Throughout history, gold has been treasured for its natural beauty and radiance. For this reason, many cultures have imagined gold to represent the sun. Its chemical symbol, Au, is short for the Latin word for gold, "Aurum", which means "Glowing Dawn".
IT is a very soft metal when it is pure (24ct). It is often alloyed with other metals to make it harder to make gold jewellery, though this lessens the value. Available in yellow, white and rose hues, gold is extremely versatile and elegant. Gold has been almost the indispensable metal to create a variety of jewellery including engagement rings, wedding rings, necklaces, earrings and rings. Pure gold has an attractive bright yellow colour however when alloyed with other metals it can come in other colours. It is non-reactive to air and water.
Gold is a highly sought-after rare metallic element. For many centuries gold has been used for money, jewellery and ornamentation symbolising wealth and prosperity. Like other precious metals, gold is measured by troy weight and by grams.
Yellow gold is still the most popular colour, but today gold is available in a diverse palette. The process of alloying—mixing other metals with pure 24 karat gold—gives malleable gold more durability, but can also be used to change its colour.
White gold is created through alloying pure gold with white metals such as palladium or silver. In addition it is usually plated with rhodium to create a harder surface with a brighter shine. White gold has become the overwhelming choice for wedding bands in the US.
The inclusion of copper results in the soft pink complexion of rose gold while the more unusual colours such as blue and purple can be obtained from the addition of patinas or oxides on the alloy surface. Black gold for example derives its colour from cobalt oxide.
When it is alloyed with other metals the term carat (or karat in the USA) is used to indicate the amount of gold present.
The weight of gold is measured in troy ounces (1 troy ounce = 31.1034768 grams), however its purity is measured in ‘karats ‘or ‘carats’.
‘Karatage’ is the measurement of purity of gold alloyed with other metals. 24 Karat is pure gold with no other metals. Lower karatages contain less gold; 18 karat gold contains 75 per cent gold and 25 per cent other metals, often copper or silver.
The minimum karatage for an item to be called gold varies by country. In France, the UK, Austria, Portugal and Ireland, 9 karat is the lowest karatage permitted to be called gold. In the US, 10 karat is the legal minimum accepted standard of gold karatage, 14 karat being the most popular. In Denmark and Greece, 8 karat is the legal minimum standard.
The alloying metal compositions above show are typical of those used by the jewellery industry to arrive at the colour/ karatage combinations shown, but are not the only ways to arrive at these combinations.
White gold compositions listed here are nickel free. Nickel-containing white gold alloys form a small/very small percentage of white gold alloys and generally contain other base metals such as copper and zinc.
The following are the common standards of fineness that are used:
.375 = 9 karat (England and Canada)
.417 = 10 karat
.583 (.585) = 14 karat
.750 = 18 karat
.833 = 20 karat (Asia)
.999 (1000) = 24 karat pure gold
Strictly speaking, 14 karat should be 583 (14/24 = .583333), but most manufacturers have adopted the European practice of making 14 karat gold slightly over 14 karat. Thus, the fineness mark is 585 in most 14 karat jewellery.
Similarly, 24 karat should be 1.0 (24/24 = 1.00). However, in practice, there is likely to be a very slight impurity in any gold, and it can only be refined to a fineness level of 999.9 parts per thousand. This is stated as 999.9.
Accepted tolerances on purity vary from market to market. In China, Chuk Kam (which is Cantonese for ‘pure gold’ or literally ‘full gold’) still comprises the majority of sales and is defined as 99.0 per cent minimum gold, with a 1.0 per cent negative tolerance allowed.
Thanks to World Gold Council for this valuable information.
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