Gold has been around forever.
Remember the “golden calf” in Exodus?
Even Noah had gold on the arc.
Kings and royalty alike have used gold as adornment, sculptures and money for centuries.
King Tut was covered with it, buried with it, and even cursed with it!
Gold is everywhere.
Gold is used in coins (90% gold, 10% copper), dental work (bridges and fillings), embroidery (yarns and threads), gold flakes are even added into our food and drinks (yum). The Olympics give winners gold medals (no one knows better than our own Michael Phelps with 23 gold trophies).
Gold has even traveled to the moon.
(Apollo II landing) Now that’s traveling in style.
Why is gold such a hot commodity?
Could it be that gold is the only metal that won’t tarnish, corrode or rust? Could it be that gold is so malleable, a single ounce of gold could stretch for 5 miles? Or that gold can be made into paper thin sheets so tenuous that light can pass through it?
When you stop and think about it, gold really is the metal of all metals. Jewelers love it because it’s so easy to work with. People love it because of its richness, shine and luster.
But gold is soft:
The truth is, gold is not all that it’s cracked up to be. You see, gold is soft. Very soft. Too soft, in fact, to actually be used in jewelry. On the Mohs scale of hardness, gold is only a 2-3 (diamond is a 10). If you set diamonds or gemstones into a pure gold mounting, you would end up losing your stones.
So along come the alloys:
Alloys are other metals and minerals that are added to pure gold to make it durable enough to wear as jewelry.
So what’s the most popular gold on the market?
What are gold’s alloy contents?
The most popular gold on the market is 14kt gold (was there really any question?)
What that means, is that 14 parts are gold, and 10 parts are other alloys mixed with it. 14kt gold is a good combination of both durability and luster.
Alloys change gold color:
The amount and percentages of other alloys can do interesting things to gold. Pure gold (which is 24kt, is measured in troy standards from 1-24. One troy ounce equals 31.1033 grams), is bright yellow-orange in color (think gold bullions). It’s almost like the color of a beautiful golden sunset.
Adding alloys to gold can turn gold different colors. Colors like: yellow, red, rose (more copper added), pink, white (zinc added), gray, light green, green, deep green, blue-white, and even purple.
How cool! Most people can see the presence of different gold colors in jewelry today. Rose gold looks like strawberries. Black Hills gold contains yellow gold, white, green, and pink gold. Two-tone varieties of gold are everywhere and people love it.
Now in order for gold to be called gold in the U.S. the gold content must be at least 10 parts gold or 10kt gold. Anything less than that is not considered gold.
So let’s look at the contents that make up gold and gold karats.
- 24k gold is 99.9% pure gold
- 22k gold is 91.6% gold
- 20k gold is 83.3% gold
- 18k gold is 75% gold
- 14k gold is 58.5% gold
- 10k gold is 41.7% gold
A lot of times you’ll see stamps on jewelry that tell you the amount of gold content in that piece. It it’s stamped .999, it means it’s 24k pure gold.
- .999 = 24k gold
- .916 = 22k gold
- .833 = 20k gold
- .750 = 18k gold
- .585 = 14k gold
- .417 = 10k gold
The mixing of alloys:
Now the mixtures of alloys mixed with gold will vary. In 14kt gold the contents are: 58.5% gold, 25% silver, 17% copper.
Where as 14kt white gold will contain the following: 58.5% gold, 20% copper, 14.5% nickel, and 7.5% zinc (it’s the nickel and zinc that makes white gold look white. Read: White gold turns yellow.)
18kt gold is 75% gold, 12.5% silver, and 12.5% copper. And 18kt white gold is 75% gold, 15% nickel, 5% copper, and 5% zinc.
For rose gold, more copper is added to the mix. Green gold uses copper, silver and zinc. Purple gold uses aluminum. It all depends on what color of gold and durability is required.
If your ring has a “P” at the end of the stamp, like: 14kp, that means that the gold is “plumb” and that it’s verified to be at least the karat content marked. So if it’s 14kp, it’s at least 14kt gold or higher in content.
If you ever need to find out what the actual gold content is of your jewelry (a lot of antique pieces aren’t stamped), you can always take your jewelry to a local jewelry store and they can do an acid test on the piece (nitric acid). The test will show you what presence of gold is in your item.
The amount of gold in your jewelry can make you understand why you could be allergic to some pieces of jewelry, but not others. Usually jewelry with a higher gold content (like 14kt gold or 18kt gold) will not affect people or make them break out in rashes. Read: Are you allergic to gold?
With gold as an investment and as a standard for money, it’s no doubt that gold will be around, cherished and adorned, for many centuries to come.
If King Tut can do it, so can we.
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Author Richard Scott. Certified Diamontologist\Gemologist. 30 years of experience.
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