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Gold: Different Karats and Characteristics

This excerpt was written with help from Jewelry Central

Gold was among the first metals to be mined because it commonly occurs in its native form, that is, not combined with other elements, because it is beautiful and imperishable, and because exquisite objects can be made from it. Artisans of ancient civilizations used gold lavishly in decorating tombs and temples, and gold objects made more than 5,000 years ago have been found in Egypt. Particularly noteworthy are the gold items discovered by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1922 in the tomb of Tutankhamun. This young pharaoh ruled Egypt in the 14th century B.C. An exhibit of some of these items, called "Treasures of Tutankhamun," attracted more than 6 million visitors in six cities during a tour of the United States in 1977-79.

The graves of nobles at the ancient Citadel of Mycenae near Nauplion, Greece, discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876, yielded a great variety of gold figurines, masks, cups, diadems, and jewelry, plus hundreds of decorated beads and buttons. These elegant works of art were created by skilled craftsmen more than 3,500 years ago.

Pure (100%) gold is too soft, and it is usually mixed with other metals (gold alloys) to make it stronger and more usable for jewelry.

What is a karat?
Karat - indicates the amount of pure gold in the metal.  The higher the percentage of pure gold the higher the karat.
 

Table of US & European Karatage

  24K
100%
18K
75%
14K
58.3%
10K
41.6%
 
US 24 karat 18 karat 14 karat 10 karat
 
EUROPEAN 999 750 585 417

Why is 18k gold is more valuable than 14k gold?
Content of pure gold:
18k contains a higher (75%) percentage of pure gold than 14 k (58.3%).

What kind of markings can I see on the back of jewelry?
You could see a karat mark to assure you that the karat marking is accurate, you should also see the manufacturers registered trademark and find the country of origin.

What is the difference between yellow, white, and rose gold?
Pure gold ( which is always yellow ) is too soft for jewelry use. The metals that are mixed with pure gold for strength can also modify the color of gold resulting in different shades of yellow, white, and pink gold.
White gold was originally developed to imitate platinum, and is usually an alloy containing 25% nickel and zinc. If stamped 18 karat, it would be 75% pure gold.

Why is there a difference in price, in similar pieces of jewelry?
There are a few factors that determine the value of a gold jewelry piece:

  • weight - gold is sold by weight - grams (gr) or pennyweights( pwt), the heavier the piece, the higher the gold content, therefore it is more expensive.
  • design - designer jewelry is more expensive, especially if it is a one of a kind piece.
  • finish - special finishes to the metal such as matte, or sand-blasted finish add to the cost of the gold jewelry piece.

How do I care for my gold jewelry?
You could take good care of your jewelry by following a few simple steps : avoid contact with soap, perfume, cosmetics and hairsprays. Take chains and bracelets off at night, store chains flat, to prevent them from breaking. Use soft cloth to polish gold jewelry after wearing.

Gold Filled

The term gold filled refers to the manufacturing process in which an ingot of base metal, usually copper, is bonded w/ thinner ingots of gold. A "sandwich" is formed by mechanically bonding a layer of gold on both sides of the copper ingot. This "sandwich" is then cold worked by rolling or drawing until a much thinner gauge metal is achieved. Products are then formed or die-struck from this layered material. The object is then gold plated to hide the edges, as they would otherwise reveal the sandwiched construction. Although gold-filled product is readily available today, this process was most popular in the early 1900's. Hallmarking will appear as 1/20th 14k gold filled, indicating that by weight, 1/20th of the metal content of the product is 14k gold.

Rolled gold plate refers to the same process; however the gold content is lower; for example, 1/30th 12k. In your question, the reference to white & yellow is simply an indication of the color of the gold used. The advantages of this product are that the gold layering is much thicker & longer wearing, than gold plating. It is also much less expensive than a similar product made of all 14k material.

When a product is referred to as gold, rhodium, or nickel-plated, this indicates that it has been electroplated w/ a thin layer of that particular metal. The terms gold electroplate, or gold plated, indicates an electrolytically applied coating of gold over a base metal. The plated coating must not be less than 10k in fineness, to a minimum overall equivalent of seven millionths of an inch of fine gold. A coating that is any thinner must be marked gold flashed or gold washed; if the coating is equivalent to 100 millionths of an inch of fine gold it may be marked Heavy Gold Electroplate or HEP.





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