The History of Gold, Sterling Silver, and Steel in Jewelry: This Is Why These Metals are Ideal for Cremation Jewelry

The centerpiece of memorial jewelry is the memorial diamond, the sparkling and precious jewel made from the ashes of the deceased. All of the other jewels, crystals, and decorations serve to emphasize the beauty and significance of that central diamond.

It is those other elements of the cremation jewelry that turn the cremation earring, cremation ring, or cremation necklace into a unique and personalized piece of jewelry appropriate for displaying the unique and personalized cremation diamond.

One of the most important elements you select for your commemoratory jewelry is the type of metal out of which is crafted. Each metal has its own unique properties and history that make it a popular choice for use in jewelry. Understanding each type can help you to make an informed decision regarding which will best work with your jewelry.

To help you as you make your choice, here is a brief look at the histories of three of the most popular types of metal used in cremation jewelry: Gold, sterling silver, and steel.

Gold’s beauty has made it a treasure throughout many cultures over many centuries. Its beauty is also one of the reasons that it has been and remains today one of the most popular metals for jewelry.

The presence of gold in human culture can be traced back to 40,000 B.C., thanks to gold flakes identified in Paleolithic caves. Since then, this gorgeous, soft metal has been prized in almost every culture because of its rarity and beauty.

Over the years, gold has enjoyed a variety of uses, from use as a decoration on the Pyramids of Giza to use in religious ceremonies, to use as currency. The first signs that gold was used in jewelry appear in 4,000 B.C. when gold jewelry first appeared in Eastern Europe. Similarly, gold jewelry appears for the first time in Iraq in 3000 B.C.  

From that point on, gold was used in many different cultures over thousands of years as a beautiful and prized addition to jewelry. Two time periods known especially for their gold jewelry were the Georgian and Victorian eras, when the gold was intricately designed and set with an array of jewels.

Over time, several different types of gold were created for use in jewelry. Alloys became a common addition in order to strengthen the otherwise soft gold and keep the jewelry from deforming over time. For example, the ancient Russians created rose gold, which used an alloy of 25 percent copper that gave the gold a rose tint. White gold was created by combining gold with white metals like palladium or nickel. Even yellow gold contains alloys such as copper.

Today, the ratio of gold to alloys is discussed in karats. Pure gold is 24 karats, while gold mixed with 6 parts alloy is 18 karats, and gold mixed with 10 parts alloy is 14 karats. When selecting gold for jewelry remembering the deceased, you decide what color and what purity will work best for both your jewelry and your budget.

Sterling silver metal arose out of a need to strengthen pure silver. It has served throughout history as a beautiful and affordable alternative to gold.  

Silver has been known to man since at least 4,000 B.C.Its beautiful finish has made it a prized possession throughout the intervening 6,000 years or so. Silver was more rare than the very common bronze or copper, but less rare than gold. As a result, it served as an ideal metal for jewelry. In addition, silver has other properties (such as conductivity, malleability, and reflectivity), which made it perfect for a wide range of uses over time.

Eventually, the one downside of silver (that it is very soft and prone to deforming) was counteracted by mixing the silver with various alloys. The most successful alloy turned out to be 7.5 percent copper. The resulting silver is sterling silver, also known as 925 silver.

Around 1300, King Edward I standardized sterling silver as silver that contained this ratio of 7.5 percent copper and 92.5 percent pure silver. This type of metal earned its name because the British typically printed an image of a star (referred to as a starling) on their silver currency. Over time, “starling” became “sterling,” and the name has stuck to modern times.

Sterling silver has been preferred as a metal for jewelry and fine dining ware for many years because of its beauty, durability, and lower cost. Today, it is one of the top metals used in jewelry and can be used to create a gorgeous look for your cremation jewelry without the price tag that sometimes accompanies gold.

How to choose cremation jewelry?

The use of steel in cremation jewelry is a more recent development, with steel’s affordability, strength, and durability lending it favor among consumers.

Before the invention of stainless steel, regular steel (a type of alloyed iron) was used in the 1700s in France in what was called cut-steel jewelry. These items consisted of intricate steel designs containing upwards of 15 sparkling facets. These beautiful and ornate pieces were popular until the commercialization of the process led to lower quality pieces.  

However, regular steel (and pure iron) tended to rust. In the early 1900s, stainless steel was invented to correct this problem. This combination of chromium, carbon, and iron was originally created for industrial purposes, such as in the creation of appliances, car parts, and railway parts.

However, in more recent years, stainless steel has enjoyed a new role as jewelry metal. Originally, the use of steel in jewelry was limited to its presence in wristwatches. However, by the 1980s, stainless steel had begun to show up in other pieces of jewelry, such as bracelets and earrings.

Today, stainless steel is gaining popularity because of its industrial look which is preferred by many modern jewelry consumers. In addition, the fact that stainless steel does not cause allergic reactions in people like other metals can, make it a preferred metallic choice for many pieces of cremation jewelry.

When creating a piece of funeral jewelry to showcase the gem you had made out of your loved one’s cremains, a good place to start is with the metal you will use in it. By understanding the history of the most common metals, you can make an informed choice that accurately reflects your personality, preferences, and budget. And that can mean coming away with a piece of remembrance jewelry that will be meaningful to you for the long term as you keep the memory of your loved one close.

Cremation jewelry



Our consultants understand the emotional weight of making this important decision. To guide you through the process and help you create your never ending bond, please talk to us.
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