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How easily can precious metals scratch?

In brief, all precious metals are prone to scratching, and you will usually notice scratches on the first day of wearing. Initially, these scratches may appear more prominent as they stand out on a newly polished ring. However, over time, the scratches will blend in and look more natural within the overall appearance of the ring.

Why are precious metals susceptible to scratching?

To answer this question, we can refer to the Mohs scale. It is not that precious metals scratch easily, but rather our hands come into contact with much ‘harder’ materials on a daily basis.
The Mohs scale indicates the hardness of a material. In essence, if two materials are rubbed together, which one would scratch first?

Mohs Hardness Scale

Let's examine Gold and Silver first, which have a Mohs hardness of approximately 2.5. To determine what could cause scratches on our gold and silver, we can consult the scale and think of everyday items we handle. Here are three common examples:

1. Coins: Although cash handling may be less frequent nowadays, coins in the UK are primarily made of Copper, Steel, and Nickel. Since all these elements rank higher than Gold and Silver on the Mohs scale, they would undoubtedly win the battle when it comes to scratching.

most valuable british coins

2. Cutlery: While disposable cutlery made from softer materials is often used on the go, most household cutlery is made from stainless steel. Once again, stainless steel, with a hardness of approximately 4.5 on the Mohs scale, would certainly cause scratches when handling spoons, forks, knives, etc.


3. Door Handles: Another commonly used item is door handles. In the UK, the majority of door handles are made of brass alloy (Copper & Zinc) or stainless steel. Although brass is not depicted on the Mohs scale, it falls in the region of approximately 3. Consequently, door handles would, without a doubt, lead to scratches on your gold and silver rings.

modern door handle

What about Platinum and Palladium? I was told they are the hardest precious metals.

Indeed, the Platinum family of alloys does rank higher on the Mohs scale and are more resistant to scratches. However, they still have a lower hardness level (approximately 4) compared to Nickel, Steel, and glass.
One crucial factor to consider is the contact between different precious metals. If you were to wear a Platinum ring next to a Gold ring, you would find that the gold ring scratches much more quickly as they rub against each other. Even shaking hands with someone wearing a platinum ring could cause additional scratches if your ring is made of a softer metal such as Gold or Silver.

In summary, unless you plan to permanently wear a pair of gloves, everyday items are likely to cause scratches on your ring. However, this is the beauty of jewellery. Each ring becomes more unique to you over time, as scratches are not a sign of damage but a natural part of wear and tear. If you wish to restore some of the polished finish to your ring, a local jeweller can use a fine polishing technique to reduce the visible surface scratches

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