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All your gold questions answered!

While helping clients shop for fine jewelry, we get quite a few questions about gold. Most fine jewelry is made from gold so knowing about the different markings, purity levels, and colors will help you while navigating the jewelry world.

The first thing to understand is what that “k” stands for that is stamped on the inside of your gold jewelry. “K” stands for karats, a term used to indicate the measure of purity of the gold. The typical levels of gold purity in jewelry are 24k, 18k, 14k, and 10k. 24k is pure gold, having no traces of other metals in it but all the levels below are mixed with metal alloys to make the gold sturdy enough to be created into jewelry.

Here are the karat weights broken down:

  • 24 karats

    • Possible marketings: 24k

    • Gold percentage: 100%

    • Amount of alloyed metals: 0%

  • 18 karats

    • Possible marketings: 18k or 750

    • Gold percentage: 75%

    • Amount of alloyed metals: 25%

  • 14 karats

    • Possible markings: 14k or 585

    • Gold percentage: 58.3%

    • Amount of alloyed metals: 41.7%

  • 10 karats

    • Possible marketings: 10k or 417

    • Gold percentage: 41.7%

    • Amount of alloyed metals: 58.3%

While 24k gold is pure gold, it is too soft and pliable to use for most jewelry. That’s why metal alloys (like copper, silver, nickel, palladium, and zinc) are added to the gold to make it more durable and strong enough to be worn and used.

18k gold has the most vibrant color and has the perfect balance between strength and purity, making it a great option for jewelry that is not worn daily and is less exposed to getting bumped or scratched. However in America, the most popular and common choice is 14k gold because it is harder and more durable, making it more resistant to wear and tear. 10k gold is very sturdy and is the cheapest since it contains the least amount of gold.

Now that you know about the karatage of gold, you may wonder why gold bars are the yellow/golden color but gold jewelry comes in white, yellow, and rose/pink colors. Simply put, it all comes down to the alloyed metals.

Here are the gold colors and the metal mixes they are mad of:

  • Yellow

    • pure gold, silver, and copper

  • White

    • pure gold, white alloy (usually nickel) and rhodium plating

      The rhodium plating makes it more durable and scratch resistant than the yellow gold, even though the rhodium will wear away over time and have to be replated to get to the original white gold shine.

  • Rose/pink

    • pure gold, silver, and copper

      The pink hue comes from having a higher copper content in the alloy mix.

Interesting, right? It’s fascinating how a precious metal like gold can be so complex when turned into beautiful jewelry. For centuries gold has been used to make the most beautiful pieces of jewelry, decor, and extravagant items. And it is not going anywhere! Buying gold jewelry is an investment that can reach beyond a simple moment but can hold value and meaning for years to come!

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