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Jewelry Education

Gold

Gold in its purest form, 24k, is a soft and pliable metal. The malleability, ductility, and softness of pure gold make it virtually useless for wearable jewelry. In order to make gold jewelry that is durable and long lasting, it is combined with other metals called alloys. Jewelers use the technique of alloying with other metals such as silver, copper and zinc. This process makes the gold harder and stronger, giving it durability and wear resistance in day to day activities. In an attempt to achieve the best balance between the strength of alloys and the valuable and desirable properties of gold, three different karat gold combinations have become standard: 18K, 14K, and 10K. White gold alloys are typically stronger than yellow gold alloys.

18K Gold

The content of 18k is 75% gold and 25% alloy. 18K gold is the softest and purest of these three karat golds, and it is also the most expensive because of its high gold content. Higher-end jewelry where a richer yellow color is desired, is typically made in 18K. It is the most resistant to tarnishing of the three golds, and although it is the softest, it is still hard enough to be used for fine jewelry.18K gold will show wear marks sooner and wear out slightly faster than 14K and 10K gold , but it is still the preferred choice of those wanting something finer.

14K Gold

The content of 14K is 58.3% gold and 41.7% alloy. Due to the higher amount of alloy,14K gold is therefore harder and stronger than 18K. It still has a good yellow color for those wanting fine jewelry at a more reasonable price.

10K Gold

The content of 10K is 41.7% gold and 58.3% alloy. 10K is the only karat gold that contains more alloy than gold. It is the least pure and therefore the least expensive of the three golds. 10K gold is the preferred metal for class rings and other jewelry pieces where a lower cost is desired. 10K yellow gold is slightly more pale in color, and will tarnish more quickly than 18K and 14K gold jewelry. 10K gold is generally considered to be harder than 14K, but there is much unresolved discussion within the jewelry industry about whether or not it actually wears longer than 14K.

Many manufacturers are now using international gold marks to show the purity of their jewelry items. In these cases, the fineness of the precious metal content is expressed in parts-per-thousand. This marking system, universally recognized, is actually more accurate. We have listed the applicable marks here along with their corresponding karat marks:

  • 24K = ..999
  • 18K = .750
  • 14K = ..585
  • 10K = ..417

White Gold

White gold is not a true white metal like platinum, palladium or silver. It is made by alloying pure yellow gold with other white metals like zinc and nickel to change its color to white. As a result, it usually has a slight yellowish tint. To enhance the whiteness of white gold jewelry, it has become a standard practice in the jewelry industry to cover or plate with another precious metal called rhodium. Rhodium is very white, reflective, extremely hard and virtually tarnish free. However, rhodium coatings wear off gradually. It can be re-plated with rhodium, sometimes as often as within 6 months for rings worn every day, or as seldom as every 5 years. Many people choose and love to wear the white gold with the natural not-quite-white look of white gold.

Pink and Rose Gold

These Karat golds are combined with high copper-content alloys and have similar properties. They were very popular in the latter half of the 19th century and the earlier part of the 20th century, and are now enjoying resurgence in popularity, especially with the introduction of colored diamonds. The high copper addition is usually at the expense of silver, giving a warm hue that compliments certain gemstones and skin tones.

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