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Jewelry Information Gold

Since antiquity, gold has held a very special place in many societies. Because it is of a limited supplies, entire civilizations have built their systems of currency upon it. That scarcity, combined with its natural malleability, has also made gold the most popular jewelry metal in the world.


While we all know what gold is in the most perfunctory sense, it can get a little tricky when you start shopping and see gold of different colors and karatage. What does it all mean? That is what is at the heart of this guide. By the end, you’ll know exactly what you are looking at when on every piece of gold jewelry you see. 

Let’s get started.

Gold Karatage

The purity of gold is measured in karats, which is not to be confused with the carats used to measure gemstone weights. So, when you see 24k, 14k, 10k, and so forth, what you are seeing is the purity grade of the gold. That “k” stands for karatage. Pure, 100% gold is 24k and the lowest allowable karatage is 10k, which is 41.7% gold. Between 24k and 10, however, there is a lot of room for variation. So let’s break it down. 

  •          24k = 100% gold
  •          22k = 91.7% gold
  •          18k = 75% gold
  •          14k = 58.3% gold
  •          12k = 50% gold
  •          10k = 41.7% gold


It’s easy enough to understand 100% pure gold, but what about lesser grades? If they are not all gold, then what are they? The answer: alloys.


Gold Alloys

If you remember from your high school chemistry class, an alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metallic elements. When it comes to commercial gold alloys, those other metallic elements often include nickel, copper and sometimes silver. 

But why? 

In addition to making the gold more affordable, gold alloys actually serve another very important purpose; they make the naturally soft gold stronger and more resistant to scratches, dings and other things that could damage it. This is very important for a couple of reasons. The first is very practical in that those who work their hands often put themselves in a position to damage a gold ring. Have a lower karatage ring means that the ring will be more resistant to such damage. The other reason is that nickel is a common allergy. Often, people who have an allergic reaction to certain types of gold may not actually be allergic to gold at all but to the nickel content in the gold alloy. In such a case, higher grades of gold ideal as they reduce the risk of crossing the allergic threshold.


Gold Colors

When you think of gold, it’s likely that the brilliant shade of yellow pops into your head. While natural gold is indeed yellow, white gold outsells yellow gold by an average of 10-to-1 at most jewelry stores, both physical and online. Perhaps it is because white gold resembles platinum. Perhaps people prefer the way the silver illuminates a diamond. The real question, though, is this: If gold is naturally yellow, where does white gold come from?


First and foremost, white gold must be an alloy containing a whiter colored element such as silver or, most often, nickel. There is no such thing at 24k white gold. It does not exist. Beware of a seller who offers you this. Next, the gold alloy is then plated with Rhodium in a process known as Rhodium Flashing. This process really produces the beautiful white glow that is associated with white gold. In time, however, the plating can fade with wear. Don’t fret, you can have your white gold replated by many jewelers to help restore that beautiful luster.


While certainly the most popular colors of gold, yellow and white are not the only colors of gold. Another, more fun, choice is rose gold. It’s called rose gold because of the pinkish hue that is achieved by adding a higher concentration of copper to the gold alloy. We find that rose gold is most popular around Valentine’s Day, so keep that in mind for a fun and unique jewelry gift idea.