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Alloying elements are elements that are used to improve characteristics of an alloy. In jewellery industry they are used to:
Change a colour of an alloy (e.g. white gold, mango gold): Increase the hardness, which helps to prolong the life of a jewellery piece.
Facilitate the process of creating jewellery by increasing/decreasing the temperature of melting of an alloy, improving casting properties (allows to fill in a form easily), improving pliability (if making hand-made jewellery allows to process metals easily). Alloying elements that are used are mainly metals. If only precious metals are used, then such an alloy is called noble.
Further I will give examples of alloying elements that are common in jewellery industry and some of their characteristics. However, one should understand that depending on the metal-base these characteristics could vary.
Copper. It changes the colour of gold to red or reddish (depending on the amount) and increases its hardness. On the other side, it can reduce anticorrosion characteristics of the gold.
Zink. It can give a greennish tint. It lowers melting T and makes an alloys more fluid. However, adding a high percentage of Zink will make an alloy fragile.
Silver. Lowers melting T, makes an alloys more pliable.
Platinum. Can help increase anticorrosion properties, makes an alloy «white».
Palladium. Increase melting T, makes an alloy «white».
Nickel. Improves the hardness of an alloy. However, it CASES ALLERGIES, that is why its forbidden in Europe to add nickel to jewellery alloys, though in Russia nobody cares.