What Role Does Copper Play in Determining the Value of Precious Metals?

Copper is a metal with many wonderful and useful properties. It is soft and malleable. It is also a “friendly” metal that can be blended with many other metals to form alloys.

What precious metals are most often mixed with copper? And when they are, how does that affect their value? Let’s explore that topic.

Rule to remember: Copper Reduces the Value of Whatever Precious Metal It Is Mixed With

Copper is not a precious metal. It’s not even an especially valuable one. It sells for only about $2.60 per pound! So it stands to reason that when it is mixed with a precious metal like gold (which is trading for nearly $1,300 per troy ounce today) to create an alloy like 18k or 14k gold, the resultant alloy is immediately lower in value than pure, 24k gold.

Even when copper is alloyed with silver (also a precious metal, but trading for only about $16.00 per troy ounce), the value of the silver is reduced.

What Are the Most Common Alloys of Copper and Precious Metals?

  • Gold - When copper is mixed with gold, the results can be white, yellow, rose, or pink golds. Why can all those different colors result when copper and gold are mixed? Because other metals, like silver or zinc could be part of the mix too, allowing for a range of different colors.
  • Silver - There are many reasons why copper and silver are blended together. One is to create a variety of sterling silver, widely used in tableware and decorative items. (Sterling is usually about 92% pure silver, with the remainder being made up of other metals.) In the past, copper was also blended with silver to create alloys that were used to make dimes and other coins. And then we get to less valuable copper/silver blends, including brazing alloys, that are used in silver soldering and industrial applications.
  • Platinum - It might surprise you to know that copper can be mixed with platinum because chances are you have never, or only rarely, seen that alloy. Why isn’t it popular? After all, you would logically think that a copper/platinum alloy would have a nice gold-like color and be malleable. (Copper, which is soft, generally produces alloys that are easy to form.) The problem, as metallurgists will tell you, is that alloys of copper and platinum have a permeable physical structure that is unstable, making them unsuitable for use in jewelry. What you will find, however, are some inexpensive rings and other items of jewelry that are made of copper that has been plated with thin layers of platinum. 

How Is Copper Affecting the Value of the Gold and Silver that You Own?

To know, you must have your items tested and evaluated by a qualified precious metals testing lab, like ours at Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners. Call us at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

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