5 Facts About Your Gold Jewelry
1. Gold is a Super Soft
Gold is a very soft metal, so much so that it can be molded in your hands. In order to make gold jewelry more durable, gold is mixed with different alloys like copper, nickel, silver, and zinc. The color of the gold piece your wearing is entirely dependent upon the type of alloys used and the exact percentages of each alloy. Many companies keep their formulas secret and even patent the different combinations of metals used. Gold has been fashioned in shades of rose, green, black, purple, blue, yellow, and silver. Pure gold is a very bright yellow color.
2. People Eat Gold
The chemical symbol for gold is Au which comes from the Latin word “aurum” meaning “rising dawn.” The word gold comes from an Old English word “geolu” meaning yellow.
Roughly 78% of all gold is used in jewelry, with 12% used in other applications, and 10% used in monetary transactions. Since gold is edible, some even eat and drink gold, incorporating the precious metal into coffee, tea, fruits, and even in liquor like Goldschlager.
3. Gold is Old and Not Magnetic
Gold and copper were the first metals ever discovered around 5000 BC and are the only two metals that are not white/grey in color. Gold as well as the alloys used in gold production are non-ferrous metals meaning they do not have any iron in them and therefore are not magnetic. A quick and easy way to test piles of gold jewelry is to pass over the top with a good quality magnet. Any jewelry that sticks to the magnet is definitely not gold.
4. Pure Gold Does Not Tarnish; Gold Jewelry Does Tarnish
Solid gold jewelry does tarnish. However, pure 24K gold is not susceptible to tarnishing. The other alloys like copper and silver used solid gold jewelry cause the tarnishing. The higher karat the gold is, the less noticeable the tarnish will appear over time.
This explains why a lot of antique gold jewelry from the Victorian era has a dark rosy tone to it. The lower karat jewelry of this time period used a lot of copper which creates a beautiful patina that cannot be replicated. Regular jewelry care and cleaning will keep your modern yellow gold jewelry looking new indefinitely.
5. White Gold is Actually Yellow, Sometimes
White gold was invented in the early 1910s as a substitute for platinum. There is a notable variance in the color of lower quality white gold ranging from light brown, pale pink, to greyish yellow. Because of this, most if not all of the white gold jewelry nowadays is plated with a rhodium coating. This coating is not permanent, and after a few months of wear, your white gold ring can start to look yellow or off color. For white gold jewelry that is not rhodium plated and white looking naturally, look to jewelry from the 1920s through the 1940s. The alloy formulas used then were much better quality and more consistent than those used today because they consisted of palladium. Nickel is a cheaper alternative to palladium which is why a lot of white gold is made with nickel today. However, despite the higher price tag of palladium, some companies in the jewelry industry seems to be turning away from using nickel and going back to the older palladium formulas due to the better color, and also because nearly 20% of women have a nickel allergy. Be sure to find a white gold formula that does not use nickel if you have a nickel allergy.
Basic Guide to Understanding Gold Marks | Is Your Jewelry Really Gold?
Gold is considered to be a precious metal expressed as 24 karats in its purest form. However, this substance is generally too soft to be used for manufacturing without mixing it with other metals. When metals are combined, they are referenced as alloys. Thus, most gold falls into the alloy category with differing grades as indicated below.
Gold alloys have commonly been used in jewelry crafting, but a host of other antique and collectible luxury goods can be found fashioned of this substance ranging from powder compacts to writing pens to eyeglass frames.
There are many different terms used to describe various gold colored metals. Some of them have very little gold content, so it’s important to understand these terms when investing in objects you believe to be karat (or carat as marked on British pieces) gold.
Here are some of the most common types of gold alloys containing at least 37.5 percent pure gold, along with explanations of the terms “gold filled”, “gold plated” and “rolled gold,” and information on the many different ways they can be marked:
22K or 916 – Items made of 22 karat gold are still relatively soft since this alloy is 91.66 percent gold and 8.34 percent other metal. Rings are rarely made of 22K gold, but necklaces and earrings can sometimes be found marked 22K or 916.
18K or 750 – The gold content in an item made of 18 karat gold decreases to 75 percent while the number of other metal increases to 25 percent. The added hardness of this alloy makes it suitable for use in a wider range of jewelry, including some finger rings.
15K or 625 – In 15 karat gold, the gold content goes down further to 62.5 percent and the other metal content rises to 37.5 percent. This marking is not common and only occasionally found on antiques and collectibles.
14K or 585 – This is the most commonly found mark on diamond and gemstone jewelry and decorative accessories. It is made of 58.33 percent gold and 41.67 percent other metal. Using 14 karat gold for the manufacture of finger rings and other decorative items offers a moderately high gold content while providing durability required for everyday use.
12K – Often used as the gold outer layer in gold filled jewelry (see below), this alloy is comprised of 50 percent gold and 50 percent other metal. Items marked 12K alone without a gold filled notation are rarely found.
10K – This highly durable alloy contains 41.67 percent gold and other metal weighing in at 58.33 percent. Weighty items that would be cost-prohibitive otherwise, such as class rings, are often made of 10K gold.
9K or 375 – Often found on souvenir jewelry with an Irish origin marked 9 ct (the British abbreviation for carat), this “gold” has only 37.5 percent gold and 62.5 percent other metal. Most jewelers do not consider this to be true gold and more akin to costume jewelry.
Gold Filled or 1/20 12K G.F. – Many times gold filled jewelry will be marked G.F. or 1/20 12K G.F. This denotes that 1/20th of the total weight of the item is 12 karat gold. It is made by applying a thin layer of gold to base metal using pressure and heat.
Rolled Gold – Sometimes marked R.G.P. for Rolled Gold Plate, this type of plating generally has a gold weight amounting to 1/40th of the total making the layer of gold thinner than that found in gold filled jewelry. Rolled gold generally dates prior to 1900 and is primarily identified by style when a mark is not present.
Gold Facts / Information
Pure gold (yellow) fine gold or solid gold is referred to as 24kt (karat) by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Even gold panned from rivers or gold nuggets from Alaska are 22-23kt, further refining to remove trace silver and copper makes it 24kt pure gold.
Most jewelry is 14kt yellow gold because it is hard enough to work within jewelry making and wearing. A piece of 24kt gold is gorgeous but too “soft” for jewelry; only the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Peru used this form of gold in “gold sheet”, “gold flake”, and “gold foil” to cover the metal and wood objects so that a piece of art may appear to be solid gold. The lower the kt value, the less fine gold in the piece of jewelry. It is kind of like a cake mix; you take 24kt and add alloys like silver, brass, zinc, and copper to reduce the karat weight to the level needed. And certain “alloys” can color the final mix; like red gold (rose) or even blue gold (cobalt alloys). White gold is an alloy of natural yellow gold in which appropriate amounts of silver, palladium, and nickel; for example, 18kt white gold is 75% yellow gold 24kt and 25% nickel/silver/palladium. All new white gold jewelry is coated with another white metal called rhodium; which is more expensive than platinum. A rhodium plated white gold ring will wear out eventually, and the piece of jewelry will need to be re-rhodium plated sometimes every year. The only way to have a really white piece of jewelry is to have it made in platinum, which will be white forever. Here is the breakdown on gold content in certain kt items.
|Kt||% Fine Gold|
A “Plumb” gold stamp; common in England like 14kp, just means no soldering on the ring will be less than 14kt, and the total weight 14/24 must be 14kt. Now there is a host of other “gold” terminology that needs to be explained. Gold filled, the gold overlay is an article of at least 10k and up to 24kt mechanically applied to a base metal like lead, brass, or silver. This layer must be at least 1/20 of the total metal weight; so if it says 1/20 14kt G.F. means 1/20 total weight of this item is 14kt gold. So a 20 gram pendant must have 1 gram of 14kt gold. When the term electroplating is used this means electronically and a chemically applied layer of gold to a base metal object in every thin fashion. The thickness of gold from (10kt to 24kt) is measured in millionths of an inch. A typical mark would be 14kt G.E. or G.P., and if you have 100 millionths heavy gold electroplate (H.G.E.) such as 10k H.G.E. Now Vermeil seen on many T.V. channels is usually gold electroplating on silver, beware many of these mixtures cannot be ring sized easily or cheaply. The terminology liquid gold, gold wash, or flash is a solution of chemicals, sometimes up to 12% real gold, is painted on then baked at 1000 degrees; kind of like fired in a kiln, enameling. Finally, rolled gold or rolled gold plate has a lower quality gold less than 1/20 total weight. So as a consumer you need to make sure you understand exactly what kind of metal you are thinking about purchasing. Beware especially of “Silver” looking jewelry that may actually be brass with a “White Silver” paint that quickly discolors and wears off to reveal an ugly metal that cannot be fixed.
Gold Ring Symbolism
The gold ring has always been a token of affection that has many meanings, a love token of value. The circle of the rings represents union and unity because there are no ends that diverge togetherness forever. The circle can also represent eternity because it has no stopping point. Western religions; love, eternity, and union characterize marriage, and all comes together symbolically in a gold ring. The bride and groom wear these rings on the third finger of the left hand because in older times it was thought that a vein in the left hand ran from this finger directly to the heart. A ring today still has this ancient symbolism as well as numerous “individual” unique variations from “pure” platinum to combination birthstones, diamonds, and matching bands for couples in the 21st century. Whatever it is the gold ring will always be a symbol of marriage or union.