Whether you are shopping for gold wedding jewelry or that special gold piece for everyday wear, I hope this little synopsis will be of help in making the best gold buying decisions for you.
There are a multitude of processes for using metals in jewelry. It is no wonder that the average person may not understand the difference between types of gold. Unless you are a real jewelry aficionado or a student of jewelry design you may be somewhat in the dark. When shopping the jewelry scene you will see a spectrum of products that include genuine gold. If you are buying, it is good to have a basic idea of how much actual gold is used in a piece and how it is applied so you can better estimate its intrinsic value and wearability. Here is a quick layman’s guide to gold in jewelry.
Gold in Karats
Pure gold is very soft. It easy to bend, dent, or convolute. Because of its softness we often add a stronger metal to gold to make it more practical for use. Gold is measured in karats, and is always measured on a scale of 24. A piece of 24 karat gold is pure–it contains no other metal. The advantage of this is in its value (presently at over $1100 an ounce) and pure yellow gold color. The drawback, as stated previously is that is has little strength and must be treated with kidd gloves.
When gold is blended with other metals such as silver, copper, and nickel, we get gold alloys. 18K gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metal. 14K gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals. 10K gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals. In the United States an alloy must be at minimum 10karat, or 10 parts gold, in order to be considered genuine gold. The advantage of a gold alloy is in its durability. Generally the higher the alloy content, the stronger it is likely to be. The drawback is that it has less intrinsic value and the color is less pure.
Next is “gold filled” or sometimes referred to as “Rolled Gold”. This should not be confused with gold plating (though that is often the case), which will be explained later in this article. The name Gold filled is actually quite misleading. It sounds and though another metal is “filled in” with gold. Actually it is just the reverse. A core of semi precious metal – often brass or silver, is permanently bonded with extreme heat and pressure to create a thick outer layer of gold. Any karat value of gold can be used and the piece. The advantages of gold filled jewelry are that you get a look identical to solid gold that cannot flake off, added strength and durability, and it can be purchased at a fraction of the price. By law the layer of karated gold has to be at least 1/20 of the total weight of the metal portion of the piece of jewelry, whereas there is no legal requirement for gold plating. There is an average of 100 times more gold in gold fill than in gold plating. Gold fill is an excellent choice ofr gold wedding jewelry.
Gold plating, sometimes called gold dipped, is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, most often copper or silver, by using chemicals or chemicals and electricity. The advantage of gold plating is that you can get a gold look very inexpensively. The drawbacks are that is has minimal durability.The base metal can in time (months to years) begin to diffuse into the gold layer, causing slow gradual fading of its color and eventually causing tarnishing of the surface. If your gold wedding jewelry will be used specifically for the big day or for special occasion use, plating is usually fine, however it is not recommened for everyday wear jewelry.
Gold leaf is an alloy of 22 carats gold and 2 carats silver, beaten by machine to a thinness of 1/8000 mm to 1/10,000 of an inch to create super thin sheets of real gold foil. This foil can be applied to jewelry with the use of friction and an agent called gold size that acts as a sort of glue. The advantage of gold leaf is the genuine luster of real gold. The drawback of gold leaf is that it has little intrinsic value in comparison with its more substantial gold cousins, and it can easily flake off.