Nothing glitters quite like gold. This precious metal has a hallowed place in our hearts and a revered place in societies all around the world. But did you know there are many different kinds of gold? Read on and get to know them all.
Pure gold, sometimes called 24-karat gold, is a 100% gold metal. It is known for its rich yellow color and fragile nature. Throughout history, jewelers have used pure gold for royal jewelry. However, its fragility means it’s not practical for modern consumers. You can bend pure gold out of shape with your fingers or even scratch it with a fingernail. Today, pure gold tends to be reserved for plating or making into gold decorative sheets, called gold leaf. These sheets are often used to create show-stopping desserts or indulgent alcoholic drinks.
Yellow gold alloys look a lot like gold but are made from mixing pure gold with silver and zinc. This helps a yellow gold alloy maintain a golden color but makes it stronger when set.
Jewelry made from yellow gold alloys is more durable. They resist scratching and won’t be bent out of shape as easily as jewelry made from pure gold, so they can be worn every day. This makes yellow gold alloy ideal for wedding and engagement rings, watches, and timeless jewelry that can be passed down through the generations. Since jewelry made from a yellow gold alloy isn’t made from 100% gold, it is also more affordable. However, it does not look quite as shiny as pure gold.
Yellow gold alloys are ranked by the karat system, which denotes the ratio of pure gold to other metals. The most common yellow gold alloy in the United States is 14-karat gold. As pure gold is 24-karat gold, you can calculate that 14-karat gold is roughly 58% pure gold and 42% other metals. Yellow gold alloys with a higher karat rating have more gold and are thus more expensive, more fragile, and more brilliant looking. Yellow gold alloys with a lower karat rating have less gold and are, therefore, more affordable and more durable, with a more muted color.
Jewelers stamp or engrave the karate rating onto every piece of yellow gold alloy jewelry. This information is part of the jewelry’s hallmark or quality mark.
Colored gold alloys are similar to yellow gold alloys. However, pure gold is mixed with other metals, rather than silver and zinc. These different metals influence the final color of colored gold alloys.
White gold and rose gold are the most common colored gold alloys. White gold has a pale silvery appearance, similar to platinum or sterling silver. It is created from pure gold and white metal, such as nickel, palladium, platinum, or manganese. Copper, zinc, or silver may also be added to white gold. Blending pure gold with copper creates rose gold, a colored gold alloy with a distinct rosy pink hue. Green gold is less common, but it can also be created by combining pure gold with copper, silver, and zinc.
Like yellow gold alloys, colored gold alloys are ranked using the karat system. Looking for the hallmark on a piece of jewelry made from colored gold alloy tells you what percentage of pure gold it contains.
A variety of different gold layering techniques give jewelry lovers the look of gold without the gold price tags. Gold layering techniques use yellow or colored gold alloys, rather than pure gold, for their low cost and resistance to bending and surface scratches.
Gold-filled jewelry is typically made from jewelers’ brass, a blend of copper and zinc, covered in two or three layers of a gold alloy. Heat and pressure make the gold alloy layers stick to the jewelers’ brass. You can get single-clad gold-filled jewelry, with the gold finish on the side that shows out, and double-clad gold-filled jewelry which has an all-over gold finish. Most gold-filled jewelry uses 12- or 14-karat gold. By weight, it typically has 5% gold alloy. All this information must be shown on the hallmark.
Rolled gold has thin sheets of gold alloy fixed to a brass core. This gold layering technique is common in watchmaking. The method is similar to gold filling, but as it only needs half the gold alloy by weight, it usually has much lower gold content.
Gold-plated jewelry, sometimes called gold-dipped jewelry, has less gold than either gold-filled or rolled gold jewelry. It’s made by applying gold alloy to brass or another base metal. Gold-plated jewelry usually has one-tenth of the gold alloy by weight that gold-filled jewelry has. Its affordability makes it popular, but the gold alloy coating is likely to wear off over time.
Electroplating is a modern gold-layering technique that uses electrical currents to charge the base metal. It is then submerged into a solution of positively charged ions, which become attracted to the base metal’s negative charge. When they attach to the base metal, a gold layer is formed. Electroplating creates gold-layered jewelry fast for relatively little cost. The technique also creates a very durable gold alloy layer.
Vermeil jewelry features a layer of gold alloy applied over a sterling silver base. By U.S. law, vermeil must contain at least two microns of gold alloy, so its gold layer tends to be thicker and stronger than most gold layers. Only gold-filled jewelry has a higher gold content. As vermeil jewelry is entirely made from precious metals, it is also very durable. However, the price reflects its premium materials. While vermeil jewelry is not as expensive as jewelry made entirely from gold alloy, it is usually more expensive than jewelry made with other gold-layering techniques. Now that you know all about the different kinds of gold, don’t you think it’s time you got some of your very own? Visit Hustedt Jewelers in Bloomington or Gibson City for gold jewelry and watches. We use a variety of different golds to suit all tastes and budgets.
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