Between gold and silver jewelry, gold tends to be the more popular choice for buyers seeking a classic look. Read on to learn more about gold jewelry, including information on purity, color, and karatage.
Purity and Karatage
Gold and silver jewelry pieces are both appealing, but gold has a unique advantage over silver in that it doesn’t tarnish over time. Although gold jewelry is well able to resist the elements, it is surprisingly the most malleable metal. In fact, pure gold is far too soft to be used in jewelry, which is why gold is alloyed with other metals, such as copper, silver, and zinc, to make jewelry. These other metals give gold jewelry more durability and strength.
The purity of gold is expressed as karatage, which is symbolized by a number followed by a “k.” Karatage describes how much of a piece of jewelry’s metal is gold. Karatage is indicated in 24ths. Here is a list of the most common karatages for gold jewelry:
- 24k – 100% gold, too malleable for use in jewelry
- 22k – 91.7% gold, soft and not recommended for jewelry
- 18k – 75% gold, used in fine jewelry
- 14k – 58.3% gold, used in jewelry
- 12k – 50% gold, not recommended for jewelry
- 10k – 41.7% gold, minimum karat limit to be considered real gold in U.S.
Gold and silver jewelry items also differ in their color. While silver is limited to only one color, gold jewelry comes in a variety of colors. Gold’s color is determined by the types of metals included in the alloy and the percentage of the metal alloys. The three different colors of gold jewelry are summarized below.
- Yellow gold – the most common and traditional color of gold. Most fine gold and silver jewelers sell only 18k and 14k yellow gold. Because 14k yellow gold contains less gold, it will not have as rich of a color as 18k gold. 14k gold is frequently found where durability and strength are more important than aesthetic appeal, such as with earring backs and the clasps on bracelets.
- White gold – similar in color to silver but with a slightly yellow hue. Most white gold is plated with the metal rhodium, a hard, white metal, in order to enhance the whiteness. Over time, the rhodium coating may wear off, thereby revealing the original yellow color of the metal. In this case, the piece can be re-plated with rhodium in a simple process to restore its color.
- Rose gold – an alloy of gold and a large amount of copper, which gives the metal its pinkish hue.
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