these metals all scratch. A large amount of the
dust in the air is Quartz. The hardness of Quartz is 7.25, harder
than the metals listed above. Quartz will act like sandpaper on
metal. To call 24k"very very soft" leads one to assume that it will
not ware as well the “hard” 14k, the truth of the matter is the 24k
will out last 14k many times over.

Metals like Gold (10.179) and Platinum (11.301) are very dense and
because of this density will ware very well. They are also very
Malleable. To make them less malleable or bendable other metals
are added, Silver (5.527), copper (4.721) for example. It’s my
understanding that we alloy metal too:

  1. stiffen the metal so it will hold it’s shape better.
  2. It is easier to finish and polish.
  3. To keep the price down.

The more alloy that is added to a metal, like gold, the less dense it
becomes, the sooner it will ware out.

It’s My wish that goldsmiths or metalsmiths not get sucked into the
trap of describing metal as hard or soft, and work on educating
their customers to the beauty of high karat metal. Tom @ Element 79