Precious Metals Used in Jewellery

Traditionally, precious metals have been used in jewellery making for thousands of years – at least 8,000 in fact! Ancient eastern civilisations first began using precious metals in jewellery and decoration as far back as around 6000 BCE, with the choice of metals used dependent on what could be found locally, or sourced along trade routes. In Egypt gold was the metal of choice, whilst in China silver was more desirable. Over the millennia, we've added platinum, palladium and rhodium to the list too, with trends changing along the way according to fashion and availability. This week we take a look at the precious metals used in jewellery traditionally and today, across different cultures and changing trends.

Ancient Egyptian Gold Headband, c1600BCE

Ancient Egyptian electrum gold (naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver) headband from around 1600BCE, possibly part of a dowry for an Egyptian princess.


The word metal comes from the Latin metallum and Greek metallon, meaning loosely "To seek for" and probably more directly "to mine" or "quarry", so metal can be said to be something looked for in a mine. A precious metal is one that occurs naturally, is relatively rare, and therefore considered to be desirable and of high economic value.


Gold Bullion Bar and Gold Rings

Gold was probably the first of the precious metals to be used in jewellery, and it's easy to see why. Gold never tarnishes so it would glimmer like the sun, with seemingly mystical properties to ancient civilisations. Ancient Egyptians believed gold was the flesh of the gods and it was n