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Everything about Gold

What is gold?

Pure gold is a dense metal that is shiny with a yellowish color and is very soft and malleable. Gold is an element known as Au and was one of the first known metals. For use in jewellery, it must be combined with another metal to strengthen it.

What is rose gold, red gold, and pink gold?

Rose gold, red gold, and pink gold are made from a gold and copper alloy. Since copper has a bold pinkish-orange color, adding this alloy to gold gives the gold a beautiful pinkish gold color. 18K rose gold, 18K red gold, and 18K pink gold contain 75% gold. 14K rose gold, 14K red gold, and 14K pink gold contain 58% gold. The remaining percentage is made up of copper or copper and silver. The varying percentage of copper used determines the color of the gold. The more copper that is used, the stronger the rose color. Pink gold uses the least amount of copper, followed by rose gold, and red gold has the highest copper content.

There is no such thing as pure rose gold, since rose gold is an alloy of gold and copper. Below are examples of the common alloys for 18K rose gold, 18K red gold, and 18K pink gold.

18K Red Gold 18K Rose Gold 18K Pink Gold
75% gold 75% gold 75% gold
25% copper 22.5% copper 20% copper
2.75% silver 5% silver

What is white gold?

White gold is an alloy of yellow gold and at least one white metal, usually nickel or palladium. 18K white gold is 75% gold, and 14K white gold is 58.3% gold, so jewellery made from these metals have a slight yellow color. To enhance the whiteness, almost all white gold is plated with rhodium – a shiny, white metal which is extremely hard. Depending on the amount of wear to a piece of jewellery, over time the rhodium plating may wear off, revealing the original metal color. jewellery can be re-plated with rhodium to restore the whiteness, if needed. Below are sample alloy compositions of white gold:

18K white gold

  • 75% gold
  • 10% palladium
  • 10% nickel
  • 5% zinc
14K white gold

  • 59% gold
  • 25.5% copper
  • 12.3% nickel
  • 3.2% zinc

What is a karat of gold?

Pure gold is 24 karats so 1 karat of gold is 1/24 gold = 4.16% gold.  The higher the karat, or gold content in a piece of jewellery, the more yellow the gold appears.

What is 24K gold?

24K gold is 100% gold and is too soft for jewellery. It must be alloyed, or combined, with other metals to strengthen it.  24K is used in costume jewellery by electroplating a very thin layer of 24K gold over another metal like brass or silver, so the piece looks like gold, but is mostly made of other materials.

What is 22K gold?

22K gold is 91.7% gold and 8.3% of other metals combinations such as silver, copper, and zinc. It is very soft and not recommended for jewellery.

What is 18K gold?

18K gold is 75.0% gold and is recommended for fine jewellery.  18K gold is more expensive than 14K gold and the color is a brighter, richer  yellow color than 14K gold.  The other 25% is made up of other metals such as silver, copper, and zinc.  Since 18K gold has a higher gold content than 14K gold (75% vs. 58.3%), it is a softer metal and is not as durable as a 14K gold piece.  For jewellery that gets banged around a lot in daily use, like a ring or bracelet, 14K gold may be preferable for its hardness.  However, with proper care, 18K gold is strong enough to be used for any piece of jewellery.


What is 14K gold?

14K gold is 58.3% gold and is recommended for jewellery. 14K gold is the most popular form of gold because it wears well, is resistant to scratches, and is more durable than the higher karat values.  This is because pure gold is a soft metal, so the greater the gold content, the less durable the piece is.  The beautiful gold color makes 14K gold a desirable color for jewellery.


What is 12K gold?

12K gold is 50.0% gold.  Although 12K is used in jewellery, it is not as popular or valued as greatly as 14K gold.  It is still considered gold and is very durable due to the high content of other metals such as silver, copper, and zinc in the piece. The gold will not chip off or wear off because the 12K gold is a solid piece of jewellery and is not gold plated, which is a thin layer of gold over other metals.


What is 10K gold?

10K gold is 41.7% gold. It is the legal karat limit considered to be real gold in the United States.  10K gold is a paler shade of gold than 14K gold and many rings and other pieces of jewellery are made from 10K gold.  Due to the high percentage of other metals in 10K gold such as silver, copper, and zinc, the piece is very durable.  The jewellery may tarnish due to the silver content, but it can be polished to restore its gold shine.  The gold will not chip off or wear off because the 10K gold is a solid piece of jewellery and is not gold plated, which is a thin layer of gold over other metals.


Does gold tarnish?

Yes – gold can tarnish. Jewellery made from legal gold, which is 10K, 12K, 14K and 18K can tarnish, but since it is a solid metal and not a coating of gold, it can be polished to restore its original luster. The higher the karat value, the less likely the piece will tarnish. It is unusual for a 14K or 18K piece of jewellery to tarnish. Since gold is alloyed, or combined with other metals to make it stronger, such as silver, copper, nickel, and zinc, these other metals cause the gold to tarnish. The jewellery can tarnish due to several factors such as perfume, perspiration, soap, chemicals, and body chemistry.


Does white gold tarnish? Why does white gold turn yellow?

Although it may appear that your white gold jewellery has tarnished, white gold doesn’t actually tarnish – rather it changes color to its natural state, which is yellow gold.
This is because white gold is comprised mostly of gold – which is yellow. 14K white gold contains 59% pure yellow gold and 18K white gold contains 75% pure yellow gold. All gold jewellery is alloyed, or mixed, with other metals to strengthen the metal because jewellery is not made from 100% pure gold (24K), which is way too malleable for jewellery.

The most common alloys for white gold are palladium, nickel, and zinc, which are white metals. To bring out the silvery-white color of the metals, all white gold must be coated with a thin layer of rhodium, which is a very hard metal that brings out the bright whiteness of the silver colored metals that are mixed with the gold.

The white gold turns yellow when the rhodium plating wears off, which is very common. The rhodium plating wears off for many reasons including exposure to chemicals, perfumes, sweat, and general day-to-day wear. The rhodium plating will wear off quickly if the coating is too thin. The thicker the coating of rhodium, the longer the white gold will maintain its brilliant white color. The white gold jewellery should be brought to a jeweler to re-coat the jewellery with rhodium.

What is rhodium?

Rhodium is an element, Rh, that is silvery-white and hard. It is one of the rarest and most valuable precious metals. It is resistant to corrosion and does not oxidize. For this reason, white gold is often plated with a thin layer of rhodium to give it a shiny silvery-white color. Sterling silver can be plated with rhodium for tarnish resistance. Because the layer of rhodium applied to white gold and silver is so thin, it may need to be re-applied to restore the shiny silver color.

Rhodium, which is one of rarest elements in the Earth’s crust, is found in platinum ores in South Africa and North America. Rhodium is rarely used in its pure form in jewellery because it has a high melting point and poor malleability, and because it is so expensive – about 8 times the price of gold.

What are the acceptable stamps for gold?

All gold is required to be stamped to indicate the karat value of the piece. It is acceptable for the karat to be indicated by a capital K or ct. Below are examples of acceptable stamps for gold:

  • 14K or 14ct
  • 18K or 18ct


What is vermeil?

Vermeil is .925 sterling silver layered with a thin coating of gold. While standard plating is about 2 millionths of an inch of gold, a vermeil coating is 50 times that thickness, or 100 millionths of an inch over sterling silver. Vermeil is gold jewellery with the exact same shine and richness of real 14 karat gold that won’t wear down easily. To care for your gold vermeil jewellery, simply polish with a cloth, and never machine polish or use any chemicals such as silver or gold cleaner.


What does gold-plated mean?

During the process of gold plating, a thin layer of gold is applied to a less expensive piece of metal, typically copper or silver. Industry standards dictate that .15 to .25 mils of gold be applied during the plating process. Gold plating tends to wear down and chip off of its base metal and is not considered as durable as items that are pure gold or gold-filled.


What does gold-filled mean?

Gold-filled items are those which have had a layer of 10k (or higher) gold bonded mechanically to a base metal. The layer of gold must make up a minimum of 1/20th of the total weight of the piece. Such items are marked as being “gold-filled,” along with the karat fineness of the gold used for filling, such as 10k, 14K, etc.


Gold filled vs Gold plated

Gold filled is more valuable than gold plated.  A piece of jewellery that is gold filled is not solid gold, but it has a thick layer of real gold bonded to another metal. It will not wear off or tarnish.  Since the piece is covered with real gold, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a solid gold piece of jewellery and a gold filled piece of jewellery.  Although the value of a gold filled piece of jewellery is much less than solid gold jewellery, it is a highly attractive alternative to real gold because it looks like real goal and lasts as long as real gold.  The amount of real gold in a gold filled piece is regulated by the government and must contain 1/20th real gold.

A gold plated piece has a very thin layer of gold on the outside which is bonded to another metal such as white metal, silver, or copper.  The layer of gold is not regulated by the governement and is so thin, it can easily rub, chip, or flake off.  It can also tarnish, unlike a gold filled piece of jewellery.


What is gold tone?

A piece of jewellery or an accessory that is described as “gold tone” has no real gold in it.  It is the color of gold, but that is the extent of its similarity to real gold.  Anything that looks like gold, for ex. a crayon, or a paperclip, or a shiny piece of gold-colored metal can be described as “gold tone.”


What is 24K gold electroplated over brass?

This is a brass item, such as a watch, a clock, or a piece of jewellery, which has had a layer of 24k gold mechanically plated over its surface. The user receives a product that looks as if it is gold, but at a much lower cost, because the majority of the metal is brass. The finish on the product may not last as long as a solid gold item, but the decrease in cost makes this process attractive to many people.

What is an alloy?

An alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metals to give it greater strength. Pure gold, like 24K gold, is too soft to be used in jewellery, so it must be combined with another metal to give it strength. The most common metals alloyed with gold are silver, copper, and zinc to strengthen the gold. Copper turns the alloy pink and creates rose gold. Silver or palladium added to gold creates white gold. The percent of gold used in the alloy determines the karat value.


Is it karat or carat?

karat designates how much pure gold is in a piece of jewellery. The higher the karat number, the higher percentage of gold is in the jewellery. Gold is alloyed, or combined, with other metals to make is stronger for use in jewellery. The highest karat value is 24, so 24K is 100% pure gold.

carat is a weight of measurement used for diamonds.


How to care for gold-plated items?

Opting for a gold-plated item over solid or gold-filled item does not mean that it is destined to wear down immediately. With proper care, gold-plating can last a long time and can be a cost-effective alternative to solid or gold-filled products. It is important to wash gold-plated items with nothing stronger than warm soapy water. Chemicals in cleaning products and jewellery cleansers can break down gold plating. Do not expose gold-plated items to lotion, cosmetics, perfume, or prolonged moisture, and do not buff, as these contribute to the breakdown of the plating and tarnishing of the item.

What is the current rate of gold?

The gold rate changes every day. To learn the current price of gold, visit CNN Money.


Selling gold jewellery – getting a fair price for gold.

The price that you can get for your gold varies from one gold buyer to another. The weight of the gold and the number of karats in the gold determines its value. You can buy a jewellery scale to check the weight of the gold that you are selling. The rate of gold varies from day to day. You can check the current price of gold at CNN Money. You can expect to be offered 60% to 80% of the value of the gold.


How to invest in gold

Gold should be an important part of a diversified investment portfolio because its price increases in response to events that cause the value of paper investments, such as stocks and bonds, to decline. Although the rate of gold can be volatile in the short term, it has always maintained its value over the long term.

There are ways of owning gold – paper and physical. You can buy it physically in the form of jewellery, coins, and gold bars and for paper gold you can use gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) and sovereign gold bonds (SGBs). Then there are gold mutual funds (fund of funds) which further invest in gold ETFs. There are gold MFs (fund of funds) which invest in the shares of international gold mining companies.
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