THE DURABILITY AND HARDNESS OF METALS
GOLD, PLATINUM, SILVER AND METALS MOH'S SCALE OF HARDNESS
This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks! As an Amazon Associate I also earn from qualifying purchases.
The Hardness of Metals used for Jewelry varies quite a bit.
You’ll notice this when you look at your rings and see scratches. The ability to scratch an item depends on how durable or hard the item is.
The harder the item, the less it will scratch!
The fact is; most Metals are fairly soft and can be scratched or dented easily. Anything that comes in contact with Jewelry that is harder than the Jewelry has the potential to scratch it.
The Moh’s Scale of Hardness
The Moh’s Scale of Hardness ranks minerals, materials, metals and Gemstones on a scale of 1-10. 10 being the best and the most durable… Diamond is a 10.
Gold and Silver on the other hand are only a 2.5 – 3 on the Moh’s Scale. They are fairly easy to work with (Jewelers love it) because they are so malleable. But, this also makes them bend, wear down and break easily. Not good! Especially since it’s holding in your Diamonds and Gems.
This is why most Jewelry found on the market is mixed with other Alloys that help strengthen the Metal.
14k Gold is 14 parts Gold and 10 parts Alloy. 10k Gold is 10 parts Gold and 14 parts Alloy. Even Platinum isn’t exactly pure. It’s 99.5% pure…
Base Metals and Alloys
Base Metals are a mix of various Metals that are used for Alloys. They are usually made up of small percentages of Metals like Nickel, Silver, Copper and Zinc.
Almost all Metals used in Jewelry are mixed with some Alloys to make them stronger and easier to work with.
Some Metals, like White Gold, are then Rhodium Plated (Durable White Metal) that makes it even more durable and whiter at the same time.
Take a look below and see the various metals like Platinum, Palladium, Titanium, Tungsten, Brass, Steel, Copper, Gold and Silver to see how they stack up to each other in terms of hardness.
Keep in mind, this chart shows how strong the Metals are in their Pure State… Which means, when they are mixed with stronger Alloys, they will actually be much more durable. (Tungsten Carbide is already mixed)
The Metals Scale of Hardness
- Lead – 1.5
- Tin – 1.5
- Zinc – 2.5
- Gold – 2.5 – 3
- Silver – 2.5 – 3
- Aluminum – 2.5 – 3
- Copper – 3
- Brass – 3
- Bronze – 3
- Nickel – 4
- Platinum – 4 – 4.5
- Steel – 4 – 4.5
- Iron – 4.5
- Palladium – 4.75
- Rhodium – 6
- Titanium – 6
- Hardened Steel – 7 – 8
- Tungsten – 7.5
- Tungsten Carbide – 8.5 – 9
Metal Hardness is usually defined by the Rockwell Hardness Test. But when we are dealing with Jewelry, most people are more familiar with the Moh’s Scale.
Top 5 Durable Metals
From the list, you can see that the Top 5 Durable Metals used for Jewelry are:
- Platinum 4 – 4.5
- Titanium 6
- Hardened Steel 7 – 8
- Tungsten 7.5
- Tungsten Carbide 8.5 – 9
Platinum is hard (twice as hard as Gold), but there are 4 other Metals that are harder!
The harder the Metal, the longer it will last.
Do note that these harder Metals also have a tendency to be more expensive (like Platinum). Plus, when the Metal gets really hard, it makes it tougher for the Jeweler to work on it. Even a simple polishing can take hours. Some Metals, like Tungsten and Tungsten Carbide can’t even be repaired or sized. They have to be ordered in the correct size.
Think about that the next time you decide to lose some weight… (or gain some). It could be costly!
So you see, Durability is a great thing, but it does have some set backs!
James Allen is a leader in diamonds. Their real time interactive diamond inspection is the best in the industry. View and rotate any diamond under 20x magnification. Their prices, selection, lifetime warranty, 24/7 customer support and hassle free returns are unbeatable. Visit James Allen today.
Blue Nile is the largest and most well known respected diamond dealer online. They are highly trusted, have a huge inventory, and low low prices (compare anywhere and see for yourself). If you want to save money, or build your own ring, this is the place to shop. Visit Blue Nile today.
When buying a ring would you suggest white gold filled or platinum or rhodium plating?
Hi Chara. I would recommend rhodium plating. It’s durable, white and is easy to have done anywhere when it starts to wear off. :) -Richard
Why is platinum more durable than rhodium, palladium, iron and steel although they are harder than platinum?
Is there a separate way to measure durability that isn’t based on the hardness of a metal?
Hi Kamal, their density is measured by their hardness and the way they are able to scratch each other. A more accurate test is the Rockwell Test, which I posted about before! Hope this helps. :)
I bought a 24inch 7mm thick stainless steel curb chain. It seems to be good quality, and it has a lobster clasp. It cost $75 but I got it on sale for about $30. How long do you think it’ll last with regular every-day wear? I really just want a durable chain, which is why I bought a steel one.
As long as the chain isn’t hollow, then it should last a long time. This all depends of course, on how thick each link is, but steel will wear better than gold, and is ideal for every day use. :)
If I wear a white gold ring next to a pewter ring, will the pewter scratch the gold?
Hi Stef. It possibly could. Pewter is often around 2-3 hardness as well, similar to Gold, which means that one or the other could scratch one, depending on the actual mix used. I would probably wear them apart. :) -Richard
Is sterling silver stronger then 8k gold?
Hi Josh. I’m not exactly sure, since I’ve never dealt with 8k Gold. But I would imagine that the silver would be softer, since 8k Gold would contain more alloys in the mix. That in turn would make it more durable. -Richard
Hello, I have a Sterling ring that was easily scratched by my car key, would you think it is just Sterling and not Rhodium plated?
Hi Emily. Sterling Silver is a very soft metal. One of the softest. So pretty much any other metal item that is more durable than Silver will easily scratch it. -Richard
What about silver that is heated or hammered or flexed
Also gold that goes through the same processes?
And other metals
I have a platinum diamond ring with (I was told 10%) strengthening metal in the platinum. The metal of the ring seems dark to me and rather flat. Is this to be expected? Not as bright as sterling? Thanks
I have a silver engagement ring and I want a wedding ring to match (colour wise) could I wear white gold or would one wear against the other?
Hi Bethan, you could, but the metals would probably not match. As one ring would oxidize (ss), and the other the plating would wear off (wg). It’s usually wise to put silver with silver (as they are both the same hardness), and will both wear the same way. You can always get your set duplicated in white gold, which I would advise. It will cost more, but a good jeweler can remake any ring in any metal. That may be the best route to go. -Richard
I have had my wedding ring for 9 years. I recently had it rhodium plated and within 5 weeks its scratched and worn again. Can I plate it with something harder? I have no intention of resizing
Hi Selena. There is nothing harder to plate gold with. But you could possibly have a jeweler buff out that scratch, and your ring will look fine without replating it. Only when the damage gets too deep, too noticeable, or starts to turn yellow, would I have it done again. :) -Richard
I wearing cooper ring and 18k gold ring in same finger. I have found some scratch on gold ring. If I using regular basis, is it loss gold quantity? Look forward for your suggestions.