Man adjusting cufflinks

Men's Jewelry Materials Guide

Jewelry shopping can sometimes feel overwhelming when there are lots of options to choose from. To make it less intimidating, we’ve put together a guide of some of the most common materials we use at Trafalgar. Keep reading to learn how pure each material is, what it's actually made out of, how durable it is, and more.



One of the most common and well-known materials, gold is valued not only because of it’s monetary value, but it’s also easy to work with and mold into designs. Because it’s so soft and malleable, it’s usually combined with other materials such as copper, silver, or zinc to make the jewelry stronger and more durable.

This is why gold is measured in karats. The higher the karat, the closer to 100% gold, with 24 karats being pure gold. Higher karats are also more expensive.

24 karats is 100% gold
22 karats is 92% 
18 karats is 75%
14 karats is 58% 
10 karats is 41%

10 karats is the lowest concentration that can legally be called gold. Higher concentrations of gold are more shiny and polished, but they are also more likely to get scratched. 


Sterling Silver

100% silver is rarely used to make jewelry anymore because it’s extremely soft, which makes it hard to shape and also easy to scratch. Sterling silver is used as a replacement which includes 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals (most commonly copper). Sterling silver is much more durable and will last longer. 



Brass is an alloy made up of half copper and half zinc. It has a warm, golden tone that looks similar to gold but is much less expensive. It’s also corrosion and rust-resistant which makes for very durable jewelry that can last a very long time. This affordable material is just as trendy as gold and silver without the price tag.


What is Plating? 

Many pieces of brass jewelry will go through a process called plating. Plating is when metal or silver-based jewelry is coated in another material. This way the jewelry is still strong and durable but features a more expensive metal as the top layer. Plating keeps a product more affordable while looking just as beautiful as solid gold or silver jewelry. Gold and sterling silver are often used as top materials for plating, but so is rhodium.



Rhodium is considered one of the most valuable metals in the world, even more than gold and silver! This material is very rare which makes it scarce, and the price often fluctuates due to supply and demand. 

While it’s too brittle to make solid jewelry out of, this silver-white material is very hard which makes it a durable surface that resists scratches: excellent for plating. It’s white reflective appearance makes it a beautiful finishing touch on jewelry that will not scratch or tarnish while retaining it’s luster.



Onyx is a gemstone that can be found in various colors. Black layers are the most common, but they can also be found in white, red, and brown variations. This material is a ranked a 7 out 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, meaning it is somewhat hard and can resist chipping pretty well, but is not as durable as other materials. 


Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl is the name for the nacre that coats a pearl. It’s a mixture of minerals secreted by oysters that actually form the gem. Most oysters create nacre, but it is less likely they will create a true pearl. This makes pearl much more valuable than mother of pearl. 

While not as expensive, this organic material has a distinct beauty and multi-color surface that makes them perfect for jewelry items such as cufflinks. It’s hardness is only a 3.5 out of 10 on the Moh’s hardness scale, meaning it’s pretty soft compared to other gemstones and metals. This makes it easy to design and cut into shapes but can be easily scratched.


Now that you have a basic understanding of all the different types of materials we use at Trafalgar to make fine jewelry, shop our collection!
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